Some Assembly Required: Call Waiting

March 21, 2021 Pastor: Rev. Matt Wilcox Series: Some Assembly Required

Topic: Your Calling Scripture: Isaiah 55:9–55:12, 2 Timothy 1:6–1:11

I want to tell you about a man named Randy. I met Randy when I first become the Youth Director at Highland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, PA. I was beyond excited to finally see my calling also become my career. After years of education and internships, I was entering the world of full-time ministry. Highland was the church that God called me and Caitlin to and I couldn't wait. Student ministry has a lot of aspects, elements, and details that make it a unique and unbelievable space to see God move. One of the most important and transformative elements is the team of adult volunteers that rise up out of the church to serve and form relationships with the students. When I was in the interview process with Highland, I was told there was a dedicated group of parents that were present for every event and fully invested in the youth group. I couldn't wait to serve with them. Well, turns out I would have to wait. A long time. All of those parents told me the same thing, "Now that you're here, I'm going to step away and let you do your thing." To be very clear, I wasn't bitter about this. Disappointed, absolutely. But I understood. And so, I started my first Sunday youth group as a youth director with me…and Randy. Randy is a kind, gentle man in his 70's. He worked at one of the local colleges as a groundskeeper. Randy is also a fierce advocate for children and education. He served as a deacon at our church. And Randy was the mainstay, the constant presence of partnership with me at Highland.

He came to Sunday night youth group week in and week out. He served with me in every confirmation class I was blessed to lead for eight years, including the one that Juliette was a part of. Randy would come on our weekend retreats and it was just as common to see him sitting or walking with a student as it was to see him paling around with them. Randy has a wife that he loves dearly. He had a job he enjoyed. He had interests and hobbies. But Randy also had a calling that was specific and personal and that he sacrificed for. And he made every effort to ensure that he never left that Call Waiting to be lived out and fulfilled. Randy's example offers us a valuable lesson as we consider our own stories of faith and identity in Jesus Christ.

Throughout this season of Lent, we have been exploring what practices or disciplines we need to consider and discover so that we can be the church. Frequenting a particular building once a week or having a church website pinned as a favorite in our browser doesn't do that. Instead, we are reminded that there is Some Assembly Required as we strive more and more to follow Jesus and share the presence and love of God. We've talked about fellowship and study. We've considered the value of genuine vulnerability, and last week, Rev. Kathy Mitchell reminded us of the need for prayer. We've only got two weeks left in this message series, and this morning we are going to look at something every Christ-follower possesses, even if we are unaware of it at the moment. It is something unique to each person and yet inexplicably valuable to the church's mission in bringing the kingdom of God to this place. We are talking about calling, and to help us gain more perspective on this personal and powerful aspect of our identity, we are going to look again to words that the apostle Paul offered to a young leader named Timothy. We're in 2 Timothy 1:6-11.

There are a plethora of moments and accounts in Scripture that portray or explain calling. God called Abram to leave his home for a land of promise. God called to Moses to free the Hebrew people from slavery to a life of purpose and identity. God called to a young boy named Samuel to become a prophet and a maker of kings. Jesus called fisherman and tax collectors to follow Him. Jesus called to Peter to step out of the boat and to Lazarus to step out of the tomb. Calling is present throughout the entire narrative arc of the Bible. But calling is not just about stories; it is also about instruction and encouragement and relationships. We see that clearly in Paul's words to Timothy here in our text.

Paul knows that Timothy has a calling to serve the Christ-followers around him. Paul also knows that this calling is not static and is meant to be nurtured, grown, and explored. Like a small ember, it needs to be fanned into a flame to provide warmth, light, and direction. Paul is very clear that calling is given by the Holy Spirit, and it is not meant to make us timid or reluctant. Instead, the calling we receive is intended to charge us with a conviction and confidence that enables us to serve boldly and love greatly.

I also love that Paul's description and encouragement about calling is plural and one saturated with collaboration. He says that the Spirit was given to "us" and that it is meant to give "us" power, love, and self-discipline. Paul uses phrases like "our Lord" and "join with me" and that "grace was given" to us. Verse nine hammers this home: "God has saved us and called us to a holy life." Paul knew that calling was connected to community and that calling is an outpouring of God's immeasurable love and purpose that flows freely to all those who open their hearts and lives to Christ. And do you know what that means? It means that we all, every single one of us, have a Call Waiting.

