Saturday, November 10, 2012

3rd before Advent - Disruptive God

It's very disruptive, being called by God.
I speak from experience!
When the whispers that really, I ought to do something more for Him became impossible to ignore, I was not impressed.
I was living in my dream house, utterly fulfilled as the mum of 3 young children, happy in my community, enjoying my ministry as a Reader...
Everything was fine.

Only, that sense of call would not go away.
It escalated inexorably over the 10 years that I tried to run from it
No matter what I did, how loudly I sang in an attempt to drown it out, it was still there.
Unlike Jonah, I couldn't FIND a boat going in the opposite direction, so finally, reluctantly, I agreed to let God have his way.
But for all of my 30s, Jonah was pretty much my patron saint.
In today's reading, we hear the end of his story and it sounds so easy.
God said "Go to Nineveh" and off he went. Just like that, his obedience leading to the moment when sinful Nineveh responds to his preaching, puts on sackcloth and repents..but the beginning of his journey is far more rewarding territory for reluctant disciples.
You see,when God first called him to preach in Nineveh, that great eastern city Jonah took ship west for Tarshish He could hardly have been more disobedient if he had tried...but after a storm, a shipwreck and a spell inside that famous great fish, he was ready to respond more positively when God gave him a second chance, and called him to action again. 

Of course, he went on struggling with his call. 
True, his preaching had an immediate and dramatic effect on Nineveh. The people whom he had called to repentance were almost uncannily responsive – they repented without more ado – and Jonah found that hard to bear,because, of course, once they repented, they were swiftly forgiven. They were given a second chance, just as he had been given a second chance.
God's so annoying like that. He will NOT fall in with our expectations, refuses to be bound by our concepts of justice...God is always greater – much to Jonah's frustration.
But still and all, Jonah DID submit himself to God's call, allowing that voice to become the loudest, most commanding in his life.

Equally, the fishermen Simon and Andrew, James and John, weren't looking to change career the day Jesus came by. But somehow they found themselves compelled to up sticks then and there, to abandon the family business and embark on a road that would lead them to places they had never imagined, a life changing adventure, a roller coater rid that took in both the cross and the empty tomb, the joy of Pentecost and culminated for each of them in a cruel death.

Really and truly, a call from God is not compatible with a quiet life.

How could it be, when God invites us to share with Him in the work of bringing in the Kingdom?
This afternoon, our church will be full as we gather to honour the courage and the suffering of those caught up in war...
They too found their lives unbearably disrupted as they responded to the challenges of war
They too found the way ahead dangerous and difficult, almost beyond endurance
But they believed that they had to make a difference – to do something to halt injustice and oppression

Today we are often advised to “choose your battles” - the implication being that there is no point in wasting your energy on a conflict that is already lost before ever you enter the fray.
But I'd want to say to each of you that there are some battles that we must all engage in, some calls that we can never refuse to answer.

And I'm afraid that when I speak of calling, there's nobody here who can sit comfortably, imagining that God's call is for others. All of us here, by virtue of our baptism, are called to loving service. It's not just something for me, or Mathew, Clare or Mary - and others who like dressing in strange clothes and taking on strange responsibilities.

We are all called.

In this service as whenever we gather here, we will pray the Lord's Prayer, with its plea to God “Thy Kingdom Come... the kingdom that is justice and joy, love and peace.
We pray – and to SAY prayers is easy - but as we pray, we must also, always, be ready to become the answer to our own prayers.

It takes courage, but we too need to allow God to break into our lives, to challenge our assumptions, shake us out of our comfort zones, reframe the landscape of our world

We may, like Jonah, need to preach repentance – to remind ourselves and our neighbours of just how badly we have broken this world
Or we may, like those Galilean fishermen, need to preach good news – that the broken world and everything in it is restored through the Love of God

Certainly we need to let God disturb us, to wake us up and help us to proclaim with our words and our lives that the Kingdom of God has come near – and to live each day as Ambassadors, revealing that kingdom in all that we think and speak and do.

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