this summer. We’re exploring together how we discern what it is that God calls us to do each of us individually and all of us together. The word for this is vocation, which is from the Latin word vocare, which literally means to call vocation. God calls us to live our lives on purpose for the common good. Our vocations are personal to each individual, but they are discerned and lived within a community.
We have multiple vocations throughout our life and multiple vocations at the same time, sometimes they complement each other and sometimes they compete when we talk about vocation. It’s important to remember that we are not created for production value, but we are created each of us uniquely so that we find joy and fulfillment, doing some things and not other things.
Do you see the difference there? We’re not created to produce, but we are created in such a way so that some things bring us joy. Last week, we talked about how discerning our vocation begins with listening to our longings, paying attention to what lights us up and also what breaks our heart. This week as you may have already noticed at the top of your bulletin, we are considering the need to be open when discerning our vocations.
This summer, we’re focusing on that word vocare as an acrostic to help us think about vocation. So we’ll be talking about V for values, O for openness, C for call A for attentiveness, R for regrets and E for experiences of God’s presence, trusting as we pay attention to those different things in our life that will lead us in discerning our vocation.
There are bookmarks on the back table that have that acrostic on it. If you want to pray and meditate and have conversations about that throughout the summer. This week, we’re talking about openness. We’re not doing them in order when we are open, we are less attached to specific outcomes and more focused on the sustaining presence of God.
We are focused on the fact that God is with us in the process regardless of the result of the process. As we explore this idea of openness, I invite you to look at the book of Ephesians chapter one, verse 15 through 23. We studied this whole book together in the summer of 2020 when we were all in isolation and worshiping online. The book of Ephesians starts with a picture of God’s cosmic plan, very big scale and affirming that we are included in that.
Then it talks about the role and the mission of the church and instructs us about our position and our actions in the world. And before God, and it ends with one of my core beliefs, which is that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against Principalities and powers is the phrasing. The real enemy is not the other people who disagree with us.
The real enemy is the spirit that animates our institutions and our bureaucracies. The enemy is not racist or homophobic people. The enemy is the spirit of racism and homophobia and transphobia that infects all of our systems. That’s the framework for Ephesians. What we’re going to read this morning is from the beginning of the book where the Apostle Paul is waxing eloquent about God’s cosmic plan.
Honestly, he’s hard to follow. What we know is that Paul was speaking and someone else was dictating, and ancient written Greek doesn’t have any punctuation. So we’re making our best guess about where one sentence ends and another begins. I’m going to put it up on the screen this morning because I think that’s more helpful.
Also, I’ve color coded it to help keep track of things that I think should go together. You guys know me. You know, this is what you’re going to get. So let us listen now in the reading of scripture for the word and the wisdom of God. Paul says
“For this reason, stuff he talked about before for this reason. Ever since I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and your love for all God’s people.
I have not stopped giving thanks for you remembering you in my prayers. Those things go together. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious father, all the same way to talk about one being may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation or understanding so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know three things, the hope to which he has called you the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe so stick with that power is in blue. That power is the same as the mighty strength. God exerted when raising Christ, Jesus from the dead and seeding Christ at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms far above these are the things Christ is above rule, authority, power and Dominion and every name that is invoked, that’s those Principalities and powers, not only in the present age, but also in the age to come.”
Jesus talked about that age to come a lot and God placed all things under Christ’s feet and appointed Christ to behead over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. This is the word of God for all people. Thanks be to God. This passage contains so much what I especially want to draw your attention to is those three things in green that Paul says, we will know when the eyes of our heart are enlightened, which is one way to talk
about this openness. The first thing is that we will know the hope to which God has called us. We will be open to what can happen in the future. One of my favorite Christian theologians and writers is a German guy named Jürgen Moltmann. And thanks be to God somebody has translated his stuff because I wouldn’t be able to read it otherwise, he says, “Hope is the expectation of a good future awakened by God’s promise and strengthened by trust in God.”
Hope is the expectation of a good future awakened by God’s promise and strengthened by hope and strengthened by trust in God. And this passage says, in order that we may know the hope to which God has called us. The Greek, there is like the hope of the calling of Him because that’s how it works. So this could either be the idea that we are called to hope.
That part of God’s calling to us is to be people who anticipate a good future awakened by God’s promise and strengthened by trust in God. We are called by God to be people who look forward with positivity, not with naïveté, not just thinking everything is going to be fine because it’s going to be fine but trusting in something deeper than what the evidence of the world will give us.
Trusting that there is a God who somehow is able to hold all things within God’s self in such a way that in all things, God is working for good with those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose. Not that necessarily everything is good, but that in all things, God is working for good. That is a much deeper sentiment than the toxic positivity of.
You’re going to be fine. Everything is going to be ok. Don’t worry about it. Right. I I am not terribly optimistic for our immediate future, but I am deeply hopeful for God’s eventual putting to rights of the world. My hope is in the kingdom of God, that one day God will restore all things and make all things, right. That is what I believe we are called to.
But the fact that that phrase is the hope of the calling of God could be that we’re called to hope or it could be that there is great hopefulness for us in the fact that we are called that the fact that we are people who are called by God to these beautiful individual and communal vocations, vacations would be nice too. But we’re talking about vocations this morning that we are called to these vocations that should bring us a lot of hope.
We should anticipate a good future awakened by God’s promise to each of us and all of us that we are created with beauty and goodness and truth and freedom and spirituality in mind. We can trust God because we are called, we are called to hope or the hope of being called. So the first thing that Paul says, the eyes of our heart will be opened to is the hope to which God has called us.
