Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Greetings Favored One!


I know that you all have heard people called about being ‘called’ when they are talking about their service to God and the church. You have heard ministers and other church professionals talk about being “called” or maybe you have heard people say “I have been called to the mission field” or ‘called’ to whatever particular service they may be involved with. And to be honest, I didn’t really understand what it was all about until it happened to me. There is no real way to explain it until you experience it. It is like when someone asks you how you knew you had married the right person and your answer is “You just know”. And that is what the call of God is like, you just know.
You may find yourself in a situation and you realize you had no real control over being where you are or doing what you are doing. You are there and you are doing what God has trained to you to or prepared you to do. You are using the gifts and talents that God has given you to do something for God or the church or simply for someone in need. It doesn’t have to be spectacular or of great importance in the grand scheme of things. Being called just means that you are willing to do something that you wouldn’t normally do because God has put you in that particular place at that particular time.
We see God calling individuals in Bible stories all the time. However, the writer of the scriptures struggled on how to let us know that these people where being called by God for a specific task and so we read about people being called through burning bushes and angel visitation and with people seeing visions. That can become a stumbling block for us as we come to try and see how God calls each of us into his service because we haven’t seen burning bushes or angels or had any visions. What we need to understand is that these angels and bushes and visions are simply a way for us to understand that these individuals were definitely called by God to do a specific work in a special place and time. And it doesn’t negate that when God calls us into service, he does it in a way that will work for each of us individually. God knows what will reach us and speak to us as an individual. I can tell you from my own experience that I did not see visions or burning bushes or angels. But it was as clear message followed by this roller coast ride of events that I truly had no control over.
God, being who he is, always has surprises in store for us and very seldom made up of choices that we would make or that we even think make sense. As we read through accounts of people in the Bible, the people God chose to do what needed to be done are certainly not the people whose resume we would read and conclude to be the best candidate for the job.
Think about King David - the writer of the Psalms and the one whom was named by God as the person in the Old Testament who was closest to God’s heart. God needed a new King because the old one, King Saul, had not worked out and he sends the prophet Samuel to the town of Bethlehem where God tells Samuel that he will guide him to the right person. God says the new king will come from the house of Jesse and Jesse had a bunch of sons. So there is a ‘son parade’ in front of Samuel and Samuel is waiting for God’s voice to tell him which son was the correct one and it didn’t happen. God did not indicate which son was to be king and so Samuel says to Jesse - “Is this all your sons?” Jesse said, “Well, yes. Well, no. There is young David who is out tending the sheep but he’s just not the kingly type. You don’t want him.” “Call him anyway,” Samuel returns. “Because it isn’t any of these.” So Jesse calls David and sure enough, this is the one whom God has chosen to be the next King. Not the oldest, or the smartest, or the most mature, or the most handsome, or the best organizer - no, it was this young boy whom we are told was ‘pretty’ and ‘artsy’ and a ‘dreamer’. Certainly nothing like who we would envision to be a King. God seems to always choose the unexpected.
During the Christmas season we also think about the idea of call. There are all our familiar Christmas characters who received this call from God. No volunteers in the bunch. All normal people, living normal lives, going about their daily life just like everyone else - who God singled out and informed them their life was about to change and they were now going to work for God. John the Baptists, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherd, the Wise Men - all those people we find in our nativity scenes - all just average, normal, everyday people whom God chose to do extraordinary things. Not because they were talented, or gifted, or stood out in any way - but because God chose them.
Now I want you to try and forget everything you know about the Christmas Story. God has come to you as the personnel manager and said, “I need a woman to be the mother of the savior of the world.” This is your task. If we are honest, we will first arrange a DNA test of the woman to be sure that there are not going to be any hidden problems. We are going to look for a woman of high moral character - after all we don’t want anything to show up on Jesus’ background check later one. She is going to have to a good home - social services would inspect to be sure there are no hazards. She is going to have to have the means to be sure he is well taken care of as he grows up - good clothes, the best education, good neighborhood. She should probably be well educated herself but it would be good if she had a husband who could support them so she could stay at home - at least while Jesus is young. Anything else?
But who did God choose? A poor, unmarried 13 year old girl, from a town way out in the middle of nowhere that did not have a really good reputation. A young girl who is going to have to flee her home because of the stigma of being unmarried and pregnant. A woman who is essentially homeless when she gives birth. She has no education, no stability. And this is God’s choice for the mother of the Savior of the World.
If we were to just start naming Bible people who God chose to do his work, to do very important tasks, we find this same story over and over. People who did not seem to have the qualifications to do what needed to be done and you are not going to find a volunteer in the bunch. Moses and Noah and all of Jesus’ disciples and the Apostle Paul just to name a few. But there is one qualification that each of them did have - there is one common thread for each of these individuals and that is they were all people of faith. The one thing they all had in common was that they had a true sense of faith. Faith not just being ,”I believe in God”. Faith being, “I believe in God so much that I truly believe that God is with me and guides me every moment of my life regardless of what is going on around me.” And in order to clearly understand what God wants you to do - you have to be a person who is attuned to God. Not some superhuman, Bible quoting, immerse yourself in everything ‘church’, pious person….. David and Mary and Moses and Paul and all the others weren’t in this category. They were just normal people who got up in the morning and did their daily chores and lived their normal life - but in doing all that normal stuff, God was in the consciousness of their thoughts as they went about that routine daily stuff. That’s what God wants from us and what faith is all about - just having a thought of the presence of God as we go about the normal things in our day - nothing spectacular and formal, just remembering that as you go about your day, God is with you.
Now, something else that is important, as God becomes this presence in our lives and God starts to call us to do work for him and his church and his world, we have to do it his way - not ours. That may be harder than letting God call us! God called Moses and God told Moses exactly how things were going to go even though Moses had better ideas, David had clear ideas about how he thought things should be done and God explained to him that David was doing things God’s way instead of David’s, and we could go on. God pretty much is a ‘my way or the highway’ type of person and as we read all these Bible stories we come to see that even though it makes so sense to us, God’s way does seem to work out as he needed it to!
Mary just wanted a normal life. She was going to marry Joseph, live in Nazareth as the wife of a carpenter, close to his and her families. All Mary wanted was for things to be as they should be…. and God certainly messed that up.
And so we come to one more very important point. Just because we are attuned to God and just because we are willing to listen and do what he asks us to do, it does not guarantee that it is going to be a walk in the park. “OK. I answered God’s call now all will be good…..” Nope. Mary has to leave her family and have a baby in a stable and watch her son die on a cross, David had problems his whole life, Paul was continually beaten and imprisoned and had to constantly justify his call. God calls us to do his work and he guarantees to be with us every step of the way, but he never guarantees it will be easy.
What God wants from is to have the attitude of Mary when we hear God’s call - we are not to worry about if we are good enough, or have time enough, or have the right skills, or are strong enough….. God wants us to say exactly what Mary said.
The angel came to Mary and told her what God wanted her to do. She considers that problems this is going to cause and she has a few questions and the angel assures her that God has all the details worked out and Mary then says, ‘OK. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.” And she did….
Today as we think about the coming Messiah who calls us all to be his disciples and to follow him and to take up his cross and to do what he needs us to do, I want you to hear the angel’s words to Mary - “Greetings Favored One!”
Believe this - these are the same words God speaks to each and every one of you. You, all of you, everyone one of you, are the ‘favored ones’ of God. Hear these words to you, as an individual, “Greetings Favored One!”
And then, just like Mary, he tells you want he wants you to do. Let your response be the same as her, “OK God. I’ll do whatever you need me to do…….”