"But do not doubt – God calls each and every baptized Christian to be in service to the world (not to self, but to the world!)."
In Canada, Veteran’s Day is known as Remembrance Day. For Canada and the U.S., the origin of the holiday is a commemoration of the end of World War I; the armistice signed on November 11. While it is good and appropriate for us to honor those who have served our country, I think that as Christians it is important for us to remember as much as it is to honor. The opposite of remembrance, of course, is forgetfulness. If we forget our past, we forget also who we are and whose we are, for it is in the actions of not only our ancestors and forebears, but also of God that defines our identity.
It is important that we remember that as Christians we are defined not only by the miraculous works of God, but also by the relationship that God has forged with God’s people, and the work that God has done and is doing in and through God’s people. For five millennia, the people of God have moved (forward and backward) in victory and defeat, not only because of the miraculous intervention of God, but primarily because of what the people of God have done with God’s help, with God’s presence, with God’s direction.
To be sure, there are several examples of God’s direct intervention in history that dramatically changed the paradigm. These miracles are part of our memory and part of the reason that we trust God. They are examples of God’s power in and over creation; particularly over things which we cannot understand or explain (and thus fear). Jesus calmed the storm. Jesus healed the sick. Jesus raised the dead. Yet these are rare occurrences. God is always present. God is always with us. The dramatic miracles are not the only miracles, though. In fact, I find God’s calling of so many people to ministry to be as much of what defines us as the feeding of the five thousand.
It is not just Abraham and Isaac and Jacob who spoke with God and responded to his call. Moses and Joshua and David did as well. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, and the other prophets did. Peter, James, and John heeded the call of Jesus. Paul, Timothy, Phoebe, Prisca, and Aquila all responded to the call of God. Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Martin Luther, and John Wesley heard God’s voice and responded. Countless others throughout history have heeded the voice of God and have been the hands and feet and mouth and eyes of God. This is what we remember.
God has not stopped working in and through people, either. We remember people in Sheridan who have heard the still, small voice in their own ear. We remember the pastors and staff who have led this community of faith and we remember the saints who have gone before us into God’s arms. Of course, we have all fallen short of God’s expectations. Abraham and Moses and David sinned. Peter denied Christ. Paul persecuted Christians. John Wesley doubted his own salvation. The list of my own sins and shortcomings before God are too numerous to list in such a short space. However, in spite of our sin, God continues to work in and through people – regular, ordinary people like you and me. Some God calls to professional, ordained ministry. Others God calls to lay ministry. But do not doubt – God calls each and every baptized Christian to be in service to the world (not to self, but to the world!). It is a fact that the primary way that God works in the world is not through dramatic miracles that defy the laws of physics, but rather through broken, fallen people like us.
To that end, our prayer life must focus less on what we want God to do for us and more on listening to what God wants to do through us. For in our relationship with God, we will discover that less and less of God’s promises are fulfilled in making life easier for us or even “better” for us, but more in calling us to the difficult service of revealing and building God’s Kingdom. As we remember our salvation history, we will find that rarely are the people called by God a) those whom we would expect, or b) thrilled to receive the call. In fact, almost every person whom God calls is not equipped (on their own) to fulfill the mission, and they all resist the mission to which God calls them. If we are to be the people of God, if we are to bring healing to our land, if we are to make our church what God wants it to be, if we are to be about the difficult work of making disciples of Jesus Christ, then we should expect that our lot is no different than the lot of those who have gone before us. The miraculous intervention of God in Grant County, in Sheridan, and at First UMC of Sheridan will come through God’s work in us. Let us seek God’s will as we move forward in faith.