On Sunday, May 28, 2017, I celebrated my brother-in-law Harry Butler’s milestone birthday in Nashville, Tennessee — in part — by worshipping at First Baptist Church. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Brandon Owen’s message during the contemporary service I attended, please read on. . . .
“What Will You Be Remembered For?”
By Pastor Brandon Owen
First Baptist Church
Downtown Nashville, Tennessee
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Text: Ephesians 4:1-3
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Summary by Bob Stouffer
I’m excited to talk to you about these things this morning!
In Chapter 4 of Ephesians, Paul makes a shift from the first 3 chapters.
We read Paul’s letters a lot. They sound similar. He was a very good writer. We should not be tricked into missing the power that is in this familiar passage.
We don’t make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit well. We should.
We are to live a life worth of the calling to which we have been called.
Have you found your calling in your life? Do you love your job? I do. Here, in America, we are so blessed. We wake up most days, energized by what lies ahead.
Finding our calling sometimes depends upon “success.” The word, “vocation,” is derived from a Latin word for when deep hunger and deep gladness collide, according to Frederick Buechner.
My wife is a really good nurse. I’m so proud of her. There’s no doubt in my mind that she has met God where He has fixed her with talents and abilities. The world needs good health care professionals. That job makes her glad. Doctors are also needed in leper colonies an refugee camps, and workers need to be glad in those environments as well.
God marries desires with what the world needs, but what Paul was talking about here is bigger than that. In Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians, Paul went into what the individual Christian is to do. In Chapter 4, Paul shifts to what we’re supposed to do together as the body of Christ. Calling here points to a way of life for all of your life and every part of your life.
During the summer, we’re going to move through Hebrews 11 and the heroes of the faith. The first — and one of the longest biographies — Abraham — is a case study in what Paul is trying to get at in this passage from Ephesians. God promised a great amount of land to Abraham’s offspring, yet there were no offspring yet, so Abraham was confused.
It’s a strange story. God called Abraham. He asked Abraham to cut several animals in half, and God reaffirmed His promise to him. This is a covenant affirmation. The blood flowed, and the path sealed the covenant, with the people walking through the path. They were to live up to the promises made, or they believed their lives would be taken from them. God reaffirmed His covenant, and Abraham did not have to walk the path; a blazing torch, represented God, like Jesus Christ going through the path for us on the cross. There was a dark and dreadful darkness, but Abraham did not have to walk the path.
It is so fun to look at all of the ways that the Bible talks about Jesus. Jesus did this for you! Yes, we have all fallen short. Based on who we are, we should walk the blood path. We are depraved. There’s some good in you, but you are tainted by sin. There’s nothing WE can do to achieve salvation. This story of Abraham is pointing to JESUS doing everything to make a way for us to be saved. We were completely dead, but, in Christ, we are fully alive.
And we are to live a life worthy of the calling to which we have called. We are to give Jesus our complete loyalty, following Christ as a precedence over everything else (N.T. Wright).
We have failed to live up to the covenant, but the blazing torch took our place! As the church. As a gathering of people. As a congregation specific to live out God’s will. Such is a beautiful truth about this text. This gathering is not separated from the every-day-ness (if that’s a word) and ordinariness of life.
A street address is more accurate to our responsibility than a worldwide geography, according to Eugene Peterson. Disneyland is a Mecca. We are mesmerized by Mediterranean cruises. Our callings, though, start and end in our ordinary lives where we are.
Has anyone moved into your neighborhood? Has someone had a new baby? Did someone get some brutal news this week? Faith happens where we are, or it doesn’t happen at all. God’s calling is for specific times and places. All we do must point to others in Christ.
In a recent podcast, the host mentioned what their church looked like, because she attends a church that doesn’t meet in the same place every week. The people meet in each others’ homes. Location is so ingrained in us when we speak of the church. But our calling as a community of believers should no longer be the place where we go. We are members of God’s church. We are called to care for one another.
We suffer. We see suffering. What’s going on?! Children were killed in a terrorist bombing this week. Read about the atrocities in Somalia. Refugee populations are growing. Suicide rates are going through the roof. Loneliness abounds; it is all around us.
Think back to your Greek mythology. Cisyphus had to roll a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back to the bottom, with his responsibility to keep rolling that rock up that hill. Over and over again.
God told Abraham that He would provide. There was hope.
Victor Frankl spent time in German concentration camps. He “studied” the despondency of his fellow inmates. He would whisper to other prisoners that life still had meaning. The story of suffering was set in an even larger story about purpose. We have to have faith in something or someone bigger than ourselves. Life is not about what we want from life; life is what life wants from us. He called people to right action and right conduct.
God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham was ready to do it. And God provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac.
Do you feel like you’re pushing a rock up a hill? Do you believe your life has meaning? Is it possible for you, as followers of Christ, to grasp that redemption is the “end” of this story? Such is your “calling,” so the world may know that Jesus is the blazing torch, providing a way to live forever.
Don’t ask what God’s mission is for your life. Irish theologian Christopher Wright tells us to ask what kind of “you” God is trying to fashion for God’s mission. Then, he will secure your calling.