Monday, March 1, 2010

2 Lent, February 28, 2010

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-35
Vocation, Preached by Rev. Peter Courtney

“How did you know that you wanted to be a doctor, a college professor, a social worker, a politician, a priest? How did you know?”

People ask these questions from all sorts of motives. Sometimes they are curious as to why anyone would want to do what we do. How can you be a parent in these days? How can you spend all that time in the laboratory? How can you stand dealing with all those people? How do you keep the facts straight? How did you get to where you are? I could never do that!

True, we couldn’t, but they did. And they did it the same way we did. They felt called to it. Most of us don’t put it that way. We don’t describe our vocations as callings, yet vocation simply means calling. We like to think our vocations are choices we make from a smorgasbord laid out before us. In real life we simply go with the flow provided by parents, peers, mentors and a long series of chance events.

Abram is such a one. “God came to Abram in a vision.” Abram actually saw and heard God. He didn’t have a vocational counselor; he didn’t go to a job fair. He was visited by a celestial headhunter. God starts out: "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." I will take care of you, don’t be afraid of the dark and the unknown.”

Abram only cared about one thing. He wanted a big family with at least one son to whom he could pass it all on. God told him he would be a father alright, he would be the father of his country. Didn’t God know that he would need a really big family for that? All the children would have to be legitimate children too. So Abram said, "O GOD, I have no real children. My only heir is some trash from up North. . . . what will you give me?”

God said, "No worries. It only looks like that to you. You will have a true son of the South to carry on the family. Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. That is how many children of children you will have. I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess. Trust me!"

Abram was impressed, skeptical, but still afraid. So God gave him some religious things to do to distract him from his fear. He cut up some animals and smoked ‘em. Abram did as he was told. He may have expected all the lights would come on; there would be lightening in the sky and the clouds would disperse. He was wrong. There was no son et lumiere. Instead the dark took over. It was as dark as the night Debby and I were on the Maine coast in a hurricane a couple of years ago. It was so dark it was darker outside than inside when the electricity went off. At least we had the battery light on the thermostat. That’s how dark it was for Abram.

That is how it is when God calls us. It is dark and we are alone. Then God gives us things to do, some of them designed to distract us from our fear, and then it gets darker still.

And in the dark God says: “I gave this for you to do. I will be with you in it, even in the dark. I will take you by the hand and lead you to the next place which will not be dark, but full of my light and life.

This why Philippians says to us: “Our citizenship is in heaven.” We belong to God and God walks with us in the dark, all the way to the fulfillment of God’s promises to us.

When people treat us: as strangers and aliens, when they say “We don’t know you.” When they say “Who are you and who are your people?” God says to us: “You are my beloved children. I called you from the beginning of the world to be mine, to be with me in my world. Come in out of the dark. Come in out of your fear. Respond to my call to be mine and I will be yours and together we will light the world.

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