Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Following God’s Call – Guest Advent Sermon by Rachel Schade

Rachel Schade, 13-year-old
budding preacher (and my daughter!)
December 11, 2016
Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Lexington, Kentucky
Text:  Matthew 1:18-25  

[Rachel Schade is in 8th Grade at Tates Creek Middle School in Lexington, KY, and a new member at Gethsemane Lutheran.  She was invited to preach at their monthly evening praise service and chose to focus on the theme of “calling” for this Advent service.  This is her first sermon, and I am proud to feature my daughter’s work in this special blog post.  You can watch the video here.]

There are many things we think about in our daily lives, such as our families, friends, jobs and school. However, I think it’s safe to say that there’s something else that many people don’t think about - God’s calling for us.
          In Matthew 1:18-25, an angel appears to Joseph telling him to take Mary as his wife, “for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” I don’t know about you, but if an angel told me to marry someone who was pregnant with a baby that wasn’t mine, I’d be a bit concerned. But Joseph believed the angel, listened to his dreams, and followed God’s call.
          But of course, this isn’t all about Josephs’ calling.  It’s about Mary’s calling as well. Remember Luke 1:26-38 which tells us that the angel Gabriel gives Mary the message that she will conceive a son named Jesus. Let’s break this down. In today’s society, we don’t like to think about our kids bearing children at a young age, let alone marrying someone twice their age. Even though Mary is much perplexed by his words, she accepts God’s calling for her even though it’s uncertain what lies ahead.
          So why would Mary and Joseph agree to follow this call? I can tell you one thing - the list of reasons why they shouldn’t is VERY lengthy: rejection by their loved ones, disapproval by religious leaders, uncertainty about their future, the list goes on. But to understand why they chose to follow God’s call, I think we can discern three qualities in both of them that opened their hearts and minds to God.

          The first quality was trust. They trusted the will of God, the assurance of the Angel, and the promise Holy Spirit. They also had to trust and believe in themselves. And just as important – they had to trust each other.    And this trust  helped them to build a better relationship in order to do what God wanted them to do. Overall, trust was and extremely important quality in this for both of them.
          The next quality was courage.   Courage is feeling afraid, but going forward anyway.  In Luke, we can tell that Mary is very brave. She says “Behold, I am the lord’s servant; let it be with me according to your word.” Not only is she agreeing to the angel’s words, she’s taking it upon herself to make sure that God’s will is being done.
Joseph, on the other hand, shows bravery in a different way. He takes the chance of moral embarrassment to follow God’s call. In those days, I’m sure it was mortifying to know people would be talking about you, whispering that your wife must have been unfaithful to be carrying a child who is not your own.  But he faced this humiliation to carry out the will of God.
          The final quality was commitment - commitment to God, commitment to each other, and commitment to their child. For Mary, she had to take the initiative to keep her relationship with her spouse as healthy as possible. Not only that, but she took on the responsibility of parenthood. For Joseph, he showed many examples of commitment. It would’ve been easy for him to walk out on Mary at any point, even abandon her on their way to Bethlehem. But no. He kept his attention on Mary for their whole journey, and this is what helped them to answer God’s call.
          So, there you have Mary and Joseph’s story. But what about yours? What is God’s call for your life at this time?  Maybe you’re considering a career change.  Maybe you’re thinking of what college you might attend.  Maybe you have a big decision coming up.  Well, I suggest that we all take the steps that Mary and Joseph did; 1) Trust, 2) Courage, 3) Commitment. You might be asking, “How do I acquire these qualities?” Let’s think about this for a minute.
          Trust. What do you think of when you hear this word? Well, I personally think of it as putting your faith in someone or something, because you have confidence that what you’re doing is right. And that’s exactly what Mary and Joseph did; they put their trust in God and the Holy Spirit. Remember that like Mary and Joseph, just because you answer God’s call doesn’t mean life will suddenly be easy for you. In fact, sometimes it’s just the opposite.  But that’s exactly why trusting God is important – to help you get through those challenges.
Which brings us to courage. Courage, by definition, is “the ability to do something that frightens you.” Let me ask you this, what frightens you? Think of that for just one second.  Maybe you’re like Joseph, and you fear public humiliation.  Maybe you’re like Mary and you fear taking on a task that feels too big for you. Now think about how God can help you overcome it. Remember that the root word for courage means “heart” – you have to put your heart into God’s call for you.  And God will make sure you have the gift of courage.
          But no matter how much trust and courage you have, they won’t last long if you don’t have the third quality - commitment. We see today that so many people neglect the obligations, or give up, or simply get distracted from God’s call. We see this in marital relationships, kids with their school work, friendships, jobs, etc. But especially as Christians we must show our commitment to the people involved most in our calling, and to God.
          Following God’s call won’t be easy, and it will take lots of hard work to attain it.  But remember that you are not alone in this call.  You have your church family to sustain you as you follow God’s call. And through trust, courage and commitment each of us - and all of us as a church together – we will be able to follow God’s call. Amen.

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