Bethany Lutheran Church, Bigfork, MT


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Sermon 1-14-2018

Second Sunday after Epiphany

John 1, 1 Samuel 3


Pastor Christopher Miller


Today, we're going to talk about calling. It's a word that I use on a regular basis to talk about things that God wants us to do. We are called to this or that. Some of them are fairly general. We're called to engage with Scripture on a regular basis. That's really a call for all people. We're called to worship. We're called to care for our neighbors. These are all things you know. Today, I want to think more about specific call, the call that God specifically makes on your life. It may be unique to your circumstances, but it's definitely unique to your person. Jesus called many unique people, and two of them are in our Gospel reading today.

John 1:43-51

John chapter 1 has the calling of a number of Jesus' disciples. Philip and Nathaniel have a unique story.


From this story, we can learn some of how God specifically calls people, and can and does specifically call you. First:
There are stages to this call.

What I mean by stages is that there is a call, and another call proceeds from that. Philip is the one who receives the direct call from Jesus, specific: "Follow me." Philip uses that call to find Nathaniel, and calls him to come and see. Notice that there's stages, and that can even apply to a specific person. I'm committed to the idea that God calls us in seasons. For this certain season, this can be God's call on your life. Eventually, that call may reach its end, and whether you know it or not, there is a new call that God has for you. And note how this new call shows up for Nathaniel, through the mouth of Philip. This shows us a second part of the specific call:
God uses others to call us.

The call of God on your life isn't just a word directly from God's mouth. He uses other mouths too. Have you ever had unconnected people in your life tell you the exact same thing? I have. That thing was "have you thought about seminary?" Look where that got me. There's also a third piece to this specific call:
Check the call with God.

You could hear all sorts of stuff from others, but it might not be a call from God until you check it with Him himself. Nathaniel hears a call from Philip, but he goes to see Jesus. He wants to make sure that what he is hearing and feeling is actually what God wants, and not just what he's hearing inside his own head.

These are three basic ways that we can hear that specific call of God on our life. But what is that specific call going to be? Obviously, that's tailored to you and your situation, but it might be something that you don't expect. Jesus tells Nathaniel that he will see heaven open, and angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Sounds like a pretty good gig. We also know what the disciples had to go through. This side of the call is shown to us by another example of the specific call, from today's Old Testament reading from 1 Samuel.

1 Samuel 3:1-20

Samuel starts off here by not recognizing the call, like a lot of us. As I read this passage, I want you to take careful note of the situation in Eli's life and in the surrounding nation.


I told you to pay attention to what things were like in Israel at the time. What word could describe the frequency of the word of the Lord? (Rare) People weren't hearing from God very often. Or, they weren't listening to God very often. And yet, when Samuel is called, where is he laying down? (house of God, in front of the Ark) We know by the prophesy that that even those charged with being the stewards of God's Word were not listening or following the Word of God. So, there are those inside and outside of the temple that are not hearing the Word of God. Boy, sure sounds like today, doesn't it? Most people don't care what the Word of God has to say about their life, and that goes for those both inside and outside the church. Eli's sons mishandled the offerings that were brought to God, for their own benefit, and they had relations with the women who served at the tent of meeting. Today, we have frequent mishandling of funds in congregations, and if you've heard of the Me Too movement, with women speaking out about sexual harassment and assault, you should know that there is also Church Too, with women coming forward about assault in congregations. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and that same is sinful. So, how does the Word of God speak to that? Harshly. And this specific call is pointed directly at that. And here's where we find a point about the content of your specific call.

Your call is not always easy.

Most of the time, the language we use around call is like "Your call is where your greatest joy and the world's greatest need meet." Ok, sure, that might be part of it. But what if your call from God is to call people out on their failures? What if your call is not just Gospel, but Law too? I know that there are many people out there whose primary call from God is to point out to the church the ways that we have gone off the rails, and they are clear, and they are Scriptural. What happens then? Well, Eli seemed to react pretty well, but most of us do not. I know that when the Law has been brought to my doorstep, I can vary between accepting it well and working to correct things, sobbing uncontrollably, or getting angry and frustrated at the people bringing it to me. But that is the call. The call is not for things to be duckies and bunnies all the time. A call from God means that you go wherever he wants you to go, and do what he wants you to do, no matter the personal troubles. It's sometimes to bring a good word, but sometimes to bring a hard word. We will not be without difficulty in this life, even difficulty that God has to use to bring us closer to him.

He is no stranger to hard calls. Jesus Christ came to this earth to die. And as we know, he even asked that call to pass away from him. But God's call is God's call. And as difficult as it may be, as frustrating as it may be, if our call is consistent with what others see in us, with what we see in ourselves, and most importantly, consistent with what God reveals in Scripture, God will bless it, and God will bless his world through it. Because that's what every call of God is about.

Your call is not about you.

Your call is not about your self-actualization, or your self-satisfaction, or your warm fuzzy feelings inside. Your call is about blessing the world that surrounds you, both inside and outside of the church. You might receive some side benefit, like peace, joy, and hope. But it's not about you, because any work is ultimately about you. That's the same way with God's work. His work is not about him, but about delivering you from sin and death, and bringing you to new life. AMEN.





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Audio Sermon - 1-14-2018 - Second Sunday after Epiphany - John 1, 1 Samuel 3

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Audio Sermon - 1-7-2018 - The Epiphany of Our Lord

PDF Sermon - 1-7-2018 - The Epiphany of Our Lord

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PDF Sermon - 12-24-2017 - Fourth Sunday of Advent - Luke 1

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