Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

God’s Calling in the Womb

Let us begin with the calling of God for the Prophet Jeremiah:

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 1:4-8)

Jeremiah had a great calling. He had a great purpose. He was a prophet to all the nations. He was a prophet to our nation. He was a prophet to our very souls. We read his inspired word from God even today. God speaks through his prophets. Are we listening.

In today’s Gospel we read about the highest calling of God. Jesus Christ of Nazareth had the highest calling and the highest purpose of God, to save a nation and the  whole world. His earthly ministry began in the womb of the virgin Mary when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. His purpose and calling was established far earlier than that. Reading from the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.   (John 1:1-4)

Jesus grew up in Nazareth. His first act of ministry in his hometown was to speak in the synagogue. He spoke in the about his purpose and calling. Reading  from the Prophet Isaiah, he said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus then said:

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”   (Luke 4:21)

Jesus knew that the people would not listen. Prophets are not held in high esteem, even in many churches today. Jesus said to them:

“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.   (Luke 4:24-30)

The calling of God is not easy. In the case of Jesus, it cost him his very life on a cruel cross. He paid the ultimate cost for our sin, a price that we should have paid. Jesus died and rose again from the dead so that we might have life in him and enter the kingdom of God.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   (John 1:10-12)

Each one of us has a calling from God. Each one of us has a Godly purpose. This was determined by God when we were born. From our youth God has been training us for his purposes. The psalmist wrote:

For you are my hope, O Lord God,
my confidence since I was young.

I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;
my praise shall be always of you.   (Psalm 76:5-6)

Are we listening to God? Do we hear our calling? We are all important to God. Our calling is part of his vital plan of salvation for the world. Each one us can reach certain lost souls that no other person can do. How will we espomd to God?

To step into our calling requires faith. It takes courage and perseverance. We will not be able to do it on our own. It will require the strength  and direction from almighty God. But the good news is that he is with us. God spoke to the nation of Israel through the Prophet Isaiah:

But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
    and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
do not fear, for I am with you,
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.   (Isaiah 41:8-19)

He is speaking to each one of us today. “Fulfill your calling, for I am with you. Be bold! Be courageous!” Moses spoke these words to all Israel as they prepared to enter the promised land:

Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”   (Deuteronomy 31:6)

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Filed under Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

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