January 19, 2014, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49: 1-7, John 1: 29-42
We have all received birth announcements, either with a phone call or through the mail or the social media.
The parents tell us the name, sex and weight of the baby. If it by mail or the social media there is often a picture of an angelic infant and the mother or maybe both parents gazing at their newborn with adoration and wonder.
Never have I a received a birth announcement with a picture of the newborn’s mouth wide open, eyes screwed shut and screaming!
Nor have I received a birth announcement telling me what the this newborn child will become, what his or her destiny is, his or her calling.
The Christmas story is a birth announcement.
A child has been born in Bethlehem. It is announced by the the Hallelujahs of the angels, the awareness of shepherds and the visit of the Magi.
This child’s identity?
The angels tell the shepherds that he is a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.
At the time of his circumcision Simeon tells his parents that the child is God’s salvation and will be a sign that will be opposed.
The Magi–their birth announcement causes trouble. The Magi tell Herod that in Bethlehem has been born the one who will shepherd the people of Israel. Herod doesn’t like the news and goes on a killing spree.
The birth announcement got in the wrong hands.
The Christmas story is a royal birth whose announcement outshines that of the royal prince born this past summer to Kate Middleton and Prince William in London.
This child, Jesus, we don’t know his weight or length or details of the delivery. We don’t know what time he was born but imagine that he was born in the middle of the night.
We know more important stuff, who he will become.
All births deserve rejoicing
Every birth is full of mystery…. whether it is the birth of Jesus, whether a child or grandchild, or a child born to parents with addictions.
A new birth, a new life; full of possibilities.
Suppose our birth announcements also included the expectations of the parents.
All parents have them–
My child will have my brains, my looks or whatever it is that I perceive my strengths to be.
My child will have none of my faults.
I expect my child to become a doctor or whatever profession you worship, go to UW, be athletic…blah, blah, blah..
Dave and I expected our new born to have wavy brown hair and brown eyes just like us. Well, she didn’t! We were fooled.
If God were to write a birth announcement for each of us what would it say??
Today’s Old Testament reading gives us some clues.
You have been called before you were born
In your mother’s womb I gave you a name.
You were formed to be a servant
You are honored in my sight.
I will give you strength.
Imagine growing up with this legacy!
This is who we are!
Children, for better or worse, are like their parents, Right?
God is our parent. We are to grow into the image and likeness of the Holy One.
Our example is Jesus.
He grew up into the image of his Abba Father. He grew in his relationship with God, Jesus and his father/mother were one.
Our example is Jesus.
Human Jesus completed the work of the divine parent.
We are made of the same material as Jesus.
Like him we eat, drink, poop and pee.
Like him, we get tired and cranky.
Like Jesus, we are born and we will die.
And, if we desire to take the journey, if we nurture the spiritual dimension of life, we are in the process of becoming divine, fully alive. Like Jesus.
In the life of Jesus we see the perfect merging of the human and divine wills.
The blind are cured, the lame walk, the kingdom of God is near.
Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism puts it this way:
The work of redemption requires the perfect union-in love…of two wills, distinct and free—divine will and human will.
Jesus’s human will was in alignment with that of his divine Father/Mother.
This is the relationship God our Mother/Father desires to have with each of us.
The central mystery of the Christian faith and the backbone of the Christmas story is Incarnation. The word becoming flesh.
Not just in Jesus but also in us.
It is our birthright.
How does this happen?
On way it happens when others recognize our giftedness, our calling and tap us on the shoulder.
We see this in the life of Jesus.
John the Baptist could be called John the Initiator.
John initiates Jesus, calls forth his identity, reveals his divinely ordained calling.
“Here is the Lamb of God!”
“This is the Chosen One of God”
“The One on whom you see the Spirit descend is the One who baptizes with the Spirit”
John is able to lay aside his own ego, his own strivings, and name his cousin’s calling.
John had authority. People listened.
John paid a price: at least two of his disciples left him and followed Jesus.
What comes to mind is senators and congressmen switching parties, from Democrat to Republican or vice versa.
It makes the news, people notice because it has implications.
Who has called forth your gifts or has seen your potential?
Who has confirmed for you a path that you sensed you needed to take?
This doesn’t only happen in adolescence or young adulthood. It also needs to happen as we age, make career changes, move into retirement.
Numerous times people have spoken to me and have confirmed my sense of direction or have given me a new awareness.
In my twenties and early thirties I had written off the possibility of being a pastor because I had encountered several bitter angry women who felt it was their calling to be ordained. I had no desire to become like them.
But, when several people encouraged me to go to seminary and one was sure I would pastor someday…that had a completely different feel. I listened, I took it to heart.
I also remember the affirmation I got the first time I preached…and it wasn’t a great sermon but others saw potential.
On the other side of the equation, whose gifts and potential do you need to call forth??
To say to another, I perceive your calling and what you can become.
It takes humility and discernment to do this.
It also takes relationship. If a stranger walked up to me and told me something about my calling…I would brush it off. If it comes from someone who knows me well, then I listen.
We also grow in our spiritual awareness as we are in relationship with others who are further along on the journey…it may be a spiritual guide or director.
When we identify our spiritual teachers and listen to them with our hearts, we grow. For me right now, it is reading Meditations on the Tarot.
We grow as we commit to and practice our spiritual disciplines faithfully.
Lastly, God says to Isaiah,
You are my servant.
What is a servant? Well, someone who serves.
Who and what do we serve??
In the words of Meditation on the Tarot, we serve that which is above and that which is below. We serve the divine and we serve the human.
And, when we serve both in love…there is redemption, there is new life. There is wholeness.
God is looking for people who desire to be colleagues in the work of redemption. This is our divine calling.