Friday, 22 February 2019


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The Realities of People Who Live For God

February 3, 2019


New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR

February 3, 2019 (Fourth Sunday after Epiphany)



Jeremiah 1:4-10

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 
5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ 
6Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 7But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you. 
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.’ 
9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lordsaid to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth. 
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’


Psalm 71

1 In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
   let me never be put to shame. 
2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
   incline your ear to me and save me. 
3 Be to me a rock of refuge,
   a strong fortress, to save me,
   for you are my rock and my fortress. 

4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
   from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. 
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope,
   my trust, O Lord, from my youth. 
6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
   it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you. 


Luke 4:21-30

21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’23He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ 24And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepersin Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.


1 Corinthians 13:1-13

13If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

O God of all the prophets,
you knew us and chose us
before you formed us in the womb.
Fill us with faith that speaks your word,
hope that does not disappoint,
and love that bears all things for your sake,
until that day when we shall know you fully,
even as we are known by you. Amen.


The four passages selected for our reflection today deal with what it means to live for God.  In a way, each passage deals with some aspect of being called to live as prophetic people for God in the world.  

When people hear of someone living out a “call” or “calling” for God, they often think about pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and other people who we term ministry professionals.  That is unfortunate, and is also untrue to the religion of Jesus.  


The passages we’ve read show that living for God is a “calling” for people who sense that they are not here to live for themselves.  Living for God is a “calling” for people who sense that God is determined to love the world, liberate the world, and bless the world, and that they are in the world to be part of God’s loving, liberating, and blessing enterprise.   


People who realize they live for God are “called” to live differently.  People who realize they live for God see differently, hear differently, and respond differently to the realities of living.  They live, hear, see, and respond differently to the realities of living because they belong to God.  


At New Millennium, we affirm this notion of each Sunday in the following words:  We praise and worship God, together.  We petition God, together.  We proclaim God, together.  We welcome all persons in God’s love, together.  We live for God, in every breath and heartbeat, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as followers of Jesus Christ, together.  In other words, we affirm that each of us is “called” to live prophetically “in every breath and heartbeat.”


The Scripture lessons we’ve read today show that this is not a light matter.  Many of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy similar to what we read about in the passage from Jeremiah 1.  In the passage from Psalm 71, someone who lived for God pleaded to God for rescue “from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel” (Ps. 71:4).  The Gospel reading from Luke 4 teaches us that Jesus endured unpopularity even among the people of his hometown.  And Saint Paul did not end his uplifting message about love at 1 Corinthians 13 without confessing the truth that “now we see in a mirror, dimly…”   


The truth is that every person who lives for God does so knowing about conditions, circumstances, and situations that threaten our sense of prophetic competence and confidence.  In 2 Corinthians, Paul referred to a “thorn in his flesh” that constantly caused him to feel inadequate, unworthy, and unfit to serve God.  It seems that Jesus was always an encounter away from critics and critics about how he lived, how he interacted with others, and how he understood God.  


Scripture points out what we find to be all too true.  We are called to live for God even though our lives are shaded by temptations which seem, as Howard Thurman put it so well in The Inward Journey, “to know us by name and face us at the point of our greatest weakness and challenge us where there is no strength and no protection.”  We are called to live for God despite the fact that from time to time each of us comes face to face with situations that leave us numb, exhausted, anxious, afraid, and alone.  


We are each “called” to live for God.  God’s “call” to us doesn’t start from us.  The call to be people who love God fully and who love others as neighbors of God’s grace and hospitality isn’t based on how much we own, how much education we have, or anything else besides God’s desire to involve us in God’s business of loving, liberating, and blessing the world.  God “calls” us no matter what others think of us, or even what we think of ourselves.  God has living for us to do even if we consider ourselves too “this, that, or whatever else” to be considered worthy of prophetic calling.     


  We live for God because God has called us to be part of God’s life and work in the world.  What was true for Jeremiah is true for you and me.  We are worthy of God’s calling because God has called us to be prophetic people.  We are worthy of God’s call to love others because God has called us to be loving people.  We are worthy of God’s call to be merciful because God has called us to extend mercy to suffering people.  We are worthy of God’s call to stand up and challenge injustice because God has called us to be righteous people.  


What I’m really saying is people who are “called” understand that God has us here to make a holy difference in the world.  Being “called” means we living and working for God.  Being “called” means we are living and working with God.  And being “called” means we are living and working in the power of God to bless the world, heal the world, and liberate the world. 


The “deep” truth of this message is that God chooses to bless, heal, and liberate the world working through people like us!  Ordinary people like us!  Frail and faulty people like us!  People who fall down like us!  People who are overlooked like us! God chooses to “call” people like us to bless, heal, and liberate the world!  We are the “super heroes” God has called.  We are the leaders God has called.  We are the healers, teachers, encouragers, and deliverers God has called in this place at this time to confront, condemn, and tear down systems of injustice.  And we are the healers, teachers, encouragers, and deliverers God has called in this place and time to sow seeds of hope, plant crops of truth, and build up systems of love, mercy, truth, fairness, and peace.  


We are empowered by God to live for God as vessels of God’s love, truth, mercy, justice, hope, and peace.  Thru Jeremiah, the Psalmist, Jesus, and Paul, we are reminded that living for God involves accepting ourselves because God has accepted us.  We are reminded that living for God requires courage to be subversive.  We are reminded that living for God means enduring unpopularity and opposition.  


Finally, we are reminded that living for God means that God’s love overrules everything, including our own tendencies towards pettiness, selfishness, and feelings of failure.  God’s love is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, and not rude.  God’s love is not only like us.  God’s love transforms us so much that God’s love working through us transforms the world.  


How, you ask, can God’s love transform the world?  Paul answers the question in the final words of that wonderful lesson in 1 Corinthians 13 when he tells us that faith, hope, and love abide – meaning that faith, hope, and love are the supreme forces that endure, continue, and overcome all things, anything, and at all times.  By faith, we love.  In hope, we love.  Through faith and hope, we believe in God, hope for the world with God, love for and with God, and overcome all things to the glory of God.  


Living as “called” people means living by faith.  Living as “called” people means living by faith that God’s power working on us, in us, and through us overrules our inadequacies, anxieties, frustrations, disappointments, and failures.  Living as “called” people means that we live in the power of God’s love for the world, God’s passion to liberate the world from everything that is unjust, unloving, hurtful, and oppressive. Living as “called” people means that we live in the power of resurrection hope, resurrection faith, and resurrection love.  


Beloved, this is our “calling.”  Let us celebrate it, rejoice in it, and embrace it with strong hearts and eager living.  Amen. 


©Wendell Griffen, 2019