“A Call to Serve.”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
NEWTON FIRST, EAST SIDE, AND WALTON UMC
13TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SEPTEMBER 3, 2017

Title:  “A Call to Serve”
Text: Deuteronomy 3:1-15.

1. Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God Jacob has sent you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me, from generation to generation.”

The story is told of a man in the West African Nation of Liberia. This man was given several hundred dollars by a missionary friend.  The man was from a little village and had never seen the U.S. currency before and did not know the use of the currency. He took the money and made a journey to a nearby village to see some relatives.  On his way, he encountered two children selling mangos.  The children gave a mango to the man free of charge. After eating the mango, the man took one of the currency and wiped his mouth. Realizing that the man did not know the value of the currency, they tricked the man into giving them more currency for more mangos. The children knew that the man had buying power because of the currency, but little did the man know that.  This is the case with many of us Christians.  We are rich with talents and the power to accomplish a lot.  But we do not realize that, and we use those gifts and talents for purposes that do not glorify God.  Sometimes we refused to use our gifts and talents, making excuses to God, that we do we not have gifts and talents.
Let us get a little personal with our lives as we deal with this passage of Scriptures.  All of us are on a journey on this earth.  The journey involves serving God and humankind after God calls us to serve. In the process, God has blessed us with talents to do just that. Some day God will ask us to give an account of how we used our talents. However, many people who have the talents, not realizing they have the talents, make so much excuses.  Many people make excuses because of guilt, hurt, shame, and feeling of incompetence.  We doubt our own abilities.  Moses was no exception.  Moses made numerous excuses.  Moses claimed he was a nobody.  Who am I? He wondered if people will question his past as a murderer and not believe in him.   Moses questioned his self worth and had no confidence in his own abilities.  He claimed he could not speak, he claimed he did not know what to tell the Egyptian Pharaoh, he claimed he did not know God’s name. Moses made excuse of not being eloquent.  Like Moses, God has blessed us with talents and abilities. Often, we make excuses about our qualifications, doubt our abilities, and run from God when He wants us to serve the most.  This morning for a few minutes, let us consider the call of God on our lives to serve.  In God’s call for us to serve Him in the various capacities, God is going to use brokenness, our refusal has tangible consequences on our Christian communities, and God is going to equip us when calls us.
God Calls a Person to Serve Irrespective of His Abilities.
To begin with, Let us remember that God is a covenant God. God sets standards with humankind and always follows through.  God is a covenant God.  He always told the children of Israel, that He God will bless them if they follow His commands. God tells us Christian if we believe Him, we will live in eternity. In this covenant with humankind, God calls us to service in different capacities.  In this light, when Israel was in captivity in Egypt,  God desired a point man to liberate them.  God wanted someone who would go toe-to-toe with the Egyptian King, Pharaoh. Whoever God mandated would be the one to initiate the salvation to the children of Israel. The man in the center of the account in this passage is Moses.  Moses must have had a rough beginning, but he was found by royalty.  He grew up in the royalty splendor of the Egyptians and was educated in the wisdom and philosophies of the Egyptians.  In Deuteronomy 34:10-12, Moses is characterized at the time of his death, as having no equal in terms of signs and wonders God had shown him.  There was no prophets in Israel that rose up after Moses’ death, who had known God face to face.  But Moses parts ways with God, when he commits murder.  He becomes a fugitive.  Moses, a murderer and a fugitive from the law ends up tending sheep. At this time, many will be questioning why would God want to use a broken person like to Moses to accomplish a very important mission like this?  But there is one thing I want us to lift this morning, before we answer the question.  God loves us very much to give up on us.  God loves us enough and wants to use the brokenness of our lives to accomplish his work. Paul in 2Corinthians 12:9 gives a reason why; for the grace of God is enough for every Christian.  God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.  In this verse, Paul happily brags about his weakness, so that the power of Jesus can rest on him.  You see church, if you are broken this morning, the good news here is that God uses broken people.  