The Passion of Living a Called Life Sermon for June 11, 2023

John Claypool called his book on the major Old Testament characters, Glad Reunion.[1] What he meant by that is these heroes from the Old Testament are our spiritual ancestors. In that collection of biographical stories of the titans of the Hebrew Scriptures, the first major character he presents to us is Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham.

Father Abraham was the great patriarch of the Hebrews, the people of God. All things Jewish come from this one great man who received a call from God. But in our partnership with our Muslim neighbors, we acknowledge we don’t have proprietary ownership rights with Father Abraham. In that calling, God wanted to partner with Abram so that the people of all the earth, people of all time from every nation, could be blessed. So important was he that he became the spiritual ancestor to three major faiths.

So, what connections can we make with Abram? We live in a scientific, data-based world. We moved from being an agrarian society to being an industrialized nation in a global economy in the short lifetime of this country. But we also steadily grew in the last century to being the largest political and military power on the face of the earth. Our agrarian and industrialized strength has given way in the last few decades to the information age. What do we have in common with this little herdsman family who would be given such a promise from God that the all the people of the earth would be blessed for all time?

The journey of this little Bedouin man and his family began near the shores of the Persian Gulf and ended up on a life-journey that took them to Egypt and back. Not until Sarah died did Abraham buy the parcel of land in which to bury his wife.

This story is told in a time and place about as remote and separated from our own experience as anything we can imagine. Truly they lived in historical obscurity on the backside of the desert. Perhaps it would help us if we imagined Abram and Sarai coming from a tribal family among the ancient forebears of the modern citizens of Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan. They were herdsmen living in a tribal world of nomadic people who lived in obscurity. Their ties to the land were largely based on tribal power, not in deeds or treaties that were recognized in some legal sense. Their sense of understanding the natural world was pre-scientific and grounded in a host of religious fertility gods that ruled over the seasons and life processes that determined the success or failure of their lives.

But to be honest, we die daily for the sense of adventure that Abram was willing to undertake. That adventurous way of living is what is missing in most of us. Abram was called by God and that calling is what makes his life so compelling. There is something alive and vital about this story that makes our own lives pale in comparison.

The calling of Abram had the look and feel of one who cast for a part in a play. Actors are chosen for roles. They audition and one is selected. They are cast for what is needed in the character. When God calls us, we are chosen to act out a certain role in order for the story to move forward.

Abram was called to be an emigrant. He was called to be a traveler, a “viator” as Carlyle Marney would call him. All he was told by God was “follow me and through your faithfulness, something incredibly powerful will take place.”

He’s not given anything more specific than that. He’s told to pay attention and act on what he hears God say moment by moment. He’s told God will provide for his needs moment by moment.

How long has it been since you did something risky for God? How long has it been that you paid attention to what God might have to say to you with the willingness to act upon what you hear from God?

For most of us, the notion of letting go of the control of our lives is a risky thing. It runs against the grain of everything we’ve been told. Our experience in life is driven towards more control, not less.

What risks we take are calculated and measured. There is the element of the unknown, but it is based on possibilities and expected outcomes. For most of us, we take much of the risk out of our adventures because of our fear of the unknown. The risk of faith is the willingness to swim upstream to what might be commonly expected.

Abram heard this challenge from God with all the great promises that were a part of that challenge. We do not know whether there were any second thoughts. We do not know whether Abram sought out the counsel of his father or the elders of his clan. We do not know whether Abram struggled in his soul for determining the wisdom of what this decision might cost him. All we know is Abram acted on faith and set out for the journey as God invited him.

Where is God calling you? What tasks of faithfulness are you sensing the call of God to go do?

Morris Ashcraft told the story of a general who came to inspect a division of paratroopers. He approached one soldier and asked him, “How many jumps have you made, soldier?” “Over fifty, sir!” the soldier replied. “And do you enjoy it?” “Yes, sir!” he said.

The general stood before another man who was small, swallowed up by his uniform. “How about you, soldier. How many jumps have you made?” “Twenty-nine, sir!” “Do you enjoy it?” “Oh no, sir, I hate it, sir! It scares me to death every time I jump.” Curiously, the general asked him, “Soldier, why did you ever join the paratroopers?” He replied, “Because I like to be associated with people who aren’t afraid to jump, sir!”[2]

Maybe that’s why we come to church. Left to our own devices we might just stay in the same old ruts of safety and never venture the courageous, creative path of risky faith.

I need a church willing to stand together and to encourage one another. And when one of us hears the word of God and feels the need for a group of supporters who will pray for them in their challenge to live faithfully, I need a church that will rally around them and support them.

I need a church courageous enough to step forward for the tasks God calls us to as a church. A church that will resist the urge to live a small faith that would rather figure out all the ways we shouldn’t follow God’s leading through criticism of those who would dream.

I need a church with the courage to intentionally turn an ear towards God and the heart to do whatever God calls us to do.

How about you?


© Rev. Dr. Keith D. Herron 2023

[1] John Claypool, Glad Reunion, Meeting Ourselves in the Lives of Bible Men and Women, Word Books, Waco, 1985

[2] Illustration found in “Losing Control,” sermon by Larry Bethune, University Baptist Church, Austin, Texas, 3/11/90