The second thing is the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, which I think is an invitation to be open to what has happened in the past. This may be because I’m just in rehearsals for fiddler right now, I’m going to find a way to work that into every sermon. But you know, if you know the show at all, the beginning of that show is tradition, tradition, right?
The riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the Saints tradition. The past, the prologue to our core value statement here at Zion, that prologue before we get into the progressive inclusive is that we are Christian. That’s the church part. We specifically align ourselves with the Ancient movement that claims Jesus the Christ as his inspiration.
We recognize that aligning ourselves with that ancient movement means that we’re going to have to acknowledge the harm that was done by the church in the history and present. But it also means that we claim the rich beauty of the Christian tradition all around the world. And that we remember the many revolutions that have started because people sat down and read the Bible and set out the world is not supposed to be the way the world is around me and God is calling us to do something about that Christianity contributes to a better world. Are we harmful? We have been, we should acknowledge that. But we are part of a long and rich and beautiful tradition and we can lean into that. We are part of a huge family. We are part of a living tradition. Orthodox Roman Catholic and Protestant, all of us together.
I didn’t know a lot about Christian history before I went to seminary. I knew kind of like Old Testament as a lump. Jesus early church. Lots of static reformation. Lots more static – Pentecostal Renewal– the beginning of the 1900s – more static – then the1980s. That was what I knew. There’s so much more to it than that, friends. The names of people who’ve gone before us, their stories, the lives of the saints.
We don’t spend a lot of time talking about that here at Zion, which is a shame because the stories of the saints will inspire us, not necessarily because they did extraordinary things, but because they were ordinary people who were able to live in extraordinary ways when God called them to, they were ordinary. We are ordinary. We live in that tradition and we too can do extraordinary things when God calls us to.
We may be doing this right here in Delaware for the first time. But our ancestors have done this for many years before us. We don’t go into this with no information. We don’t go at this alone. We rely on those who have come before us we know that things are different now, but we don’t automatically dismiss old ideas or old people. We treasure what has been handed down to us and with the help of the Holy Spirit that’s Pentecost.
We faithfully adapt it for our time and our place. When the eyes of our heart are enlightened, we will be open to the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints. We will be open to what has happened in the past. The third thing is we will be open to God’s incomparably great power for us who trust? You’ve heard me say that a million times that believe also trust another way to translate it, we will be open to God’s incomparably great power for us who trust and that is the same power as the resurrection and the ascension. We will be open to God’s incomparably great power of resurrection. I think this means we will be open to what is happening right now. We’ll be open to what’s happening in the future. We’ll be open to what’s come in the past and we’ll be open to what is happening right now. I think this idea of belief versus trust is important because for me, at least believe has this connotation that like when I believe in God, like I think that you can do it so you should do it right? It has that sense of connotation, cognitive responsibility, obligation. For me that’s very different from I trust you. Trust is a choice. Trust is also a release. We like kind of do it and also kind of not do it. Trust is surrender. Resurrection power comes to us when we trust in the present. And what was the resurrection when the thing that was totally dead and over completely gone comes back as something renewed or my favorite phrase, the worst thing was not the last thing that’s resurrection. We did not make that happen. That’s not from within us that comes from God and resurrection. Power is available to us, which is a very charismatic idea, which is fine with me. Sometimes God does miraculous and obvious things in an instant. I know some of you have stories of that but not always, in fact, in my experience.
And a lot of the people that I know that sort of zapping from God is more rare than we would like. We want things to be changed in a moment. God tends to work more slowly and quietly than that. We want obvious power. God does not often zap us, but God does show up in very real ways for myself. I think about that a lot as God meeting me at the end of my rope when I feel like I do not have anything else for this moment.
And I dig really deep. What I believe that I find there is God, the fact that you didn’t quit, that was God that bad day that got steadily better bit by bit after you prayed about it. That was God. In the book of First Kings chapter 17, we read a story of a miracle of God’s provision for a widow and her son was during a drought. In the ancient land of Israel, this small family had nothing left to eat.
And the prophet Elijah promised them that what they had left would last until the drought was over. And every day the mother found just enough flour in the jar and just enough oil in the bottle, just enough to bake a little more bread. Sometimes the miracle is multiplied, loaves and fishes for 5000, but sometimes it’s just enough flour and oil left for one more loaf of bread every day.
And that is a miracle too. That is God’s resurrection power at work in us. The fact that you don’t feel strong does not mean you are not strong. The fact that you don’t feel dedicated does not mean that you’re not dedicated. The fact that you don’t feel hopeful does not mean that you’re not hopeful, just means your emotions aren’t living up to your expectations.
But if you are faithfully doing day in and day out as best as you are able, what God calls you to do in the world that is resurrection power at work in you every day. And when the eyes of your heart are enlightened, you will see that you will be open to resurrection power. At work in you right now. There are some things that hinder our openness, like grief or disappointment or fear for me.
It’s always fear. God wants to heal those things. Discerning our vocation involves being open to the wisdom of the past and the possibilities of the future. We will become less attached to the results as we grow in our trust that resurrection power is working in us. Now, working through us in the process. We talked very briefly last week about the fact that we can’t put new wine in old wine skins.
If we want God to do something new in us, we need to ask God to help us heal from our disappointment and our grief and ask God to help us release our fear. All of this is possible because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated him above all Principalities and powers. That same power is at work in us right now. All we have to do is be open. Amen.