Sunday, October 2, 2016

Year C, Proper 22, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Purpose and Grace

 ". . .relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace."

This verse continues to speak to me this week. Not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.

I'm starting a new call, officially today, after a few months of serving Peace as a supply pastor.  As one with a few years of experience under my belt (28 for those who are counting) it is natural to look to that experience, and the gifts that have been developed over all those years, and to bank on all of that as the foundation moving forward.  I have been called because my abilities will enable me to effectively lead this congregation forward in their mission and ministry.  Enough said. 

Or not.

In order to rely on the power of God, we must first be confronted with our own powerlessness.  Our own impotence clears the way for the power of God to be active and effective.  Given a choice, we would rather rely on that which we can control.  "I can do this!"  Such confidence is comforting for us.  And yet the truth is that there is much we cannot do.

How does one take a congregation that has been in decline and reverse its course?  What specifically can we do so that some of those thousands of cars that pass by our Church, turn into the parking lot instead?  How do we kindle the faith in the many who live day by day with no active faith?  As long as we're searching for answers to these questions within the realm of our own capabilities, we are doomed to fail.  Acknowledging that we simply don't know may be the best thing we can do, for it opens the way for God.

We are called, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.

His own purpose.  My agenda and God's may just not be the same.  "Never take the initiative in seeking a call," I was told once, "as the day will come that you will desperately need to know that you are there because it is God's will, not just because you managed to arrange it."  The opportunities will arise, quite naturally, for us to be of service to God, according to his purpose.  They just might not be what we expect going in.  But there is a reason you are there.

And grace.  One of my core beliefs regarding the call is that when God calls us according to his own purpose, he also equips us for that ministry to which we have been called.  Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience.  I came into the ministry with many gifts and abilities, most of which were not particularly suited for ministry at all.  My greatest deficiencies, however, were in the language arts, in reading, writing, and public speaking.  I really struggled.  This has greatly improved over the years as these "gifts" have grown.  Some might say that it was hard work and discipline that helped to refine these abilities.  I believe it was the grace of God.  It was God equipping me for the ministry that lay ahead.

"Its not about you."

This is probably the most important thing to take away from this verse.  God's power.  God does the saving.  God calls.  According to God's purpose.  And by his Grace.  

We, it would appear, are mere vessels through which God acts.

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