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Love and Callings

January 30th, 2022

By: Rev. Jackie Hibbard

Jeremiah was called by God, and he knew it. And he did whatever he could think of to get out of it. I’m too young, I can’t speak. I don’t know what I’m doing. Was he making Excuses? Dismissing his gifts? Feeling scared? God was having nothing to do with any of it – trust me, I’ve got you God basically said. And his life of ministry and prophesying began.

Have you ever felt like Jeremiah? Knew you were called to do something and then tried to get out of it? Jeremiah’s life was not easy. People did not like what he said. They challenged him, ridiculed him, ran him out of town, tried to kill him, told him to be quiet.

Sometimes callings are like that. For Jeremiah, other prophets, Jesus. Us. People don’t like what you have to say or what you are doing so they take aim at you in a variety of ways and maybe even try to kill you. Many people through the ages have lost their lives because of what they were saying and doing – if you stand against the powers of the day, sometimes they will do anything to shut you up. In today’s world, people troll you on social media and try to shut you up or discredit you. It has happened to us here at CUCC on our social media accounts. I noticed that our friends at RawTools had haters on their social media pages posting less than kind remarks. And far too many transgender folx have been killed simply for being themselves.

We can also think about callings to your vocation, your purpose, your mission. One doesn’t need to be a Jeremiah, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Desmond Tutu or Thich Nhat Hahn to have a calling in life. And I believe even our church has a calling – why not? Who says callings are only for individuals?

What is a calling?

I think of a calling as a summons to use our gifts in such a way that serves the world in a way that you can only do in your unique way in this time and place. Frederick Buechner wrote that callings are “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Sometimes callings lead to a vocation. Sometimes they are an avocation. But they are unique to you and they drive and guide you.

Martin Luther King Jr said this -

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

From Martin Luther King Jr’s 1967 speech at Glenville High School.

Sometimes like Jeremiah and pretty much everyone I know who has shared a story with me about being called, when you feel or hear or know your calling, you do whatever you can think of to get out of it. I’m not good enough. No one wants to listen to me. Who am I? I can’t. I’m too young. I’m too old. We’re too small. There isn’t enough money. I could go on. And yet, the call keeps on calling, insisting, showing up.

Think of where we would be if MLK had said no to his calling. Or Einstein, Rosa Parks, Freida Kahlo, Frederick Douglas, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Greta Thunberg, Maya Angelou, to name just a few. While I don’t know their personal stories to the detail, I do know that they faced times when they had doubts or fear, and people wanted them to stop for one reason or another.

Looking at the section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians now … As Tina Turner says in her song, What’s love got to do, got to do, with it?

I think Paul points out that love is the center of our call – the core, the point.

This section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is likely the most well-known part of the New Testament. You’ve heard it read at many weddings no doubt. We can think of love in the romantic sense and how love forms the basis of a romantic relationship.

Or we can think of love much broader and as the basis of everything, which is what Paul is eluding to, I think.

Love is patient, kind, rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, endures all things, hopes and believes all things. Love never ends. It reminds me of the passage from the prophet Micah – What does the Lord require of you? To love justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.

Paul begins the whole section saying that even if one has miraculous gifts, but love isn’t at the center – it means nothing. I think Paul is saying that Love is the driver of our call and that when we embrace and notice and feel love so deeply - it is part of who we are and how we move and act in the world. It’s part of who we “be” and what we do. Without that love at the core driving our call – it is empty and to quote Greta Thunberg in today’s vernacular, “it’s a lot of blah, blah, blah!”

I also think that Paul is saying that love leads you beyond yourself, to something bigger. Love is active, a verb, not passive.

I wonder what love is calling you to be and do right now. I wonder what love is calling us to be right now as a church community.

I don’t have the answers, but I do know that to find the answer, we each need to slow down, get quiet, feel and listen. Invite in the holy, God, to help us know and embrace that calling of ours. To notice what Love is inviting us to deepen into.

Callings aren’t always big and grand. One of the things I wrote in my ordination paper years ago is that I feel called to listen. Maybe that doesn’t sound revolutionary, but I love to listen to people – listen to what is important, listen to joy and pain, listen to truth-telling. And when I listen – people feel seen and maybe even loved – even for a moment and that is revolutionary and life changing for many people. It’s beyond me, it helps others, it helps the world, it changes things even when I don’t see or know it. But love is at the core – otherwise people would see me as hollow, and not feel seen or heard even if it looks like I’m listening.

I think our calling is equal parts how we “be” and what we “do” – they each inform the other. Richard Rohr wrote, “Love is not really an action that you do. Love is what and who you are, in your deepest essence.”

Here at CUCC, when we get quiet and listen and invite the Spirit to lead and guide us – what is our calling and how is Love at the core? A Calling centered in Love looks like hosting an Afghan family. A Calling centered in Love looks like a beautiful community garden feeding people in our community. A Calling centered in Love looks like a radically inclusive open and affirming statement. It looks like welcoming new people and like embracing and visiting our Sages. A Calling centered in Love looks like a home cooked meal for someone who just had surgery. A Calling centered in love looks like listening to one of our kids tell a joke while looking them in the eyes. It looks like offering your gifts during Sharing the Creative Spirit. A Calling centered in Love means showing up when conversations are easy and when they are challenging. A Calling centered in Love means listening with your whole being to another’s perspective and ideas. A Calling centered in Love looks like picking up the phone and holding space for another’s grief, loneliness, loss or despair. A Calling centered in Love means checking our own privilege and assumptions and making changes and amends when we witness or perpetrate any kind of discrimination or hurtful act towards anyone who is “other.” A Calling centered in love … we could go on and I hope we do. I pray that we keep discerning and listening and exploring to hear what and who we are called to be and do in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. How is love what and who we are at our deepest essence as a church community?

One of the things that happened while I was opening myself up and listening, praying, and reflecting for this sermon is that I wondered what others have said about love. So, I started an internet search and wandered down the rabbit hole and found that many great theologians and thinkers and teachers and leaders see love as central, the starting point, the reason we “be.” Just like Paul. Just like Jesus. Just like prophets of old. Love never ends.

Before I knew it, I found so many awesome quotes that were beautiful and juicy and inspiring, I started copying and pasting them into a document. They are each a sermon in and of themselves. So, like the star words from a few weeks ago, I decided that I’d print them out for those of you here in person and you can come up and choose one out of the bowl. Don’t look through them, let the one that is meant for you be chosen. Then before you go back to your seat, please read it at the microphone if you like.

For those of you at home on zoom or the livestream, enjoy listening to the quotes and maybe note one that particularly speaks to you to look for later. Beth will paste the page of quotes into the chat on zoom and the quotes will be attached to the sermon in the enews on Wednesday for you to download and print.

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