Thursday, November 26, 2009

For This I Was Born

“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world.”
These words of Jesus that we read this morning in the Gospel of John have been with me all week.
Jesus is clear about what he came into this world to do, and to accomplish.
He came for this moment in time to show others the truth about God.
He came to give the world himself.
He was born to die on the cross for the sake of the world.
He was born so that you and I here this morning might know salvation, peace, love, forgiveness, and all the glory of God.
Jesus had a clear mission.
But it made me think of us.
What we were born for?
What were you born for?

I am of the firm belief that God makes us all for something.
God has created us for a task on this earth, and our job in this world is to figure out what that is.
What did God create us to do?

It is an important question because if we are to follow Jesus then we have to struggle with what Jesus would want us to do.
For some of us it might mean taking a real hard look at our lives and see the ways that we are not doing what God created us to do.
But for others of us it might simply mean looking at what we are doing differently.

Last week we passed out time and talent sheets and we asked you to consider the question, “how would you serve God.”
Within the context of a stewardship talk I can see why everyone wrote down a way that they could serve in this congregation.
That is the way we have been taught to think about stewardship.
What ten percent of my time am I going to give to God?
Here is the problem.
We are supposed to give everything to God.
Today is Christ the King Sunday, and what that means for us is that we accept Jesus as the King of our lives.
I know for me I always struggle with the meaning of that because a king to me is a very negative image.
I think of some tyrant oppressing freedoms that we love.
But the basic idea of Jesus as our king is that we give our lives over to Jesus.
We trust Jesus to run our lives and tell us what to do.
And this is not just ten percent of the time; it is just not when we are in Church.
We are suppose to let Christ rule our lives when we are at home with our families, at work, at play, at the grocery store, on I-93 in the middle of traffic.
All the time Jesus Christ is our king.

And the question we have to ask in all circumstances is; what was I born for?
What is it that God requires of me in my life as husband, brother, wife, mother, father, banker, nurse, teacher, computer electrician, or whatever I am doing?
You see we don’t only serve God by doing, “religious things”. (Although we certainly can serve that way as well)
We serve God in all of our lives.

There was once a prominent banker who after he turned sixty-five retired.
In his retirement he gave every spare second to serving the church.
He would clean the fellowship hall, make coffee, balance the church’s books, order Sunday School supplies, and anything else that needed to be done.
He told his pastor that, “finally I can serve God. I have been waiting my whole life to do this.”
The pastor replied that he had already been serving God.
Helping people get money to buy their dream house, buy a car, or making sure their savings were secure was a way to serve his neighbor and therefore serve God.
He had served God all those years as a banker.
We don’t merely serve God in Church, but in our vocations in the world.
Martin Luther saved us from thinking that we could only serve God in or through religious institutions.
In Luther’s day only people who were in religious orders were seen to have callings from God.
Luther said that all of us no matter what our profession had a calling from God to serve and love our neighbors.
That in our everyday lives we serve God.
Luther said that we all are called by God to serve, love, and help others.
Many of you already have callings that make it possible to serve God in a very meaningful way everyday.

It is not that we come here on Sunday and we do something for God and then go back into our lives to do wretched sinning.
No, we find a way everyday to love and serve God and that can be done in a variety of ways.
Luther once said that God is more pleased with the smell of a father changing a dirty diaper then all the incense in Rome.
We serve God in all things, even changing diapers.

When filling out our stewardship time and talent sheets we should include things like go to work, sit at home and play chutes and ladders with my kids, change dirty diapers, help my neighbor pick up her leaves on her lawn.
All of these things are ways that we use our gifts from God to help and serve our neighbor.
They are ways that all of us are acting in the world to help others see the truth of Christ’s love.

Because for us the truth is not a philosophical concept it is a real thing that was lived out in the person of Jesus Christ.
The truth is that Christ died for us out of love and care.
And we are then called to spread that love and care to others in the world.
Not just through what we do at Church.
But the way that we teach and care for our children, what we do to earn a living to support our families, how we act in all the circumstances of our lives.

As most of you know the Lutheran Church is losing members all the time.
Last year the ELCA lost 100,000 members.
We are failing to evangelize those around us and closets to us.
We are failing to evangelize our own children.
Every year more and more people are confirmed and leave the church never to return.
We could say that they might come back, but the truth is many of them are not coming back.
There are many reasons for this.
But perhaps one of them is that we are failing to help people make the connection between their faith and their life outside the walls of this Church.

Too often we make it about keeping the institution of the church alive instead of making it about the needs of all of us to grow and to find the ways God is working in our lives.
We have to encourage each other to ask why was I born?
What is my purpose while I am here on this earth?
What is God calling me to do and to be?
How do I serve God in all the places of my life?

How do I serve God as a good father or mother?
How do I serve God as a good co-worker?
How do I serve God as a student?
How do I serve God when I go to a store and buying Christmas presents?
How do I serve God when I am sitting at red light on main st.?
What is it that God is calling me to be and to do?

Of course only you can answer these questions.
I know that I have to keep asking them of myself, because my life is constantly changing.
My answers would have been different five years ago, ten years ago then they are today.
They are important questions to keep asking.
What were you born for?
What ways is God calling you to serve and love your neighbor?
For this you were born, for this you have come into the world.
To testify to the truth that Jesus is king of your life.

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