Called to Call
All Christians have a calling. Do you know what it is?
Do you think God calls us to be servants? They why call the unworthy? When God called Abram in Haran, it was the second time. The first time God called Abram was living in Ur with his father serving idols. God called him to leave his family and come to the Promised Land. Instead Abram took his father with him and moved as far as Haran which is 500 miles short of where God was calling him to. In our text, Abram is in Haran, but now his father has died. Again God calls unfaithful Abram to become a great, blessed nation carrying the Promised Seed. Again God calls him to leave his people and his father's household. But what does Abram do? He takes Lot, his nephew with him.
If God's main purpose in calling is to call people to service, He sure calls unfit servants. Look at the Gospel lesson. This woman wasn't a fit candidate for service. She was a Samaritan. Jesus said she worshiped what she didn't really know. She is a 5 time divorcee and is now shacking up with a guy. Jesus shows her inaptitude for things spiritual. He speaks of spiritual things and all she can think of is material.
It's hard for me to think of a more unworthy candidates for service than Abram and the woman at the well, unless I think of us. Oh, but maybe you think you're some "hot" find for Jesus? Maybe you're an exception. Maybe you aren't like the rest of us who Paul says are by nature, "blind, dead, enemies of God." Maybe none of you were fornicators, worshiped false gods, were adulterers, homosexuals, or thieves, maybe none of you were drunkards, slanderers, robbers, or greedy when God called you.
I doubt it. What did we pray in the Collect today? We described God as One "whose glory is always to have mercy." God doesn't look for the worthy but the UNworthy. God doesn't seek the fit but the UNfit. God doesn't call the healthy but the sick, not the righteous but the unrighteous, not the very religious scribes and Pharisees but the very sinful prostitutes and tax collectors. He called Abram when he was up to his eyeballs in idolatry and the woman at the well when she was up to her eyeballs in sexual sins. So who do you think He calls today?
Next question: what did God call them to? To foolish things if you ask me. The Lord called Abram out of a major city to the boonies of Canaan. He called only one man, albeit with a large household, to come and possess a land populated by the Canaanites. Our text emphasizes this "foolishness" by understating the situation. It says, "At that time the Canaanites were in the land." That's like saying, "General Custer went to Little Big Horn. At that time the Indians were in the land."
God called Abram to do the humanly impossible. God called Abram to leave his family, move his large household 500 miles to an unseen land, on the promise that God would give him the land. This is impossible; this is foolishness. And what about the woman at the well? What did God call her to? A tired, thirsty Messiah. A Christ who wasn't even as "religious" as ordinary Jews who wouldn't associate with her, a Samaritan. A Christ who spoke in riddles. A Christ who bluntly exposed her sexual sins and her ignorant worship.
You would think God would call to more reasonable things. Call Abram to a nearby town. Call him to become a great family rather than a great nation. And you would think God would call people to a Christ who is powerful, a Christ who if He's going to talk about living water at least wouldn't be thirsty. A Christ who is more loving about exposing sin and spiritual error. But the true God calls to foolishness. He doesn't call us to rule a nation, but an entire world. He doesn't call us to a table away from our enemies but one setup in the very presence of our enemies. He calls us to victory even though we seem defeated at every turn. He calls us to blessing even though we're cursed by sickness, family problems, and money woes.
And it doesn't stop here. He calls us to a Jesus who is not just tired and thirsty but hanging dead on a cross. He calls us to a Jesus who isn't even as "holy" as a TV evangelist. To a Jesus who embraces smelly, dirty sinners, not perfumed, clean churchgoers. God calls us to a Jesus who isn't gentle at exposing our unbelieving heart and our disobedient body.
Still think God is calling you to service? Still think God is trying to recruit you for His sake? Still think God needs you to do something for Him? To convert the world for Him? To give Him food and drink as if He were some helpless idol? No, the reason God called you, unworthy sinner that you are, to do impossible, foolish things is so that you might call on the name of the Lord.
