The Call of the Lord
February 4, 2007 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 5:1–5:11
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
"The Call of the Lord"
By God's grace, I have returned safe and sound from my recent trip to India. I want to thank you for undergirding this whole experience with your prayers. All of us in the travel group were blessed with good health and strength needed for all of the travel by plane, bus, and car. There were thirty people in the group, not including the hosts from Mission India. We were pastors and one DCE from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), Africa. From the States here, we came from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, California, Washington, Indiana, and Virginia. The whole experience opened to me the great work which God is doing in India, and the great need there in the mission field. At times, the sights, sounds, and smells were just overwhelming: the land is teeming with people - over 1 billion, with the average life expectancy being only 52 years. Illiteracy, poverty, child labor, effects of the 12/26/04 tsunami that devastated the southeastern coast - these are but a few of the problems plaguing India today. I have vowed never again to complain about traffic around Washington, DC. What we have here is not to be compared with the chaos on the road in India where trucks, buses, cars, "2 wheelers" (motor bikes), bicycles, ox carts, and pedestrians all come together. People make their own lanes, drive at unbelievably high speeds, and love to honk their horns. Amazingly, there is no road rage. As we were traveling by car at speeds of 120 kilometers per hour, I thought we were goners on several occasions, but our skillful (some would say crazy) driver got us safely to our destination, time after time. In India, a land of great contrasts, the call of the Lord, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?", is being heard and answered by men and women, children and youth who are responding, "Here am I; send me!" Today we focus upon that call of the Lord as it comes to us in the Scripture lessons. May God's rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus' sake.
In today's Scripture lessons, there is a strong sense of unworthiness that comes with the call of the Lord. We see this with Isaiah in today's first lesson (Isaiah 6:1-8): "Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips and I live in the midst of a people of unclean lips." Also Paul the apostle in today's second lesson (1 Corinthians 15:1-11), who writes about himself: "I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God." And Peter, in today's Gospel lesson, having seen firsthand the power of the One who calls him to be a fisher of men, says: "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." When the holiness of God breaks into our sphere of unholiness and sin, the natural human reaction is fear, unworthiness, and a desire to pull away - to run away, retreating back into the safety of the darkness, away from the blinding light of God's presence. Despite our sense of unworthiness, the call of the Lord comes to us. God chooses to use us with all our imperfections and shortcomings to be his spokesmen and women. God chooses to work through our poor, stammering lips to tell others of all that God in Christ has done. What an honor! What a privilege! The call of the Lord often comes when we least expect it, when we're not looking for it. Isaiah didn't ask for this, neither did Paul or Peter. They didn't seek the call, rather it was the Lord who sought them out to do his work, and so it is today. God seeks out and calls people to tell that old, old story of Jesus and his love.
The call of the Lord is being answered in a powerful way by many people in India today - people who by our standards are not well educated, who didn't go to college or seminary, but who in faith are saying to the Lord, "Here am I; send me!" Through Mission India, these people are leading Children's Bible Clubs, Adult Literacy Classes, and being trained as Church Planters. Lives are being transformed as God is working in powerful ways through these chosen servants to break down strongholds of Satan and bring salvation and hope to people living in darkness. I met some of these people and heard their stories - amazing stories of courage, strength, and hope in the face of opposition and persecution. When we asked these individuals about any misgivings or fears they had, they all responded in words like this: "I am not afraid. God will give me strength." The goal of Mission India is that by the year 2020, the Christian population of India, now only 2.3%, will be 20%. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they are well on their way to this goal.
The call of the Lord is not limited to India. My prayer is that what God is doing in India, He will do here among us as well. It's easy to see the idols in India: shrines and temples to false gods are everywhere. It's not so easy to see the idols here at home, but they are just as real and they enslave people just as much as those in India. I have been reflecting on which is the greater mission challenge: India or here at home. The crushing poverty, the widespread illiteracy, the false idols of Hinduism, and the threat of persecution there, or the apathy and complacency, fueled by materialism here at home, where surrounded by so much stuff we have no need of God. The need is great in both places, and God will raise up people here and there who will answer his call and cry out with joy: "Here am I; send me!"
I was refreshed and very much encouraged by this trip to India, seeing the incredible work which God is doing in mission fields there. I am still processing this whole experience, and want to share this with you in greater detail. I am hoping to have a "show and tell" evening later this month - more on that later. One of the most powerful aspects of what I learned was the complete and utter reliance upon prayer. The power of prayer was not compromised or diluted, as seems so often to be the case here in the west. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ in India. They know and believe, as we do, that Jesus Christ came into the world to live, die, and rise again for our salvation. And now they and we are called to go out into our respective mission fields and point others to Christ through our words and actions. May God make it so for Jesus' sake. Amen.