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Sermon Library

Sun, Jun 11, 2017

A Life Worthy of Your Calling


Duration:19 mins 10 secs

Our Second Reading for today comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 1-16. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which is more like a sermon, would have been circulated among the churches of Asia Minor. The city of Ephesus and its church would have been the central hub of Christian ministry there. The first half of this letter is more theological in nature describing the new life that has come into being in Christ. The second half of the letter, which begins with our text in chapter four, is filled with exhortations for how Christians are to live in light of the transformation they know in Christ. Let us hear this Word of God.
1I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
    he gave gifts to his people.”
9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended[a] into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Last night, Sarah and I had opportunity to drive to a small liberal arts college just north of Charlotte, NC for our 20th reunion. Yes, more than 1800 people, alums and their families, were on campus for a variety of class reunions. About 225 of those were with us to remember and celebrate the Davidson College Class of 1997.

We keep up with several of our classmates on Facebook and through other connections, but as you probably know, a class reunion is a unique opportunity to reconnect. In our class there are doctors and bankers, lawyers and pastors, educators and journalists, artists and even a professional baseball scout for the Boston Red Sox. Many of our classmates are significantly involved in their churches and communities, they are parents raising children and for quite a few, like us, sending our own children off to college is no longer on the distant horizon. We also remembered the three of our classmates who have passed from this life to the life eternal.

Yes, a reunion is a place to be reminded that everyone has a story, experiences of life for good and for bad. In fact, Davidson’s current $425 million campaign seeks to highlight alumni stories. The Campaign is called “Game Changers” with the tagline “Inspiring Leaders to Change the World.” On the campaign website you can find stories of Davidson alumni like NBA Basketball player Steph Curry; former Charlotte mayor and US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx; and president of Agnes Scott College Elizabeth Kiss. You will also see Andrew Lovedale who founded an organization that offers year-round school programs and summer bible camps, feeds more than 130 people every day and awards scholarships in his native Nigeria. And from the class of 1997 Dr. Sallie Permar who is a pediatric scientist at Duke and has discovered a natural protein in breast milk that fights HIV and Lulu Raghavan who is changing lives for the poorest residents in her native India.

It seems to me that we are drawn to these stories of outstanding, game changing, individuals. Those particular people who seem to transform the world all by themselves. And it is true that at Davidson College and I am sure at your Alma Matters there are those who so impact the world. That is why history is often told as the story of “Great men” and increasingly “Great women.” This is true for the church too. If you ask a church to recount its history the vast majority will tell you about their pastors. Walk from this sanctuary to the Fellowship Hall and see what hangs on the wall – pictures of the pastors, the trowel used by President Dwight Eisenhower to lay the cornerstone of this sanctuary, and a picture of the first church. Yes, we believe that those who really matter are those who forge ahead, who stand in front, who change history.

And yet, my friends, I do not think that is the gospel. This was reinforced for me in a surprising place, an episode of the PBS television series Sherlock. As indicated in the name of the show, the fictional Sherlock Holmes is a great man. He is a game changer, an individual who uses his incredible mental abilities to solve the insolvable crimes. In this television series he is a national treasure often called upon to save the nation. And yet, the most recent season of the Sherlock exposed some of the great detective’s humanity. Without going into too much detail, Sherlock’s companion and assistant Dr. John Watson has gotten married to woman named Mary who, unbeknownst to Watson or Sherlock, had been a spy and mercenary. And as things must in a television series, Mary’s past finally catches up with her.

Sherlock makes a promise to Watson that he will protect Mary, specifically that he will not let her die. He is after all the great man, the game changer. And he does uncover the plot against Mary. He apprehends the one who intends to carry it out. Yet, in that moment a bullet is fired at Sherlock and Mary jumps in front of the detective. She saves his life by giving hers.

Mary’s death throws both Sherlock and Watson into a deep depression and fractures their friendship. However, at one point, as they finally talk about all that has happened, Watson tells Sherlock: “You did not kill Mary. She made a choice to save your life. You didn’t make her do it, nobody could make Mary do anything. You didn’t kill her.”

To which Sherlock responds: “In saving my life, she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.”

In saving my life, she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend. The great Sherlock Holmes, the one who can change history and solve every possible puzzle, is confounded. For he discovers that the worth, the value, of his life is not found in his achievement, or in his superior mind but in the gift he received in Mary’s saving his life. His life not has a value, a currency he cannot spend.

My friends, Paul writes to the Ephesians that they are to live a life worthy of the calling to which they have been called. I want to suggest to you that the good news of the gospel is that your life’s worth, your value, and even your calling are not found in what great things you achieve or what games you change. No, your life’s worth, your value, your calling is a gift to you from the one who gave his life to save yours.

For the myth that history is the story of Great Men misses the fact that the one who truly changed the world did so not with an army or an election, not with a scientific breakthrough or with power, but on a cross. That is what Sherlock cannot comprehend. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. And this one Lord changed history by giving his life for you and for me. Jesus Christ saved your life, he saved my life, and in doing so conferred a value on it. Thus to spend your life’s currency is to live a life worthy of Christ’s death for you on the cross.

Sometimes that life will be extraordinary. But I suspect a life worthy of Christ’s death is more often a quite ordinary one. There is a popular song on the radio today by a band called “The Chainsmokers.” As they used to say, the song has a good beat and you can dance to it. But more important, at least for this sermon, is the lyrics. The first verse goes like this:

I’ve been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
Spiderman’s control
And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list.

The chorus then kicks in expressing that the girl he is talking with doesn’t want some kind of superhero or fairytale. She wants someone she can turn to, someone she can kiss, someone who will stand with her in the ordinary moments of life. She wants something just like this.

Yes, to live a life worthy of your calling, worthy of the value bestowed upon your life by Christ’s death on the cross is not to be a superhero. It is to live a life of sacrifice and commitment to others, of humility and gentleness. To share your gifts as part of the ordinary, everyday life of this church and this community. For the true story of history is of ordinary, everyday people like you and me living and working together to make the world a better place. We don’t need be superheroes to live a life worthy of the call. In a speech given to junior high school students just six months before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way:

When you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.

If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

My friends, you are worthy, you have value because Christ died for you. Christ saved your life. Spend that currency in service to others. Work together. Build up the body. Grow in love. For through the cross God has chosen you. Live a life worthy of the call.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray:

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