Go and serve (9/07/2014)

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Several years ago Alvar Persson, a Lutheran Pastor, was elected mayor of the small town of Grove City, Minnesota. It was an unusual election, partly because of the size of the victory – Persson received eighty percent of the vote – but mostly because he wasn’t even running for office. No one was. Next to the word Mayor on the ballot was a blank space. Only write-in votes could be cast. Of the eleven people whose names were written in, Alvar Persson was the clear choice – 202 votes of the 255 cast.
After the election, Persson was asked his reaction. He could only say: “I’m touched by this honor. But I didn’t ask for it. Why pick me?” (1)
Perhaps that was the response of the young man David in our Old Testament reading this morning. One day, 3000 years ago, the prophet Samuel travels to the house of Jesse, a leading family of the town of Bethlehem. God has told Samuel he will find a new king for Israel among Jesse’s sons. The prophet finds many eager candidates – seven tall, capable, strong, intelligent, and handsome individuals each in the prime of life, three of them soldiers. But God told Samuel to turn down all of them. Then, Samuel asked if there were any others, and the youngest child of the family is summoned from the fields where he is watching the sheep.
An amazed little David – short, young, inexperienced, uneducated, is anointed the next king.
Now, why is that story of David important for us? Here’s the point:
When God wants to get a job done, God seldom asks for volunteers or for a show of hands. No, God chooses, and God selects the un-expecting.
Just think about why you are here most Sundays, or how you decided to get a little more deeply involved in this church. Our commitment as Christians is involuntary for most of us, too. Most of us were grabbed –
• By another Christian’s love that wouldn’t let go;
• By a turmoil of the soul which was calmed by faith;
• By a vision of what God’s people can do in the world.
This morning, I want to ask how God chooses us to “go and serve” in his church, in our communities and in the world, in the places where we live and work.
And here’s the first thing for us to see: God chooses us more than we choose him.
In some, God puts a hunger for something – inner peace, perhaps, or a purpose to living. It’s a hunger that is satisfied only when we find some way to serve our Lord – helping out with some ministry or mission project at church, perhaps serving on a church board, or serving some charitable purpose in the community.
The 4th century theologian of the church, Saint Augustine, said it this way: “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in thee.”
For others, the choice is seemingly accidental. No one else was willing to do it, and you said “yes”…or, you didn’t ask to nominated, but you were, and you were elected. What the world calls an accident, the Christian faith sometimes calls “the providence of God.”
It’s a numbing thought, being chosen by God. Many times, we don’t even recognize that God is choosing us; we’re too busy denying that God would ever want us. We might even say something like Alvar Persson: “I’m touched by this honor. But I didn’t want it. Why pick me?”
Then we add our excuses:
• “I don’t speak well – how can 1 talk about God?”
• “I’m guilty of sins – how can I be an example to others?”
• “My faith is weak – how can I serve God?”
God has heard such apologies before.
• From Moses: “I cannot speak for you, Lord. I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
• From Jonah the prophet: “1 cannot represent God – I don’t understand his ways.”
• From Simon Peter: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
In each case, God refused to accept their excuse. He insisted he wanted them, flaws and all.
Occasionally God does choose the capable, strong, confident person. King Saul was such a figure. But this obvious choice soon turned sour. He became selfish, ruthless, and later went mad.
Usually, God chooses ordinary people just like us.
And then here’s a second thing for us to see: our availability interests God more than our ability.
The Bible tells how God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things; ordinary people like the twelve disciples, none of them rich, or famous, or with any formal education. None of them were brighter or smarter, more talented, more religious or nicer or more loving than any other people – just twelve ordinary people. The only thing they had going for them is that when Jesus said, “follow me,” they said ‘yes.’
And yet these are the people to whom our Lord entrusted the future of his church.
When God chooses us, we don’t need to pretend to be someone we aren’t. No uniforms, badges, or special tools are needed; only an eagerness to follow Jesus and to answer his call to serve.
And that’s what makes the Christian message attractive: common people, witnessing to a most uncommon faith, intriguing all who listen, by claiming that a man executed as a criminal makes all the difference in their lives. It’s not the charm of the messenger which makes our faith attractive – it’s the beauty of the message.
We needn’t be afraid of the work that God gives us to do. In this partnership, our Lord is the senior member. It’s his work and our hands, and he will see us through. Our availability interests God more than our ability.
And then finally, we need to ask, what is the task to which God has called us?
It varies from person to person.
 “Lead my people,” he told David.
 “Free my people,” he commanded Moses.
 “Feed my sheep,” he told Peter.
 “Preach my Word,” he ordered Paul.
The ministry to which God calls you is as unique as you are yourself. It involves your gifts, your passions, and your availability. You might visit or sing. You might usher or read. You might clean or sew or build. You might be a leader, a planner, an organizer, or a teacher. The nature of your ministry is for you and God to work out, in prayer and by trying different things.
Only remember this – it will be a ministry of service. Even as king, David’s chief concern was to live for God’s glory and to serve the people. And so it is with us. God speaks to each one of us, and God says, “I choose you to go and serve. God’s call to us is to be involved in some way.
It is our comfort to know that he will be with us to love us and help us and strengthen us. When we know this, then we know the task is not too great. And, with David and Peter and all the rest, we can say, “Here I am, Lord; I will go; send me.” Say that to yourself each day this week: “Here I am, Lord; I will go; send me.”

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About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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