This month I begin my sixth year with you. Hard to believe isn’t it?
It is a good time to do some reflection: to look back, to look forward. It is a good time to remember my call and how that affects us as the body. My very first sermon the first of July, 2001, I shared my call to ministry with you. Some of you were here, some of you weren’t; some may remember, some won’t; some details you will remember, some you won’t.
In July 2005 in my class, our teachers, Jim and Molly Davis Scott, instructed us how they shared their call with those they were serving on an annual basis. Each time we tell our stories they get told a different way. We are different people, as we continue to develop and grow.
And I know God continues to sharpen my call. In fact he recently has reminded me of aspects of my call and how that fits with where we are now and how the specific words of that call are being brought more into focus. It all speaks to me that the words of my call were more distinct and directional, more rich with meaning, than I knew them to be at the time.
And my call affects you. It affects this church. If God has called me to a specific task, and God has placed me in your midst, then it follows that He is calling you to walk with me, to learn and grow with me, to flesh out this call together.
After high school, I attended Indiana University of PA. When I began college teaching was the only thing I wanted to do. But four years later, I knew that wasn’t what I would spend the rest of my life doing. About half way through college I began to sense that God had different plans. I was very active in my church. At graduation I had no specific direction regarding my calling. I would have loved to stay at that church, but I had a college degree and thought it best I use that degree until God further directed me.
So I taught school for three years while God continued to unfold his plan. During that time I spent one summer in the Philippines as a short-term missionary. I had an interest in mission work, but God used that experience to open my eyes to another ministry. The Filippino Christians were so dedicated to Christ. They were ready to give up everything to serve God. Their whole lives centered around Christ.
God gave me the vision of seeing Christians in the United States with that kind of passion, that kind of commitment, that kind of hunger to serve.
I continued teaching, waiting for more direction. And wanting to be sure of this call. And wanting more pieces to the puzzle. One night at church many of us were gathered at the altar for prayer and someone spoke out what we would call a prophetic word, “The fields are white unto harvest.” It was like a thunderbolt went through my body, it was the Holy Spirit confirming my call. And yet it wasn’t time to launch out in ministry. I still had no direction what I was to do with this call.
I was miserable. I kept teaching. I kept praying. I kept seeking. My church family prayed with and for me and one day God used one of them to speak to me to basically say, “Wait.” That thing we don’t like to do. But that gave me so much peace. I knew God would tell me the next step when it was time and it that it would be in his time.
So I was faithful where I was, continuing to teach and continuing to be involved in ministry at that church. Soon I began investigating Bible schools and colleges. When I called the college of the denomination I grew up in for information, they directed me to the denomination’s seminary which was just across the street. I’ll never forget the day, sitting in the back of my classroom with two catalogs, one from the college and one from the seminary. It was near the end of the school year and I was showing “West Side Story” in my general music classes. It was like I was determined to go to the college. The college was all I had ever heard about.
And yet the catalog wasn’t doing a thing for me. So finally, I opened up the seminary catalog and everything just clicked. The weight, the heaviness, I had been feeling for months and even more than a year, it just lifted immediately. I knew what the next step was!
That doesn’t mean it was easy. I handed in my resignation with tearful eyes. A chapter in my life was closing. And I was saying good-by to financial security. But God was there every step of the way and he put good people around me every step of the way to support and encourage and confirm those steps.
The story doesn’t end there. God’s specific direction doesn’t end there. But I’m going to stop there for today.
“The fields are white unto harvest.” – “Go, make disciples.”
The things God has reminded me of are the specifics of that call. The words, “The fields are white unto harvest.” And God’s guidance in the Philippines and he place a burden on me to see committed Christ followers in the States.
Those two things are very clear in Jesus’ scriptural mandates. Jesus words to “Go, make disciples.” They are words to invite people to know Christ and his salvation. But it is instruction to teach them to follow in the ways of Christ. To become like Christ. To develop Christlike qualities in their lives. To be in relationship with Christ, a relationship that is growing and thriving and maturing. A relationship and commitment that doesn’t end with them becoming disciples, but with them being sent to make disciples.
It is a personal commitment to Christ that is so life-changing, so life-permeating, that it affects all those around us.
Is your life infectious?
We usually look at that word in a negative sense, like an infectious disease. It’s contagious. If you get close to people they will catch what you have. So with some, we quarantine them, keep them away from people. But God sends us forth to rub shoulders with the world, not so that the world rubs off on us, but so Christ rubs off on the world.
It like the parable of the yeast. It only takes a little to work through the dough. It only takes a small amount and the whole batch is affected, changed. Are you affecting the world around you? Are you changing the world around you? Or when you leave here do you “fit in” with the world?
Let’s be world-changers. Let’s take Christ with us everywhere we go. Let us invite God to permeate every part of our being, so that as we go forth he can permeate the world around us. It is “white unto harvest.”