Delivered at Grace Episcopal Church, Muncie, on June 8, 2008.
Twenty days ago, I stood at the door of the High Church in Wittenberg, in the German state of Thuringia. At this door in 1517, Martin Luther posted a list of 95 problems he had with the prevailing church. He acted in faith, answering God’s call.
About thirty minutes later, I paid my four Euros and walked into the seminary where Luther taught. His rooms are still there. One of them still has the stenciling on the walls, the heavy wooden table on which he wrote his plea to Rome and his many books, the same rough floor on which he walked.
I expected to peer into the room through an open door, or perhaps through plexiglass. But at this place, visitors can walk through the room on a slightly elevated wooden path. I got to walk through Martin Luther’s living room.
Sometimes you have to take a walk to see what’s there.
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.”
Today’s lessons involve a common theme, that of answering God’s call. Now God’s call on our lives is simple. We’re called to love him, with all of our heart, our mind, our strength. If we do that, or if strive to do that, all the rest of our Christian faith, and our Christian works, falls into place.
God’s call sometimes is that of a fresh start. Take Abraham, for instance. He was known as Abram then. God told him to leave home, go to new and yet undisclosed place, and start over. Abram was 75 years old. Sometimes you have a take a walk, even in older age.
We’re still living with the results of Abram’s little walk-about today. With the call of Abram, God began a people whose descendants are living this very day. God had promised that He would send a Deliverer to undo the curse of sin that befell the human race when Adam and Eve sinned. After Cain killed Abel, God gave them another son whose name, Seth meant “the appointed one”.
God later choose Noah, a descendent of Seth and a righteous man, to save mankind when God judged the wicked men on the earth in the Great Flood. Through Noah’s son Shem, in the ninth generation, God choose another man named Abram (meaning “exalted father”) to be in the lineage of our Savior.
God had promised that He would send a Savior and salvation to man. His plan was to call this man Abram, and from him make a great nation of people who would be, not only the people from whom the Messiah would come, but also they would be God’s chosen nation, a witness of God to all the earth.
Centuries later, Matthew heard God’s call, this time voiced by a simple holy carpenter from Nazareth. Matthew followed when Jesus beckoned.
Matthew left behind a lucrative business, one filled with money, government power, and perhaps a little bit of graft and corruption. When I think of Matthew, I think of the tax collector’s character in the comic strip Hagar the Horrible. Matthew faced a difficult road of acceptance from others, thanks to his role as a tax collector. People didn’t like him very much, I suspect.
But God called, and off Matthew went. He lived a changed life.
So we have Matthew and Abram. The Bible gives us no hint that either of them questioned the call. They recognized God, and the acted.
Our call to salvation is a call to a new life. Many miss this truth. Before Abraham, could accept the promises of God he had to believe God and receive eternal life. According the letter to the Hebrews, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
Abraham first exercised saving faith and the evidence of his having saving faith was that he trusted what God said. God told him to leave his country, his relatives and his father’s house and go to a land that He would show him. Abraham’s faith was tested and proven in that he did what God said. He showed his faith, by putting his trust in the Lord, and acting upon God’s word.
Sometimes you have to take a walk in order to see what’s there. I’m taking a walk right now. My condo is filled with boxes and disarry. One week from today I’ll go to sleep in my new home in St. Louis, Missouri.
Someone asked me a few months ago if I felt like God was leading me to St. Louis. I know the answer now, more clearly than I did then. God isn’t leading. God is calling. Everything about this move, save for selling the condo (about which I can only say ‘O Lord, increase my faith.’) . . . everything about this journey has fallen into place in such a way that I can only say that God has ordained it.
I counted my year in Kentucky prior to coming to Ball State as a wilderness year for. Moses had 40 of them. I’m glad I only had one. The eight years here have been years of personal and professional growth. I’ve served God in various organized ways, and in some not so formal. Now I take a step of faith in moving to a new job, a new city, a new professional profile, a new parish, a new circle of friends.
Sometimes you have to take a walk not just to see what’s there, but so that God can provide new avenues of service, of living out your faith.
What is God’s call to you right now? Can you see in the next room? Are you resisting going on in? Today’s readings point to blind faith, or better yet ‘trusting’ faith, as the only way to salvation. Abram and Matthew both got up and walked. Shouldn’t we as well?
God calls. Sometimes we smile and nod and act interested, but we stay seated. God calls, and sometimes we walk over to take a look through the sheers at the window. God calls, and sometimes we ignore the call completely.
St. Paul reminds us that we must be active, that we must be ‘faithing.’ “The promise to Abraham and his descendants did not come through the law but the righteousness of faith.” Put less eloquently than the apostle’s writing, I clarify: The promise isn’t yours until you do something about it! In our remote-controlled, pre-packaged world, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
We only find our truth, our purpose, our God-haven when we take the walk and go in faith to the place where God leads us. And only then can we find our full pressed-down, shaken-together, running-over blessing, the blessing that God promises to all who believe, to all who call on God’s name, to all who answer God’s call.