This is the sermon that Father George would have preached on January 30. He was unable to be at the service. In place of a regular service we had a Morning Prayer service.
Today we pick up the theme of calling, or vocation, and we will be spending the next couple of Sundays looking at how God calls us to his purpose and work. The idea of vocation, or calling, is misunderstood by many people of faith – especially some Christians. The common misconception is that vocation is limited to persons being called to a religious life (as a monk or nun) or to become a part of the clergy. When I was in the ordination process, I was often asked to describe my “call” to become a priest. This limited view of vocation diminishes the holiness of the lay or “secular” callings. Doing this attempts to place limits on the work of the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the whole purpose of God’s work in the world.
Jeremiah was wrapped in God’s love. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you …” God tells the prophet. Even before he ever drew a breath, God knew Jeremiah — even before we took a breath, God knew us, God loved us. God didn’t let Jeremiah diminish himself in God’s eyes. “Do not say, ‘I am only …” says God to the prophet.
Can we hear God say the same to us? That’s love — speaking words that uplift; words that don’t allow the diminishment of the other; words that build confidence and trust.
Paul goes into great depth in a description of love. His Corinthian congregation had begun falling out with each other, the community fracturing, losing relationship. He reminds them of the very earthly laws and expectations of that day; but then he pours out the binding, rebuilding, sustaining power of love. Love rejoices, bears all things, believes, hopes, endures. We learn to love this way by remembering it’s how God loves us.
When we lose sight of the inclusiveness and the giftedness of love, we join those who’d throw Jesus off the cliff because: “Isn’t this only Joseph’s son?” Today we might hear: It’s only a woman; it’s only an immigrant; it’s only a group of teenaged students. Those words diminish our grasp of love — devalue our relationship with each other. God knows each of us. God consecrates each of us. God offers us words of love to share. None of us is only in God’s eyes; all of us are called to proclaim love.
The Good News Jesus was proclaiming was the gracious announcement that a whole new narrative of God’s dealing with us is breaking into our world. Jesus was reminding his listeners, and us, that God was still at work in the world unfolding new narratives – new stories – intended to draw us more deeply into the larger story of God’s unconditional love for us.
All of us, by virtue of our baptism, have a vocation – a calling to live fully and deeply into God’s love for humanity. Our Baptismal Covenant outlines our common vocation. How we live out that vocation is a reflection of how we have individually heard that call.
What is at the heart of our common vocation? Our Presiding Bishop would put it this way, that we are called to live into and reflect the unconditional love of God in every aspect of our lives. In other words, we are called to love and in that love we, and all others, catch a glimpse of God’s love.