Sunday, February 4, 2023
What do you want to do when you grow up? When we celebrated the baptism of Jesus at the beginning of this year, I asked this same question and reminded us all that in terms of our Christian faith, it’s most important to consider WHO we are and who God calls us to be rather than WHAT we should do. We are happy to have members of our Boy Scout Troop here this morning as well as several people in middle school, high school and college where this is a sometimes annoying question but not one to be lightly dismissed either – what AM I going to do after school? This can be a pretty anxious time in life, trying to decide what career path to take. This past month we’ve been learning about God’s call in our lives – to remember we belong to God no matter what as the foundation, to listen and pay attention for God’s voice, to discern what to say no and yes to, and now, yes, I am going to try to use our scriptures for today to help us figure out not just WHAT God is calling us to do with our lives but HOW we strive to live faithful lives of service to God and others.
As people of faith, we look to God to help guide us with this question, “How then, shall we live?” There are plenty of older folks here who can tell you that it will all work out – just have faith. And you might do more than one thing in life; you might have more than one job or career, and that’s OK. And even the retired people in the room still have a calling from God and have found ways to give their life meaning and purpose beyond a career, after a career. Today, I hope that we can learn that many different career paths we choose can not only lead to a fulfilling life but be a vehicle for serving God and others. It’s more important that we find ways to spend our lives dedicated to principles and values informed by our faith, characteristics that we’ll hear our Scouts share today in the Boy Scout Law and On My Honor pledge: to help others at all times, to keep morally straight and mentally awake, to do our duty to God and our country. How we live is as important as what we do.
Here's a personal story to illustrate what I mean – I don’t know what the exact percentage is, but I remember learning that a majority of college students end up changing their major three or more times, and I was no exception. From the time I was in kindergarten, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would confidently answer, “A teacher.” So, I started out majoring in elementary education. Thankfully, the college I attended got us into the schools with teaching practicums right away, my first semester, so I pretty quickly realized that my ideal of being a teacher was not a dream reality for me. With God’s help (a lot of prayer!) and the help of friends and family, I figured out that I was committed to being a teacher because I wanted to clearly do something with my life that served others. What better way to serve others than teaching, I thought, logically enough. It was a roller coaster of a few years when I realized I liked the idea of teaching more than teaching itself, and I really wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. Of course, in responding to a different call that God had in my life, I found a different way to serve others as a pastor, eventually. I had to come to terms within myself that there are a variety of ways to serve, not just the one idea I had had for myself since kindergarten. I could still dedicate my life to serving others and not be a teacher.
Again, perhaps a better starting question than “What will I do for a living” is “How is God calling me to be in the world, no matter what I do?” No matter who we are, how do we help others at all times, do our duty to God and our country, and love our neighbors as ourselves, as we will encourage one another to do today? In our gospel for this morning, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and Jesus helps her get up, the fever leaves, and she starts serving. The disciples bring the sick and demon-possessed (spiritually and mentally unwell people) to Jesus for healing. They go into neighboring towns spreading the message of the good news of Jesus to all they meet. Whether they are fishermen, stay at home moms, or former tax collectors, these early followers of Jesus use the gifts and the talents God gives them to serve others and follow in Jesus’ example. Jesus gets people up and looking beyond themselves to serving others. God calls us to serve – and there are many ways to serve, thanks be to God, even if we’re not quite sure HOW to do that exactly at this very moment.
So let’s think about God calls us to serve regardless of what our jobs are – with an action that could be as simple as holding the door for someone else, greeting someone with a smile or a commitment to volunteer hours through our employer. Here at Faith, we are proud of the way our Boy Scout Troop serves alongside us as willing servants. We support the New LIFE Food pantry in Uniondale with clothing, food and hygiene products throughout the year. We just started a new initiative through the Lutheran Counseling Center to offer affordable mental health counseling for those who need it. Our Nursery School provides affordable early childhood education for young families. We connect our older, more isolated members through visitation and card mailing ministries and meals delivered. Some of our older members are sometimes frustrated by all that they can no longer do, but they are great about calling people to check in and praying for others. All of us, no matter who we are, are called by God to serve and given gifts and talents to serve. Today’s gospel prompts us to consider how as Boy Scouts and as the church we might serve our community in even more ways, because we are called to serve.
Here’s another important reminder from our gospel for this morning about being called to serve: we are also called to rely on God and God’s help when we can’t do it ourselves. We are able to serve because God in Christ first served us: Christ has saved us, Christ has healed us, Christ empowers us to serve. I can only imagine the kind of woman Peter’s mother-in-law is that she is bedridden and unable to go about her usual household tasks; Jesus restores her to health so that she can serve again. I wonder, was she working herself too hard until illness made her stop? All of us need rest and time to reconnect to God the source of life and love. Notice that then Jesus goes away to a deserted place by himself to pray. Even Jesus takes time to be restored and refreshed so that he can go out and serve others again. Our reading from Isaiah this morning describes the awesome power of the everlasting God, creator of the ends of the Earth. Anyone who has gone camping in a tent can imagine the scene that Isaiah paints of gazing up at the stars and planets in the night sky and feeling very small, like a grasshopper. The Lord of the universe, maker of all things, gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youth get tired sometimes – this time of year especially we can run ourselves ragged with school, extracurriculars, jobs, housework, homework and so on. In taking time to rest and pray like Jesus, God renews our strength so that we can get back to serving and loving in Christ’s name again. We are called and strengthened to serve in Jesus’ name! Thanks be to God. Amen.