God wants us to come broken and he will mend us.  The truth is, if we refuse God’s call, God breaks us and then mends us. In Jonah 1:3, We see this with the prophet Jonah. God calls Jonah and he rejects the call. Jonah runs and God reprimands him. God has a way of dealing with us, when we refuse to answer His call on our lives.  This is because there should be no excuse in answering the call of God upon our lives.  No matter what our situation is, no matter how unqualified we may be, no matter how illiterate we may be, God can use us.  God does not look at your mug shot, God does not look at past criminal convictions, or your state championship.  He can use anyone, anytime and anywhere.  Moses, a fugitive and a murderer, an accused felon, was singled out by God to champion the task of Israel’s salvation.  All God wants is your availability.  Your refusal to answer God’s call can put your church or community into danger.
When we considered the call of Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, we will see that their failure to answer God’s call would have brought great disaster and suffering on their communities, and the nations in which they lived. When God called Moses, he wanted Moses to go to Egypt and challenge Pharaoh for Israel’s liberation. It was a defining moment for Israel.  It was through Moses’ willingness, the Jewish nation was to know who they were as a people in God’s redemptive plan.  The purpose of our calling is to serve others.  It is not something that we exhibit pride and take self glory. It is through our answer to serve God, the gospel would be preached and souls would be saved. When God called Jonah, it was to the service of Nineveh.  Not only was Nineveh going to languish, but the people around him was in peril.  When God called Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, he called him to speak the truth to disobedient Israel. Jeremiah knew it was telling the truth that would set Israel free. Israel was disobedient to God and His word. The consequences would be grave. (Jeremiah 11:9-12)  Jeremiah had compassion for those who were being deceived. But he refused initially with excuses.  Church, when we refuse to answer God’s call, we break covenant with God. When we break agreement with God, it has real consequences.  Our actions not to answer God’s call always affects our communities.  In the case of Jonah, his refusal imperiled those on board the vessel Jonah hid in.  When the mariners plan to jetty all the cargos and throw Jonah overboard, than the storm subsides. Jonah’s refusal could have had great impact on Nineveh.  Jeremiah’s refusal would have brought Israel to complete destruction due to the terrible apostasy of Israel.  Moses’ refusal would have caused Israel not to be liberated.  Failing to answer God’s call on our lives diminishes our communities.  If we have great talents and refuse to answer God’s call to serve, the harm we do is immense.  If we have talents and gifts and we use those gifts to the service of God, we will do more good.  Our call may not be the same as Moses, Jonah, or Jeremiah’s calling, but our calling is as important in the work of God as these prophets.  In the 1940’s, Germany was one of the most literate countries on the face of the earth, with some of the best scientists and technocrats. With Germany’s inability to use its vast wealth of talents to serve God, it extinguished more than six million Jews, started one of the most expensive world wars in human history. As a consequence of Germany’s actions, millions also lost their lives over a period of over five years.  The carnage that was perpetrated is a reminded to humankind of the refusal of nations to honor God’s word.  The answer to the call to serve God is the very reason why the American society is organized the way it is organized.  It’s laws, economics, its politics, calendar, it’s holidays, and even it’s moral and cultural norms are all made of Christian values.  It is because Christian men who founded this nation, answered the call of God to serve.  God called them and equipped them. When God calls us, He equips us for His service or for that which He has called us to do.
One thing I am 100% positive of this morning, you are not God. You may think you are unqualified to do the work of God in your own strength and eyes.  You may have great talents and gifts that you can use to do God’s work. You may still be inattentive to God’s call like Moses, whose attention had to be drawn by a burning bush. If you have to do anything in your own strength, then it is not of God.  You need God to give you the strength, the eloquence, the ability, and the power.  Like Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah and the many men of God who He called and equipped, God will equip you for His service.  Sometimes God just wants us to stop and know we are standing on Holy ground.  We need to stop, keep quiet, and turn towards that burning bush and hear God calling us and avail ourselves.