Post 3Feb Sermon Epiphany4

Too busy writing to a deadline to be able to post this earlier, but in retrospect it’s worth reading, maybe?

In the movie About Time, on his 21st birthday Tim is introduced by his Dad to a secret: the men in the family can return in time to ‘re do’ parts of their lives.

Tim chooses to redo his wedding reception several times because his choice for best man keep botching the toast:

His best friend Rory, another lawyer, has read a book on toasts, and following its advice, tells a story from work, one buried in the intricacies of tort law, which is boring and drier than desert salt.

His Dad’s crude writer friend starts off with a string of profanity declaring that as a professional writer he asked first what he would be paid to make this speech.

Another friend stoops to crude sexual stories about Tim’s earlier girlfriends.

Finally, Tim asks his last choice to step into the breach.

His father at least makes a simple toast:  “to the man with the worst haircut and the best bride in the room.”

But his father is not happy with it. He forgot to say he loved Tim. So Tim’s father does a redo.

The second time Tim’s father makes it simple, and profound, as if he was born to this, as if it was his calling. He says: The one big thing is I’ve loved three men in my life: well my father was a frostly old guy. So that leaves Uncle Desmond, B.B. King, of course, and this young man, Tim.

And then comes the inspired wisdom from the writers: ‘In the end we are all quite similar. We all grow old and tell the same stories too many times.’ The father’s only wedding advice is to ‘find someone to marry who is … kind.’ ‘And this man is a kind man’, he says referring to Tim.

Marriages all have their challenges, and none are easy. But you can work through most all of that … if you are kind.

Congregations are the same. We can work through most anything … if we are kind. Or to be more honest, the bar is much higher. We can work through anything … if we love one another, even our enemies, and God with all our hearts, minds and strength.

In the readings for today a theme of vocation for various people connects everything together. Martin Luther talked about vocation as what God calls us to do with our lives.

Vocation’s not like a vacation: it is what one does for work that works … for others.

Vocation is to vocate, (ok that really is not a word)

But vocation as a verb is like vocalizing with one’s doing, or to vocalize with one’s being, one’s being in motion and action, vocation is to be someone alive intentionally in God’s creation.

Vocation is one’s calling. While one’s profession is what one does because one has trained for it and gained the necessary skills and qualifications; a vocation is the innate ability in an individual towards a particular occupation, activity or responsibility.

That’s vocation.

So what is your vocation? Likely you have more than one, either at the same time or your vocation has migrated or maybe completely changed over time.

Jeremiah finds out in today’s lesson that his vocation is not to be envied: he is, as he was to be since before he was born, a prophet. One of those people charged with telling the awful truth to God’s people, truth that they in no way want to hear. A person who is less listened to than abused for the news they bring.

Sensibly, Jeremiah is not too eager for this beginning. He knows he is not qualified. And he tries his best to side-step this terrible vocation, this awesome vocation, this frightening vocation. He says he is too young and will not know what to say.

Of course, we know that being any age is not right for becoming a prophet, and no one of any age would know what to say, not without God’s guidance … after all what kind of prophet would speak on his own?

God is prepared. God reaches out, touches Jeremiah’s mouth and gives him the words that Jeremiah will say for God.

The abuse, the shooting the messenger, still comes in spades, but Jeremiah knows for sure he is God’s prophet.

Jesus also has a vocation. His vocation is profoundly significant for everyone. Jesus is the perfect redeemer for all sinners, for the whole world. He has started his ministry, healing people of all kinds. Then he comes home to Nazareth but he is still regarded as nothing more than he was as a child, son of Joseph, the carpenter.

Jesus tries to explain to his hometown people in the synagogue that evening why he will not perform any miracles. He recounts how God repeatedly sends prophets and healers and miracle makers to people other than Israel, to its enemy neighbours, to the people they despise.

Those are prophetic words, and the people do not see clearly, do not even catch a glimpse of, do not even see dimly, who Jesus is. They become very afraid, and angry!

They are ready to throw Jesus off the cliff, but Jesus walks through their midst and away.

It does not change his vocation, in fact it makes an awful, great beginning, just not at home. It foreshadows that many people will not accept Jesus, because they are too familiar with him.

What vocations do we have? What great variety of vocations are there in the body of Christ? And right here in our congregation?

Surely we have many. We have Care givers, listeners, organizers, leaders, teachers, musicians who brings music to inspire and heal us, maybe a poet, an artist or two, perhaps some who are truly great at encouraging others. And I’m sure you can name a few more.

Some may seem more important, but none are.

All vocations depend not on skills we develop or training we succeed at. Vocations depend entirely upon gifts from God, made possible by Jesus Christ and imbued in us by the Holy Spirit.

And no matter the gifts, if we do not exercise our vocations with love,

Then we are useless, just banging cymbals, or noisy gongs.

Noise but no great melody, no rhythm. Just noise.

What is love?

What does love look like?

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

If one is loving, and no one is perfect, so our love is imperfect, … but as we are able to be loving in what we do, in our vocations…

God is there blessing what we do … All that we do …

What is it that we – you have as vocations, musicians, office staff, leaders, readers, fixers, teachers, builders, quilters, bakers or whatever?

No matter what happens or what we do,

may we know that in doing what we do:

It is God’s love that makes it all worthwhile. No matter what vocation we have.

We will not see things clearly on this earth,

but we can now already see dimly … enough to work with … so that we can be loving with our family, friends, acquaintances and family, and even with our enemies.

Then what we do, whatever that is, will be blessed to be a blessing.

We will give life to others, in simple words, if we are kind and loving.