We say as much in the explanation to the 3rd Article of the Creed. "I believe that...the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith." God calls us to faith to believe, not do. And faith isn't your confidence in God. Faith isn't your feeling sure about God. Faith is a constant calling on God. Faith is the Spirit of the Lord in our hearts crying out with our spirit, "Abba, Father." What God called Abram, the woman at the well and you to do, is to call on Him.
God gets us to do that by calling us to foolish things. God called Abram to be a great nation, and to possess a land occupied by Canaanites. Abram started out like we do; determined he would do what God wanted him to do. He picked up moved to Canaan, and then traveled through the land like he owned the place. So far so good. But then we read, "At that time the Canaanites were in the land." Wait a minute. God wasn't calling him to an empty land? This wasn't just a matter of squatters. These were Canaanites, and I'm pretty sure they were very much attached to the land of Canaan.
You can imagine how discouraged and depressed Abram was. This was going to be much harder than he thought. In fact, it was impossible. But then what? "Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, To your offspring I will give this land.'" "Abe, you've got it all wrong," says God. "I'm not expecting you to win this land for Me. Im going to give it to you."
Then what? Then Abram sets up a place of worship and starts preaching and teaching about what God would do for him for the sake of the Promised Seed. Then Abram called on the name of the Lord. "Yes, come Lord; do what you said you would do; come make us unworthy sinners into a great and blessed people. Come and make this land filled with Canaanites my land."
What about the woman at the well? She thought Jesus called her to give Him a drink. She thought Jesus called her to condemn her in her sexual sins and ignorant worship. She found there was a well too deep for her to draw from. She found that Jesus wasn't interested in condemning her in her sins but saving her from them. She found that Jesus wasn't interested in making fun of her ignorant worship but in freeing her from it. She ended calling for the Christ saying, "I know Christ is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us." And Jesus ended up telling her, "I am He."
Friends, this is how it is with us. God calls us out of our sinfulness. He calls us to leave our false ideas about God, salvation, and a religious life behind. He calls us to be His people though we're encircled by Canaanites. He calls us to possess the entire world even though we don't own a foot of it. And we try. We try like Abram to do what God tells us to do. We try like the woman at the well to get our religious understanding in order. And like them, we fail miserably. At least I do.
My sins are many. They aren't just here and now; they go back 5 husbands ago. There is sin, layered upon sin, twists here, kinks there, so complicated that I don't know where to begin to make things right. My religious thoughts are no better. I hear what God says but I add this and take away that till I'm not sure what I believe. And I try to act like I own the world, but then I hear what congress is doing here or what that country is doing there and I despair as if they controlled the world not my Lord, as if He gave the world to them, not me.
That's why each week I come back here where my Lord appears to me. I don't look for Him in my heart; His presence their might be just a figment of my imagination. I don't look for Him in my world; all I see there is Canaanites. I don't look for Him in my holy life because I know it's not holy enough. No, I look for Him here.
The Lord appears here each Sunday. And what does He say? Your help is in My name because I made heaven and earth. Your sins are forgiven not because you're worthy but because Jesus is. And not only am I giving you this land; I'm giving you all heaven and earth. As a pledge of this, I appear to you in bread and wine, giving you My Body and Blood that paid for both.
And you know what our Lord appearing to us causes us to do? To call on Him. "Lord have mercy," we call. "Hear our prayer," we call. "Create in me a clean heart. Renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence. Restore unto to me the joy of my salvation," we call. And once our God has appeared in Bread and Wine, what do we call? "Have mercy upon us; grant us Thy peace."
The Lord called you so you might call on Him. Psalm 116 says it well: "What shall I render to the Lord for all of His benefits toward me? I shall take the cup of salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord." Come, forget about your wretched sinfulness, forget about the impossibility of the tasks before you. Take the cup of salvation which is your Lord's Blood, and call upon Him to do in you and for you what He has promised! Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Second Sunday in Lent (20140316); Genesis 12: 1-8