6th Sunday after Pentecost
(proper 8, lectionary 13)
Tagged, Touched and Called, by Pastor Kinsey
As a lifelong Lutheran, it’s hard for me not to see my life tagged and called by God. Though, of course, there are many who were baptized when I was, back in the day, who no longer believe. But to me, everywhere I look, I see the hand of God at work.
Some of my earliest memories are of going to Pine Lake Lutheran Camp every summer, where everything we did was connected to Jesus, it seemed like! Like a baptismal renewal, we jumped in the lake for Jesus! We had a mission as church group, joining the Spring Clean-up, to paint cabins for the upcoming summer season. The whole community took turns helping in the kitchen, and all the kids wanted to be tagged as the one to ring the dinner-bell to call everyone to eat. We began every meal with prayer, and at sunset, we sang Vespers, or Evening Prayer together. Even using the common bathroom and shower facilities was tied to our calling as Christians, I remember, because we had a song we sang, “Go Down Moses”, that ended with, “Let my People Go!”
Whether at play or at work, in church or the world, I felt God’s touch, tagging me to be the follower of Jesus God desires, from an early age.
That touch of God, is also etched into my mind by the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel depicting Creation. God, as the grand elder with white beard, reaching out to the youthful Adam, the earth creature, a mere whisper away. You can almost feel the sparks, the power of that moment when humankind was born, Adam’s finger, ‘this close’ to God’s!
Does the artist depict the moment just before, or just after, they touch, when God creates human beings? And does God’s tag represent a one-time big-bang explosion like the spark that ignites a furnace, or is it more like the beginning of a continuing engagement of the Creator and creatures? Surely, it captures for us all, who know this picture by heart, that God has touched and tagged us as the people of God!
On this Pride Sunday, we can see God expanding our horizons, that sexual orientation and gender identity are created in many and various ways beyond what our old lives could have imagined, and that falling in love and building a relationship is a wideness as stunning as the spectrum of light represented in the rainbow flags that will wave proudly down Broadway this afternoon.
What does a call from God, a call to use your gifts for the sake and the need of the world, feel like to you?
The Prophet Elijah in our First Reading, “tags” Elisha to be his protégé, by throwing his mantle, his coat, over him. Elisha doesn’t seek this, he’s just out plowing fields, but in the midst of life, he is called to this service – he is identified as, a “somebody.”
The elder Elijah has been under call from God his whole life, pretty much, “tagged” to be the mouthpiece of God, to feed the widows, and to fight evil and corruption in his country of Israel. He comes to feel burdened and alone, in his later days – it has been a tough row to hoe, and a very difficult time in Israel’s history. Its leaders are corrupt, trading justice and mercy for their own benefit. ‘Am I the only one left, God, who is willing to listen to you?’ Elijah wonders. ‘Have I a failed? Is everything lost?’
Each of us in our own baptismal vocation has been called out by God for service in the world every day. That service is lived out, Luther believed, in four arenas… family, daily work or school, citizenship, and church, each equal and valid calls.
I’m delighted, as well as a little afraid, to proclaim today that you been tagged by God. You’ve been touched for the prestige of this call… made kings, queens, presidents if you will, in your baptisms into Christ Jesus’ realm! What an honor!! What a privilege and responsibility! If you were baptized as a baby, you probably didn’t seek it. But God continues to call us out along the way.
And once you start to live it out, no one can dispute that this call, this tagging, this vesting and putting on of Christ, is also a challenge… we often feel our livelihood and meaning, positions at work, our church, our society, sometimes our homes and relationships with family, are hanging by a thread, about to go under, or be torn apart. We hold our breaths and sometimes wonder if we are up to the challenge.
When Elijah felt alone in his work of Israel’s prophet, God reassures Elijah, “There are still thousands of other faithful ones”. And to make it real, to point him in the right direction, God “fingers” 2 new kings, and one new prophet, who will partner with Elijah to bring the faithful remnant, the people of God, together, to rebuild.
Grudgingly, Elijah rises up, trying to remember and feel the call one more time. Discouraged and doubting, Elijah can conjure no words with which to address Elisha, he can only throw his mantle on him, as he keeps on walking. Why should a rich young man want to follow you, Lord? Is this another false lead? He doubts that Elisha will understand this call, and he finds it hard to invest in this new project God is envisioning.
But Elisha does feel tagged, and he comes running after him, excited, “Please, just let me go back and kiss my family goodbye, and then I’ll be right with you!”
Elijah at first brushes this off as only a half-hearted attempt to follow, dismissing him, if Elisha’s not willing to follow. But in a surprising act of faith, Elisha shows his commitment by slaughtering his whole herd of oxen, burning up the equipment of his now former life -his plow- to cook one huge barbeque and celebrative community feast. And with this pleasing odor, this burnt offering to the Lord, Elisha “liquidates his assets”, making a generous offering to God, and proclaiming a complete break with his past. ‘Tagged’ by God, he lives now by faith in his new vocation.
How has God tagged you for a life of faith? And how has God touched us as Unity Church to be a blessing for the world? What is the gift that we have to bring? What are doubts that are holding us back?
We have been “tagged” by God, and are ‘this close’ to God’s healing and creative touch! In St. Paul’s language, we are “called to freedom”, and should take care not to “submit again to a yoke of slavery”.
Like Elisha, a mantle has been thrown over our shoulders. It is ours to try on for size. We may fidget and fuss with this new garment, unsure if it really is a good fit. But like our baptismal garment, the white robe or dress that was traditionally given to begin a new life, reborn, and recreated in Christ, it is, a tailor fit, for the Kingdom of God.
In Christ we are a new creation. We are reborn by water and the Spirit. We are called by God and fit for a mission. So let us put hand to plow, and not look back, trusting in what God has in store for us, as we walk together.