Who are you called to be? What are you called to do? Beginning last September, 18 of Calvary’s youth made the conscious decision to be confirmed and make their faith journey and commitment to Calvary a defining part of their lives. Come join us on Sunday, May 10 to celebrate the completion of that journey.
After this the Lord appointed seventy[a] others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’[b] 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’[c] 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”17 The seventy[d] returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
21 At that same hour Jesus[e] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit[f] and said, “I thank[g] you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[h] 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23 Then turning to the disciples, Jesus[i] said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!
A PDF of the sermon as distributed at Calvary is available for download and printing.
Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
It was the end of the year in 2007 and I was contemplating a huge change to my life. After almost twenty years as an employee of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, I was contemplating leaving the bank and taking a new job working at Calvary Presbyterian Church. While it was difficult to imagine leaving the bank where I had found out so much about myself, it was getting harder and harder to imagine not fulfilling something that felt so much more meaningful to me as a person of faith. I prayed and meditated and talked to friends and family. I wrote lists and talked to strangers. I tried to imagine what I could bring to the church that wasn’t already there and to be honest, spent a good deal of time trying to understand what I was doing and why and alternately failing and succeeding at getting to a place that would allow me to move forward. It was at that point in time that a friend of mine shared a book that he’d read that helped him greatly. That book was “Let Your Life Speak” by Parker Palmer, noted author, educator and Quaker theologian.
I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that this book is the most important book that I’ve ever read. It is a book that I’ve given to countless people as a way of moving them forward when they are contemplating a life-changing moment. It is about the difference between occupation and vocation and more importantly to me, it identified in a very Presbyterian way the concept of call.
To me there is nothing more important than the concept of call. Call moves us in a direction that asks us to consider God in our decision making and even further, asks us where we see ourselves in a world where God is an active participant. Palmer neatly summed this all up when, speaking of vocation he wrote:
“Vocation at its deepest level is, “This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.”
That right there was where I was. My decision moved from how do I do this to how do I live my life if I don’t do this.
Call is not about availability or fit. Call is not finding time to do something. Call is an understanding that this is something so important to me that I cannot not do it and that for me is the part when God is not only present in my life but an active and abiding part of that life. My God, in that Godly desire to have a deeply personal relationship with me desires a place for me in God’s kingdom that not only fits me but fits God’s great and glorious plan.
In today’s scripture reading, the Lord sends out 70 individuals, commanding them and saying:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”
There is work to be done and it is not easy work. There is work to be done and it is such that one individual, not even the son of God is capable of doing it all. It is all of our work but not all are called to serve in this way. So, what exactly are we called to do?
Reverend David Lovelace of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in York, Pennsylvania offers this about what Jesus was doing here:
“Jesus in sending out the seventy warned them that this ministry was not easy. Their commission was to share the good news of God’s redeeming work and not just be people pleasers. “See I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” One might assume that in this age of social media spreading the message has become easier. Yet, in our day the message is more likely to encounter indifference than rejection. While technology is remarkable and can broaden access to people, it inhibits authentic relationship with God and with each other. Faced with this challenge, how do we engage this work today in our world?”
Today is the day when we honor those young men and women who have just completed their confirmation class. Over the past eight months or so, they have gathered at the church or on Zoom to talk about what their faith means to them and how they believe it might define them. They have struggled with questions about a God they cannot see but somehow know exists. They have tried to understand who Jesus was and who he is now to them. They have borne witness to the triune God who creates, sustains and ultimately lifts them up and supports them in a way that nothing else does in their lives. I can keep talking about them and what they believe and how they practice a life of faith in a world that doesn’t always honor such a thing, or I can ask them to speak for themselves. To that end, I have asked two members of the confirmation class, Will Parker and Chloe Faison to speak about their own call to a life of faith. We will begin with Chloe:
A few months ago, I was at an overnight weekend chorus retreat at Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg. On Saturday night, I mentioned to the girls in my cabin that I was going to miss confirmation class on Sunday morning. My friend, who is Jewish, asked me what confirmation was. I told her that confirmation was a way for me to clarify some of my questions and thoughts about God and my faith. My other friend, who is Baptist, asked,
“Are you sure you’re ready for that?” That question took me by surprise.
“Well,” I said, “I see confirmation as a way to learn more about why I go to church every Sunday. Are you taking any confirmation classes this year?”
“No,” my Baptist friend replied, “I’m not ready to completely commit to God. I’ve got too many questions.”
“Yeah, and doubts.”
“Well I’ve got those too,” I said. “Presbyterians support the fact that we all naturally have questions and doubts. For example, the Trinity.”
“What’s the Trinity?” asked my Jewish friend.
“Well……” Then we had a long meaningful conversation.
In the last eight months, I have been able to start to understand my own faith journey and what a calling might look like. I feel more comfortable talking about Christianity with others and being okay with my own doubts and worries. I know that no one has got it all figured out, and I am excited to continue on my own journey.
Thank you, Chloe. As you can see from her words, Chloe understand her faith in a way that speaks to a profound understanding of reformed theology!
Now I’d like to ask Will Parker for his thoughts. Will?
I started this year’s confirmation class as a definitive part of Calvary Presbyterian church; however, not an active participant of the church. I have been a part of Calvary for as long as I can remember, although I never have been a regular attendee of service each Sunday. Until I had to return each Sunday for confirmation class.
Attending confirmation classes began for me by truthfully only knowing 3 people by name, and only wanting to show up for the doughnuts someone would bring each Sunday. As time went on though, I began to know the people in my confirmation class not just by name but by personality and character. I grow to not only enjoy the meetings but look forward to getting up at 8 AM on my Sunday morning to spend time with my newfound classmates and most importantly friends. Not only did the group quickly learn to be friends, we learned to sympathize and grow closer with one another. Small problems such as waking up or life changing issues, similar to confirmation, such as which high school many of us would be attending or applying to next year.
The members of Calvary Presbyterian’s Confirmation Class 2020 are not only unique because we were the first to have our ceremony over Zoom but also because they are forever my friends. I would like to not only thank my classmates who opened up to me, but most importantly our fearless teacher, David Barnes.
Two of the newest members of Calvary Presbyterian Church. Two of eighteen who showed up unfailingly at 9 am when there was nobody at the church but staff and maybe some of our music team. Through the course of their time together, they have witnessed a world turned upside down and sideways. They have witnessed a world deeply divided, brother against brother, sister against sister. A world where they aren’t allowed to be with their friends and must instead, spend the entire day with family and wow, you know what I’m saying here?
This is commitment but this is also an answer to a call.
In accepting the fact that God had a place for me in a place that was already incredibly important to me, I started to accept myself and my own purpose and place in a Christian world. And part of that call is to share my hopes and dreams, my goals and aspirations, my understanding of what it means to be a Christian in a world that doesn’t always support dreams and sometimes even does its best to knock them down.
So here we are wherever that is. It is Mother’s Day and I know that can be a day of blessings, both mixed and otherwise. May it be pleasing to you and full of the things you need.
For me, it is Confirmation Sunday when we celebrate the gifts that our young people bring to us each and every day. When we honor and recognize young men and women of substance who have accepted a higher calling as a way of life and aren’t apologizing to anyone for that. And we can’t recognize these young people without recognizing their families. Brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles and everyone else in their new stay at home world.
In closing this morning, I am now into my thirteenth years a a called member of the staff of Calvary Presbyterian Church and I’ve yet to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Sometime back, Pastor Victor Floyd talked about a phone call that shook up his life and his refusal going forward to answer the pink princess phone because “it might be Jesus calling someone home”. Victor, I hope it’s okay with you but when that phone rings I’m going to be taking the call.