Is Your Vocation Clear?

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (A), January 16, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION: The title of our sermon comes to us in the form of a question: “Is your vocation clear?”  Another way to ask this is: “What are you going to do with your life?” 

When I was 9 years old, my grandfather said to me “Brian, one day you are going to serve the Lord!”  “Huh?”  What did that mean?  I never gave his words much thought; after all I was just a kid!  But, by the age of 14, I thought I knew the answer to our question this morning… I was going to be a Jazz musician, a trumpet player to be exact!  I worked hard at my craft, and studied everything I could get my hands on.  I excelled in all types of music and received some of the best training.  At 18 years of age, I was a music major at the University of Wisconsin.  My professor said I showed promise as a young jazz musician, but He said my music lacked drive and purpose.  “Whatever!”  I didn’t have a clue what he meant by that; all I knew was that I was having fun; I was playing every weekend in two different bands and getting paid enough money to pay for my tuition.  And then one day two things happened to me that changed my life.  First, a fairly accomplished and somewhat famous jazz trumpet player told me to get out of the music business.  He said in a very colorful way that I won’t repeat, that I didn’t have the heart or the talent to be a real jazz musician.  He said I should find a vocation that’s more suited to my calling!  And to this I thought, “What does he know, he’s just an old guy!”

Well right after that, I was in a club trying to book a gig for my band when someone broke into my car and stole not just my trumpet, but my guitar, amplifier and microphone.  In a moment, all of the tools of my trade and schooling were taken from me!  I was heartbroken.  Now what would I do?  I thought about this question and talked to many people I loved and respected, and each of them told me the same thing: Find a job that will make a difference in people’s lives.  Find a calling!  And what did I become?  A cop!  I spent nearly 30 years in that profession, and it wasn’t until I reached the half way mark that I remembered my grandfather’s words, “One day, you are going to serve the Lord!”  What did that mean?  Wasn’t I serving Him as a law enforcement officer?  Yes, I was supposed to be doing that very thing, but was I?  This is the question that caused me to begin to dig deeper and deeper into God’s Word and the meaning of vocation and what I discovered is explained in a wonderful way in all three of our readings this morning!  

I. [Isaiah 49:1-7] In our Old Testament lesson this morning the question, “What is our calling?” is explained quite nicely.  First and foremost, we discover that our calling comes directly from God.  This becomes clear in the very first verse, and it continues throughout: “Listen to me, you coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar.  The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He had (already) named (me).” [Vs.1]  “And He said to me, “You are my servant”. [Vs. 3]  “And now the Lord says, He who formed me from the womb to be His servant” (Vs. 5a), “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Friends, God calls each of us to be a light for the nations through His Word!  And it’s that same Word that is always leading us to Jesus Christ, who not only puts our names in the book of life, but in fact, He is the book of life! [Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5]  That same word assures us that “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” [Eph. 1:4]  Before the foundation of the world, God chose to set you apart as His own child.  At that time it was God’s desire to speak to your heart through His Word and create faith.  And by faith your heat has been moved to look to the cross of our Lord and see the place where He suffered and died for the entire world; even for you.  In your baptism, Christ has assured you that He chose to die upon the cross for you!  It was there in your baptism where Jesus offered himself to you in a very personal way.  He confirmed to you that He really does want you to hear His Word and let it save you, change you and lead you.  In His Word, Jesus gives you what He has promised, namely the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  He gives you divine assistance to remain faithful; He gives to you the assurance that through this washing of the water and the Word you will attain salvation.

But like Isaiah, we might say, “But (I feel like) I have labored in vain; (Like) I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity!”  And to this statement of doubt, God’s Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Word.  He takes us back to the day we were washed clean and He gives us faith to remember and proclaim, “Yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense, (that is my promised reward) is with my God and what He has done for me, is doing for me, and will do for me through Jesus Christ!”  In essence, the Holy Spirit takes our doubts back to the source of our call and our salvation, God’s Word, and through the Word, He holds Christ in front of our eyes and says, “Behold the Book of Life!”  He then opens the book of life and reveals that through our baptism and our reliance on the promises that come from the living Word of God, our names are there recorded.  How does God reveal these promises to us?  Through the preaching of the holy gospel, which gives us Christ crucified and resurrected for us.  It is the gospel alone that gives our lives true meaning, direction and purpose!

II. [1 Cor. 1:1-9] By now I trust you see how important and certain your calling from God is?  And at this point, many will ask, “But what if I made a mess of my life?  Won’t I just keep screwing things up?”  Yes, but that’s why you need to always go back to the Word of God, which promises that it is He who began the good work or calling in you Who will complete it! [Phil. 1:6]

You know friends, no one more desperately needed to hear and believe these Words more that St. Paul.  Remember, this was the man who was known as Saul; a man who helped persecute, punish, and even kill Christians.  But one day, on the way to Damascus, He encountered the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.  There Paul was called to repent of His sins and then be baptized and receive salvation.  Latter, Paul would even be called to be an apostle.  That is why Paul begins our epistle lesson this morning with these words, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” [Vs. 1]  But Paul has more to say about this call from God; he isn’t content to just speak about his call, he also wants to speak to the whole church, first to a local congregation, and then to each and every person who has been called and set apart as holy, and invited to walk with and serve God.  He says, and to “the church of God that is in Corinth, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours”.  [Vs. 1-2] 

