Sermons on call and response
What if the widow in the parable, the one who shows up every day pleading her case, who is persistent in her message and in her cries for justice – is actually God? What if God is the one who nags at our hearts, wanting to be let in; what if God is the one constantly yearning for us, longing for justice to be within our hearts, with justice meaning our desire to be just and right in our relationships with others and with God. What if God is the persistent one and we are the ones who close the case file before even giving the case a chance?
It is important for us to remember that God’s call to us is not limited to what we should do when we grow up. In fact, the majority of calls from God are daily nudges throughout the day to help us build the Kingdom, one interaction at a time. But even these calls can and do evoke the same responses in us as the big ones do. The best part is that God insists on calling us out of ourselves and comfort zones over and over again—- and then leads us into great adventures in love.
Finally, Mary’s “yes”, her uniting her purpose with God’s, without crying, “I cannot” or “I am not worthy” or “I don’t have the time”. Mary did not submit to God’s request with gritted teeth or through coercion or with an unwilling heart. It was her consent that opened her up to bear the glory of God into this world. It is our consent, and only our consent to God, which will bring us to that place of fulfillment and peace,…
I am proposing to you that to hate, as to love, is meant in the Bible to be more than a feeling within our hearts, but rather that which invokes appropriate action. There’s a wonderful plaque at Holy Cross Monastery which says, “Love must act as light must shine as fire must burn”. When we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, we are not being called to have a warm fuzzy feeling for everyone in the world, but rather we are to act in this world as God acts with us, with compassion, mercy, and always toward justice. When we are called to hate evil, we are not called only to have a passionate dislike for someone or something, we are to act to resist and eradicate that which is evil in this world.
It is a courageous act of civil disobedience that helps change the tide of history. They are the first two links in a chain of many people who will eventually be lead out of slavery and oppression in Egypt by Moses. Liberation starts here, with two women willing to say “no” to an act of cruelty and injustice.
We have a glimpse of this eternal rest each time we come to Jesus, when we surrender our souls weary from carrying the burdens of a world where injustice reigns and broken relationships flourish, when we take the yoke of Jesus upon our own shoulders, and we move in sync with the grace of Christ.
Jesus stands still and says, “Call them here” to you who push others aside; to you who look the other way when injustice is right in front of you; to you who toss a coin to the hungry person on the street and dare not look at the larger issues causing this person’s poverty; to you who have grown tired and weary at watching the news and having your heart broken and have learned to shut it all out all. Jesus stands still and says, “Call him here.”, to you.
The disciples knew that following Jesus meant acknowledging their sins, and Jesus had taught them that the worst were the self-righteous who claimed to be better than other people. The disciples wondered if real peace required self-sacrifice. Could forgiveness require that we give up something? Isn’t it enough to just believe and be near Jesus? Why is he demanding that we maim ourselves in order to follow him? We know that there are places where people do not forgive each other. There are places where instead of caring for the poor, feeding people who are hungry, protecting refugees, and healing people who are sick the powerful keep their wealth to themselves. There are places where those who are great abuse, oppress, imprison, and kill the weak in their community. There are places without water, where suffering never ends, and the fires of violence never die.
Like Jesus, we need to be attentive to an alternative voice; we need to be able to listen deeply to those whose voices are hushed in our society; we need to clear away the barriers set within our communities which systematically make people mute. We need to listen for the voice of love, never being attuned to the voice of hate.
There are times within each one of our lives when we are called to give a complete and whole response to God’s call to follow, to serve, to love, to give, to devote oneself entirely and utterly to God. These are holy moments when God is calling us deeper into relationship and further out into our world, and our response matters to our individual lives, to our world, and to God.