What Are You Called to Do?
Joel 2:21-27, Acts 2:3-47, The Reverend David Crittenden, September 20, 2015
I am honorably retired after serving as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church for over 40 years. I served in several different positions. Using church language – God in Christ called me to each of these positions. Each of these changes was done with prayer and seeking the mind of Christ regarding my future. The term is not reserved for church use. Many have asked themselves: “what is my calling?” referring to what they should be doing with their lives.
I believe all of us are called to the positions we hold. We are also called to love one another, to seek justice, to make disciples, to speak the truth in love… Christ’s call to us is both personal and corporate. As we consider together our Scriptures this morning please keep in mind what Christ has called you to do and is calling you to do as an individual and as a congregation.
Very generally as Christians you and I are called to give. When we hear the term give in a church context, we often think of money or time. It really goes deeper than that. We are called to give up to and including our very lives. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian writing in midst of Nazi Germany says it very clearly: “Jesus Christ calls you to come and die.” Bonhoeffer did literally give his life in witness to Jesus Christ as he spoke out against the atrocities of Nazi Germany. You may remember Jesus said in Matthew 10:38-39 "Those who love father or mother more than me aren't worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren't worthy of me. Those who don't pick up their crosses and follow me aren't worthy of me. Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.”
The passage from Acts we shared this morning is recorded just after the Pentecost experience. The Holy Spirit came upon them with tongues of fire above their heads and multiple languages were understood by everyone. Those first Christians needed to decide what they were called to do. Here is what was recorded: “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” We know that they devoted themselves to healing and spreading the Gospel.
So what are we being called to do? In the recorded Scripture Jesus talks more about money and possessions than any other topic. While this was certainly on the minds of those early believers as they shared everything in common I do not believe they did it to follow any rule. I believe they choose to share in this way as a means to fulfill their calling to heal the sick and spread the good news. It literally seemed like the right thing, indeed the only thing, to do.
So what are you called to do with your financial resources as individuals? As a congregation? This decision is part of our discipleship journey individually and as a congregation. Your financial discipleship journey began the first time you gave money to Christ. For many of us this happens in a church like this one, sometimes at a very early age. The fact that we are here this morning means each of us is somewhere on this journey.
One of the premier questions on our financial discipleship journey is: How much should I give? I believe it is the wrong question. The question is what are you called to give? The response is similar to what the first Christians experienced – not a formula or a “should” but an action that we cannot help but do.
You may have heard that the Christians are supposed to give 10% or tithe of their income. This certainly is the Old Testament answer. I believe Jesus points us to something more. He shares with us the call of Zaccheaus and the widow mite:
(1) There is Zaccheaus – repaid everyone and gave half of what he had
(2) There is the Widow’s mite – she gave all that she had
Friends - the first Christians were completely transformed - even their financial lives. They certainly didn’t keep every thing in common because it made good business sense or because it would afford them any rewards. They didn’t do this because it was required or even because everyone was doing it. Like Zaccheaus and the widow they did it out of gratitude to Christ. They did it because they believed in God’s promised abundance. They did it because it was the only way they knew to bring the Kingdom of God by making everyone whole in Christ.
Professor Walter Brueggemann, writing 15 years ago, puts it well. He states that the defining problem confronting us today is that “We are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God’s abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity—a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity.” Brueggemann continues, “If you are like me, while you read the Bible you keep looking over at the screen to see how the market is doing. If you are like me, you read the Bible on a good day, but you watch Nike ads every day. And the Nike story says that our beginnings are in our achievements, and that we must create ourselves.”
Our financial discipleship journey is a reflection of how much of what we know of ourselves we have dedicated to Christ because of his love and sacrifice for us. It is a journey from belief in scarcity to embracing God’s abundance. Walter Brueggemann continues: “It is, of course, easier to talk about these things than to live them. Many people both inside and outside of the church haven’t a clue that Jesus is talking about the economy. We haven’t taught them that he is. But we must begin to do so now, no matter how economically compromised we may feel. Our world absolutely requires this news. It has nothing to do with being Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, socialists or capitalists. It is much more elemental: the creation is infused with the Creator’s generosity, and we can find practices, procedures and institutions that allow that generosity to work. Like the rich young man in Mark 10, we all have many possessions. Sharing our abundance may, as Jesus says, be impossible for mortals, but nothing is impossible for God. None of us knows what risks God’s spirit may empower us to take. Our faith, ministry and hope at the turn of the millennium are that the Creator will empower us to trust his generosity, so that bread may abound.”
I am called to give. We are called to give. Giving becomes the way I answer the rest of Christ’s call. There are many stops on the journey. I gave first because my parents made me do it in Sunday School. Then I gave because I thought I should. I still give partially because I believe we should - but a large portion of my gifts today are because I believe I am called to give my all – my life for Christ. I am beginning to understand the abundance God promised is real.
What are you called to do and continue doing as a congregation? Your answer as an individual impacts the answer you make as a congregation. Your answer as a congregation is an example for your community and the world. Our choices make a difference. We are the hands and feet of Christ as he works in the world.