New Beginnings: The Back Story
This reflection was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, July 15, 2012.
4 The Lord’s word came to me:
5 “Before I created you in the womb I knew you;
before you were born I set you apart;
I made you a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Ah, Lord God,” I said, “I don’t know how to speak
because I’m only a child.”
7 The Lord responded,
“Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’
Where I send you, you must go;
what I tell you, you must say.
8 Don’t be afraid of them,
because I’m with you to rescue you,”
declares the Lord.
9 Then the Lord stretched out his hand,
touched my mouth, and said to me,
“I’m putting my words in your mouth.
10 This very day I appoint you over nations and empires,
to dig up and pull down,
to destroy and demolish,
to build and plant.”
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Common English Bible
I was a sophomore in High School. And, it was time for the annual Youth Sunday at First United Methodist Church in Mt. Vernon (IN). This annual event was a chance for the youth to commandeer the entire service: planning everything from the music to the message. We had someone assigned to design the bulletin, to lead the music, read the scripture, and even say the prayer. But, no one stepped forward to offer the message. I can’t blame them, the year before Justin Barnes, a really smart and eloquent senior, had delivered the sermon. No one wanted to follow that up…I was drafted. So, I, rather unwillingly, delivered the sermon that year (2000), presenting some of the material from that year’s Youth Annual Conference.
That first sermon must have gone OK, because I was asked to give the sermon the following year (2001), again during the Youth Sunday. After the service, as was the custom of that congregation, I along with the other youth who had lead in worship filed to the back of the sanctuary to greet people as they left the sanctuary. It was while in line that these two older women—women who had watched me grow up in the church—women who literally sat a few pews behind me in worship every Sunday morning—came up, shook my hand and asked, “Son, what do you want to be when you grow up?” They knew my father owned a tractor dealership, so my answer, I thought, would come as no surprise to them. I replied, “I plan on going to the University of Southern Illinois to study mechanical engineering.” Confused by my response, they replied, “Son, I think you have quite a calling.” And, they walked away.
Up until that point, I had never considered preaching, let alone full-time parish ministry, as a viable career option. But, there words haunted me for days. So, I prayed. And, prayed. And, prayed. For two weeks I wrestled with those haunting words, “Son, you have quite a calling.” And, for two weeks, I had no clear insight into whether their words were true. I mean, I had already chosen a college. Tradition dictated that I would one day inherit the family business. I had my plans, those women knew those plans. What were they thinking? What was God thinking? Having had enough, I pressured God for some clarity. “Fine,” I prayed, “If this is what You really want me to do, then you’ve got to give me some sign.”
I did not hear a booming voice. Lightning did not strike. In fact, that night I went to bed like normal. The next morning, I received a letter in the mail. It simply said:
I really enjoyed your service.
God had answered my prayer: and, ever since, I have been on a journey of discernment, trying to figure out God’s will and direction for my life.
That’s my back story. But it is not the only story.
God has called people through out time [in our Scripture lesson for today, you heard Jeremiah’s story of God’s call and commission; AND, GOD CONTINUES TO CALL CHRISTIANS TO DO HIS WILL AND WORK IN THE WORLD]– imperfect people, those who [have]made mistakes, and those who [have] no idea what they were getting into. However, through God’s grace we know that God invites [each of] us to serve and then shows us the way to follow. We are not perfect, we don’t have all the answers, but we know that we belong to God and that God calls each of us by name.
So what’s your back story?
How has God called your name? and, how are you responding?
I can’t wait to hear your story. So that together we can live out God’s call for each of our lives and encourage one another along the journey. Amen.
If you would like to explore God’s call for your life, consider reading some of the call stories found in the Bible. Click here to get started; you can also find the study and additional materials at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s website.
 “Explore Calling: Scripture & Bible Study for Youth & Young Adults,” GBHEM.org. <http://www.gbhem.org/site/c.lsKSL3POLvF/b.4426859/k.E356/Explore_Calling_Scripture__Bible_Study_for_Youth__Young_Adults.htm> Accessed July 10, 2012.