Now, I want to provide an important distinction here. Calling is a word that gets used in a lot of spaces. What we are looking at this morning is the reality and dimension of calling that comes from God, is nurtured by God, and is used by God. So, this might be different than the goal someone might have to one day perform at the Grand Ole Opry or to perfect the quintessential banana bread or omelet recipe. Goals are distinct from calling. Goals work toward accomplishing something. A calling encourages us to serve someone. Specifically, the calling that God delivers to each of us is entrusted to us so that we might better and more impactfully serve God and serve our neighbor.

For Randy, that was a calling to love, serve, and form relationships with teenagers. Randy is a great example because Randy's job was different from the calling he felt to serve in the Highland Presbyterian Church's student ministry. We might very well see our career intersect with the calling God gives us as a member of the body of Christ, but that is not always the case. I think of the incredible team of adult volunteers we have that serve our students here. Becca Rice is an assessor for Normal. To be specific, her title is Deputy Assessor with a Certified Illinois Assessing Officer designation. Yes, I checked. Will Schaup is the senior inspector at a nuclear power plant. Sure, being able to assess liability and contain an unspeakably endless source of energy might come into play within the student ministry. Still, their careers are unique to the calling they live out within our church.

That's not to say that our aptitudes or interests have no correlation to our calling. We have people in our church who are gifted musicians, and they use those gifts to offer praise to God and foster a space of worship for all of us. First Pres is blessed to have several green thumbs who serve God and bless their community through their careful and sometimes laborious work of tending to the gardens and growing things on our property. Others feel a similar calling to advocate for God's creation, but they execute their calling by pursuing initiatives or projects that serve the purpose of environmental stewardship. Like those on the green team who have worked so hard to make it possible for us to construct a solar array here on our property.

We are richly blessed here at First Pres to have so many examples of saints who have felt, accepted, and practiced the calling the Lord put on their hearts. Charles and Jeanne Morris advocated for more available and equitable housing for minority students at ISU back in the 70's. Judy Stone was a founding member in establishing Habitat for Humanity in McLean County. Jack Porter worked and advocated fiercely against the realities of domestic violence, voter suppression, and racial injustice. And we have just as many folks who have not kept their Call Waiting more recently.  

We have Sunday school teachers, like Rebecca Bishop, who drove to the homes of children to deliver notes and gifts, reminding our little ones that their teacher loves them and is praying for them. Folks like Marilea White go out of their way to help and advocate for the lives and rights of God's children who are in prisons or who are now seeking a fresh start. People like John and Nancy Wolter take care of the lawns or snow removal for neighbors who aren't able to, and people like Preston Cryer serve our church every Sunday as the newest member of our tech team.

I hope you can see my point. All of us have a calling that is given to us by God. Sometimes that means working with people, fighting for a cause, crunching numbers, or even knitting hats and prayer squares. What is your calling? During the pandemic, many of us had a lot of time at home to think, notice, and listen. So, what is the calling God has placed on your heart? Do you feel a sense or an urging toward a specific group of people? I talked with Teresa Herbert about how we can better welcome and integrate visitors and new members here at First Pres. She now leads our First Steps team. Maybe you can't stop thinking about all the examples of discrimination, violence, and prejudice we've grieved together. Talk to me about our mission committee or our Matthew 25 task force.

The bottom line for me as a pastor is this: If you have a calling, we want to make sure it's not kept waiting. If there is a ministry or effort here within our church that we can unleash your calling upon, awesome. Maybe we'll need to look outside our church's walls and programs; let's explore that together because spoiler alert: You are the church. The church is not an event in the Great Hall or a program in a pamphlet. Let's find the people God wants you to serve, the causes God wants you to fight for, the change God wants you to bring. Let's make sure you're living out that calling God has given you and that you don't have a Call Waiting.

Let's pray.

2 Service Times

Summer Worship Service

10am Worship Service