Friends, can you hear in these Words that our calling isn’t just a personal calling, but it is also a collective calling?  We’ve been called “together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours!”  Do you hear the inclusiveness of those words “together with all” and “who in every place”?  This togetherness is also known as fellowship.  It is a fellowship around a common calling.  Each of us has been called into a fellowship with God the Son, Jesus Christ.  We have been called to rest in His Kingdom of Grace but we’ve also been called to help build that kingdom.  We’ve been called to take God’s Word outside of our little congregation and follow our Lord where ever He leads and live out our lives in a way that gives Him glory.

You see friends, it isn’t enough to say “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior,” because your calling through Jesus Christ isn’t just the call of any single person; instead, it is the call of the entire Church.  We are called and we follow by faith together.  Think of how our Lord taught us to pray: “OUR Father,” “Give US this day” and “Forgive US our trespasses!”  In spite of all the things that divide us these days, we still have a very common ground that we stand upon.  Each of us has been saved from our sins, sanctified in Jesus Christ, and set apart to serve God together with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours!”

III. [John 1:29-42a] So what will this calling look like first in our individual lives and then as the body of Christ? Our gospel lesson this morning answers that very question for us.  Immediately we are allowed to see John the baptizer sharing His faith in Jesus the Messiah, and he does it with these words, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” [Vs.29] And very soon after he says: “And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” [Vs.34] Dear friends, these are the words of a Kingdom builder.  A kingdom builder always takes the attention of his neighbor off of the one who is proclaiming God’s love, and then he directs them to the true source of forgiveness and peace with God.  A kingdom builder always leads others to the Lamb of God Jesus Christ!

What is it that this Lamb of God takes away?  It is the entire sins of the World.  As many people who have lived, are now living, and will live in the world are included in this statement.  Each and every life stained with sin, all sin, even your sins are included.  So many individual masses of sins are gathered, and all of these individual masses are gathered into one super mass, so that you have the “sins of the world.”  In Jesus, “God laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” [Is. 53]  Remember that just one sin in God’s eyes is enough to separate your from His love and presence, and Jesus takes upon Himself all of this super-mass.  Through Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, your sins, your guilt has really been taken away.  He burdened Himself with your sins.  These sins that He takes upon Himself are what moved Him to suffer and die so that all of our sins would be removed and so that we would know that we really may have an eternal life of peace and joy.  Do you want to know peace with God?  Then you must look to the Lamb of God crucified and risen above.  Do you want to build the Kingdom of God?  Then you must encourage your neighbors to look to this Lamb of God and see by faith that their sins have also been placed upon the back of this Lamb!  That’s why John the baptizer points to the Lamb of God and that’s why we should do the same thing as we share our faith.   

This was the message that Andrew heard from John and this is the message that He heard from Jesus Himself.  We see first that Andrew heard the testimony of a Christian, and then he was encouraged to go directly to Jesus, the living Word of God.  How do we follow our calling?  By resting in the Kingdom of God and then by introducing people to our Savior; we assure them that He is their Savior and then we leave the whole matter with Jesus.  And how will Jesus speak to those you lead?  Why the same way He spoke to Andrew.  Listen:  Jesus asked Andrew, “What are you seeking?” And then He said, “Come and see!” [Vs.38-39]

Friends, Jesus could have easily said, “Come back tomorrow” or “make an appointment for latter and I’ll get back with you.”  Important people in our day do that, don’t they?  They don’t want to be bothered by daily distractions, so they protect themselves with secretaries, unlisted phone numbers, and even personal security, but Jesus isn’t like those people.  Nothing could be easier than having time with Jesus.  All we need to do to speak with and know the King of Kings is to call out to Him in repentance and prayer and open His Word, and He will be their immediately to speak and to listen!

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, Jesus said to Andrew, and He says to us this morning, “Come and See!”  These Words are meant to bring an invitation and they’re mean to bring comfort.  They’re meant to encourage us to seek the deeper things of life that can only come from Jesus, the Son of God, who is the Living Word of God.  These Words say to us, “Come with me to a secret place where you can speak to me and learn from me and about me everything that your heart desires to ask.  All this is yours if you will just follow me!  And Andrew did follow Jesus, and where did Jesus lead Him?  To His brother Simon!  And Simon believed because of the same living Word of God, which spoke to Him in a way that no one else ever could!  But Simon didn’t just believe, He also followed and became a Kingdom builder by repeating the same scenario over and over.  This dear friends is how God has always built His kingdom; He builds it through His means of grace and simple little redeemed sinners like you and me.  He builds it with three simple words, “Come and see!”

Is your calling clear?  Yes it is!  What does God want you do with your life?  He wants you to live out your faith in Him and share that same faith wherever you are and with whomever He puts in your path.  So the next time someone asks you if you go to church, don’t just be satisfied with the simple answer “Yes,” instead follow up with a question of your own, “Do you want to come?!”  I pray that you continue to follow this high calling that God has given to you and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

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