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Let it Be

Sermon Advent 4B, Sunday December 18, 2011. Ocean Forest

Luke 1:26-38

“Let it be with me according to your word”

On this last “normal” kind of Sunday together before we all rightly focus on Christmas I cannot help but imagine the young Mary and her words, “Let it be with me according to your word”. This is the way I am speaking to the Lord in these days of leaving and also pondering a new ministry and life challenge in God’s call.

As I said in the announcement of my decision to take the Call to Petri, it did and always does come down to the Lord’s call. Everything else is a distant second. I know from the Word, from my experience, from you and from the wider church that it is indeed the Lord’s will that I take this Call from him to serve in another place among another people.

I have been thinking this week that this Call from the Lord to me and you is a little less ground shaking than the Call he issued to a young teenager named Mary.

Yes, I have a Call from the Lord to continue serving him and his people in another place with its many unknowns and different size, shape, culture and its inevitable challenges.

Yes, you now have the Call from the Lord of the Church to re-examine your Call to be God’s people in mission here and then to Call another Pastor to work with you in your joint Calling to continue to be God’s people together in this place. But what about the Call Mary received to bear the Son of God in her own body and be remembered and honoured for that for all time by all who would follow him? Now that is a ground shaking Call from the Lord – literally – with angelic voices included!

As with all calls from the Lord, they create the uncomfortable sense of being. I still doubt my ability to live up the huge expectations of the Call to the new place. I know you are worried about your ability to continue as God’s mission people here and to receive another Pastor to come and serve here so that this community can thrive. No different with Mary (or any other person God called, by the way!).

Even though Mary was called by the Lord through this mysterious angelic visitation, Mary she was much perplexed by the calling words and pondered what sort of calling this might actually be. She was a little suspicious and not a little doubting of the Lord’s calling.

Yes, “perplexed”: troubled, unsure, confused, fearful for the future, fearful for the imposition of God’s Call on her life and what it would mean for her future…….

It is a good word to describe how we all feel when the Lord is knocking on our door to step up – step up to better marriages, better parenting, better conduct at work, at home, at church.

Mary asks the obvious question of God. “Is this Call you have issued me good news or bad news?” Will it be the Calling that makes me fulfilled, benefits people around me and brings glory to you or will it cause me to stumble and fall because I will fail at it?”

This is the question brought on by our natural human fear of so many things: ourselves, the unknown, others, God at times.

To us who are only human. To us who can only understand and see so little of God’s big picture and plan for our lives, those words of the Lord and his messenger that disarm our tendency to take flight and run away from the Lord’s call, like Jonah did, come as a gleaming ray of light in a dark place, or as a ray of light on the horizon as the clouds wind and sea calm and the storm is finally over.

“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God”.

My Call to another community is surrounded by and motivated by God’s favour. Your Call to be his holy community of love and faith and hope in this place is a Call surrounded by the Lord’s love and blessing.

The Lord has found favour with this community enough to bring upon it this time of vacancy. Sounds strange doesn’t it?

  1. We are all scared of vacancy times in the church. They are supposed to be avoided at all costs and as short as possible.

  2. In vacancy we feel all at sea, leaderless, rudderless, unsure – a bit like the disciples on that little boat out on the Sea in that storm with a sleeping Saviour! Facing a vacancy time can feel like our Saviour is sleeping.

  3. We wish he would wake up and calm the storm and restore normality – then we could all go about our lives as normal again – then we could all be comfortable again?

  4. We could all slot back into how it was before when we were undisturbed by the Lord’s call?

Thank the Lord that Mary went with the uncomfortable Call from the Lord. She utters those immortal words of trust in the Lord and his Call…

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Here I am: Here are you. Can you utter these word as Mary did and be at peace, without fear? That is the Call of the Spirit to you now for sure.

For the next little while you will be pondering Calls. You will be pondering that word. You will have “Call” meetings. You will “Call” a pastor or two or more. A Pastor will accept your “Call” as a Call from the Lord of the church.

I can tell you now that the “Call” meetings and the “Calling” of a pastor will not only be about one guy. It will also be a word about you – individually, in your family and as a body of Christ. When you hear that word, pray for that event, pray for that man and his family, you will also be pondering your own Call in this community – this church; this mission task.

A Call meeting is not about one man’s call. It is about a community’s calling too. Each of you will think about your place here and as you do, can I challenge to recall Mary and her Call.

She was troubled about the imposition of accepting the Lord’s Call on her life. So will you be if you’re honest because God’s Call is imposing and impossible – at least humanly impossible. However, it is a Call that is always backed by his promises and power to “be with you to the very end of the age” as Jesus says at the last (or was it the first?).

I am praying that you will come to where I have been brought to by the Lord and where Mary got to by the Lord. I am praying that you can speak her words for real and at peace and without fear;

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

I am praying that in this time of vacancy you will be uncomfortable in a way that provides the conditions in which the seeds of faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ can thrive in you personally and as a holy community of the Lord in this place.

I am praying that you and I can sing Mary’s song in our Callings…

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

Luke 1:46b-50

You can end up with Mary and me because the Lord of the Church is behind the Calls we have and they are Calls of favour and blessing.

In your Calling to be Ocean Forest, a community that is bent on “connecting people with Jesus so that all may know and share his love, the Lord blesses you….

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen! Romans 16:25-27
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