Call to Worship
Faithful One, calling in the night
Speak, we’re listening
Still Small Voice, calling in the silence
Speak, we’re listening
Praise the One, True Living God
Liberating Flame, burning away our chains
Empowering Flame, burning away our excuses
Praise the Great I AM
Forever and for always bringing
answers out of questions
preparation out of hesitation
yes out of no
Praise our Deliverer,
Who saves and summons
Calling us to new life
Calling us to new life…
Some may have been confused at first about the voice they were hearing, as Eli was when he first heard the voice of God calling him in the tent (see 1 Samuel 3:1-10). Others may have felt inadequate to respond at first, as in the case of Moses (see Exodus 3:1-12). Still others may have resisted, but God’s persistent voice presented in different ways eventually provided clarity. Every person’s experience of God’s call is different. Instead of offering complete sermons, we’re offering stories you can tell in your own sermons by four writers exploring how they have wrestled with God’s call in their own lives and how they understand God, call, church, and community working together to shape us all into who God has created us to be.
Tracing a Call through an Asian American Story and Beyond
by Rev. Dr. Gerald C. Liu
Scripture passages for reflection:
I pursued my Master of Divinity degree strictly as an intellectual exercise until I began working at a United Methodist Church in Clarkston, Georgia. Clarkston resembled something like Mayberry, the fictional small country town of the Andy Griffiths television show. A train track divided it. The Methodist church sat next door to the Baptist church. I lived in a dogtrot parsonage behind the sanctuary. Yet Clarkston wasn’t Mayberry. It was the world. Eleven different nationalities worshipped in our congregation of one hundred. Thirteen different languages were spoken at the public high school. At that time, the town was the second largest hub of refugees from Africa and many others resettled there too. Every weekday morning, women and men from Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, and Ethiopia but also Bosnia, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal, and Mexico would walk to English as a Second Language instruction at the Baptist church. The wonder and ministerial potential of it all compelled me to pursue ordination as an Elder in the UMC.
From there I went on to study theology in Germany and serve churches in greater Atlanta and the United Kingdom. I completed a Ph.D. and taught in Boston and Louisville before landing at Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey as an assistant professor of preaching and worship arts.
In Ezekiel 37:1-6 things are looking bad for the house of Israel. So much so that Ezekiel has a vision where all he sees are dry bones. God poses the question, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answers, “O Lord God, you know.” God does know. God instructs Ezekiel that he must prophesy to the bones! They will take on flesh and live as a testimony that the nightmare of death cannot stop God’s promise of life for Israel.
Before professional ministry and higher education…download worship resources Our worship services are typically planned for communities instead of individuals and many times the worship service experience ends after the benediction. The heavy lifting of spiritual growth happens outside of typical Sunday morning worship experience. We are providing some questions to guide worshippers through deeper and personal reflection upon the message throughout the week.
- Write in a paragraph or two about your story or developing sense of call.
- Choose a biblical passage or passages here or elsewhere and write another paragraph or two exploring how it is that God seems to be summoning transformation and/or expressing God’s faithfulness in the Bible.
- What happens when you put your autobiographical and biblical paragraphs into conversation? What are the points of convergence and divergence? Are there unexpected realizations that broaden your understanding of what discerning a call entails?
- What questions must be asked and what horizons must be considered beyond your story and the Bible to compel continual growth in understandings of call? Articulate and respond to those questions in another paragraph or two.
- Take the paragraphs written above and compose and rehearse a sermon that portrays the Holy Spirit calling us in “real life,” in the Bible, and into futures yet unknown.
- What role does the church play in determining a person’s career path? What role do you think it should play?
- Can the church help people ponder the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” What has made a difference as you have pondered that question?
- How can you help in creating a culture of call?
- What pictures are we giving our people?
- Do you see yourself as a priest or pew sitter?
- How are we robbing people of their opportunity to live their call? What can we do this week/month/year to give them that opportunity back?
- Do you see your call as just personal or as communal?
- What type of living is your call pulling you towards?
- How can the spirit and life, hunger-for-joy-through-special-to-you-activities, given to you by God be life giving to others, spiritually and physically?
- As you reflect on your own call to ministry, where have you seen the Holy Spirit intentionally placing you in contexts that have nurtured and helped define your understanding of God’s cultivation of your particular gifts?
- How have you responded? What new understandings and insights have come as a result of your faithful response?
- Have you ever found yourself resisting God’s call? What has kept you from heeding God’s voice, and what was the outcome of your disobedience?
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Derrick Scott, III unpacks how hearing a pastor say “lay people” are “those people who lay around and do as little as possible” shaped his understanding of what it means to serve God. Derrick asks, “What would it look like if young adults chose to be a school teacher or an airline pilot because God woke them up in the middle of the night? What would it look like if Sheriffs and Senators acted and sounded; even smelled like Jesus?”
Jenny Smith moved with her family to Alaska at the age of 9 and found plenty of opportunities to serve her United Methodist church despite her age. In time, this preacher’s kid felt a strong call to ministry herself and became a United Methodist pastor. She says Alaska is an appointment with some special challenges but Rev. Smith has learned how to help people find a church home far away from their families in the lower 48. “There’s naturally something about isolation that causes you to choose something to depend on. And so for many, that ends up becoming God,” says Smith.
Melissa Crutchfield has seen the aftermath of countless natural and manmade disasters. Crutchfield has lived or worked in 25 countries as a representative of UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Her job is to assess the immediate and long-term recovery needs in communities and look for solutions. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti is particularly memorable for Crutchfield. “It was the perfect storm, personally and professionally,” she recalls. UMCOR employees grieved the loss of two key staff members while responding to an earthquake that killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Crutchfield said working one-on-one with Haitians affected by the disaster helped her own healing and reminded her of the important work UMCOR does.
In high school, Tyler Sit began the process of discerning his vocation. He was clear about his talents, passions and shortcomings, and ultimately recognized a calling to the ordained ministry. Becoming a pastor, “was putting a title on what I knew I was already made to do.” Tyler strives to create a sense of calm and playfulness in the church, even in the face of turmoil and change, bringing centeredness back into that community.download video resources