Sermon Title: Called to Obedience
Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11
June 23, 2019
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Well, here we are. Our final worship together.
I want to start by telling you how much I appreciated the gifts you shared last night. The windchimes are perfect! If you’ve been to my house, you know how much I love them. Olaf assured us that it will only take two weeks to get used to this one. I love the deep sound and the reminder of each of you that I will have each time the wind blows.
Thank you Choir for the beautiful sign, it says “this Little Light of Mine.” Lee thank you for the beautiful earrings, prayer shawl ministry – Joannie, Cheryl and Barbara – thank you for the beautiful shawl. I told everyone last night that Friday when I was packing up some things for the new pastor – prayer shawls were one of them. I thought, gee, I wish I had one!! And now I do. Thank you to Linda for a beautiful dogwood teacup! So special! Thank you!
And a huge thank you to everyone who contributed to the gift card and cash. The generosity of our church is legendary, and I thank you for your gifts. Many of you know that I haven’t known where I will stay, starting next week, since the house hasn’t sold, and we can’t move into the new house yet. Your gift allowed me to rent a place for a month – and I’m house sitting for my new boss for two weeks, so I’ve got six weeks figured out. Hopefully that will just about be enough to get us through to our own home closing in Sahuarita.
Finally, a huge thank you to Krishun and Olaf for opening their home and for everyone who brought food to share. It was an epic church potluck!! Thank you all.
So, now is the time when I’m supposed to impart words of wisdom that hopefully will bring closure to our ministry together and prepare you for the new beginning with Rev. Michael. As I was preparing to write this all I could think about is each of you and how our lives have been intertwined for the past seven years. I have been in your homes, laughed and cried together, we’ve shared great joys and have prayed for guidance and healing.
I have spent very private time with many of you, praying for deliverance from addiction, release of guilt for past sins, and encouraging each of you to be the best disciple of Christ, following in His footsteps, stretching and growing into the call that God has placed on your life. Each of you has impacted my life and I pray I have left little piece of me behind with you as well.
When I arrived in 2012, we were a fellowship, a fellowship with a huge dream to be a church and to move into a new place of ministry and relevance in the community. The leaders at that time dared to dream of a time when they could afford a full-time pastor and the decision was made to step out in faith, knowing that when we are obedient to the call, God provides. And he has.
Seven years later we have grown considerably as a congregation: in sheer numbers, in influence in the community and in mission and ministry in our city and surrounding area. We participated in ministries like Family Promise, began a mats for homeless and prayer shawl ministry; went on two mission trips, to Baton Rouge and Salt Lake City.
We have participated in mission projects like Panera bread pick up for the senior center, we collected supplies for the animal shelter, and food and toiletries for emergency aid. We sponsored a family in Africa for a year, helped two women get back into their own housing. We put on events like Luminaria and Las Posadas, an Easter egg hunt for the city, fundraisers like Loaves & Lobsters and the pumpkin patch. We volunteered at city events – Spring Jamboree, Damboree, Best Dam BBQ and Art in the Park.
During the past seven years we made the decision to expand our ministry with our LGBTQIA+ sisters and bothers first by becoming a member of the Reconciling Ministries Network and then by starting the PFLAG of Boulder City and put on many programs and trainings for the community.
We expanded our leadership team, adding depth to our teams and involving more people in the day to day ministries of running a church. We became involved in Nevadans for the Common Good and have helped influence a number of systemic changes in our laws and programs that help all Nevadans. We’ve studied the bible together and even gathered at the pub for some theological discussions (remember Theo Pub?).
We have worshipped together – Easter, Pentecost, Advent, Blue Christmas, and Christmas Eve. We grew our music ministry program from one pianist to a whole choir!! We’ve celebrated baptisms, renewals of baptisms, confirmation and the welcoming of new members. I’ve married a few and buried a few. We’ve done it all!
I feel confident in saying that our work together is coming to an end. We have fought the good fight and we have finished what God sent me to accomplish.
When I came to you seven years ago, I knew that one day, I would move to another congregation but that doesn’t make today any easier. You see, when I answered God’s call to ordinated ministry as an Elder with the UMC, I did so knowing that my greatest call was to obedience. Obedience to God and obedience to the calling he has placed upon my life. I will go where God sends me.
Isaiah 6:8 says, “8Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” That has been my experience since the time in the late 1990’s when I heard God’s voice asking, “who will go for us?” “Here am I,” I said, “Send me!”
When I was ordained, I committed to obedience. In the UMC tradition that means that I will be itinerant, I will go where God sends me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Bishop and the appointive council. I understand that this is done with much prayer and discernment and I have seen God throughout the process.
Agreeing to be obedient takes away the worry of “what if?” I mean, IF God has called us, and we have agreed to follow, then we can trust that God will be guiding us each step of the way, even when it seems that God has it wrong! Or is late! The key is to maintain confidence and not to get discouraged when God’s timing differs from our own.
Many of you know that I have been in limbo for weeks. No buyer for our home, no job for JJ, no place to stay until our house closes. Now, my plan was to sell the house weeks ago, close on the BC house tomorrow, close on the Sahuarita home on Tuesday, and move in and unpack the rest of the week. I’d be all set before I am scheduled to begin work on July 1.
For whatever reason, God’s plans are different. And what I know about God is that God’s plans are always better than my plans. I can’t say that these past few weeks haven’t been stressful, they have, but only because I failed to remember that God has called us to this appointment and God will provide for all the details…of course, in God’s perfect timing. He won’t provide for just some of the details, but all of them. I am called to obedience and that is the space I choose to live.
Am I the only one called to this obedience? I mean, is it only pastors? Are we the only ones who get to be obedient? What does it even mean to be obedient? When I think of obedience, I think of dog obedience. Perfect performance of given tasks and then being rewarded with doggie treats. Sit Pretty! Lay Down! Speak! Down! Stay!
Some of you dog owners/trainers know what I’m talking about. Is obedience just a behavior that we learn and then practice the rest of our lives, without really thinking about it? Just a rote response to a command with the expectation of a reward?
Being obedient to God is the response we have, when we surrender our will to God’s will and agree to live our lives putting Christ first. Putting Christ first means that we are agreeing to doing things God’s way. It means being obedient.
If I have taught you nothing else, I pray that you will remember that each one of us has a call. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul says, “1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” It doesn’t say IF we have been called, but it states worthy of the calling you have received. It’s a done deal. We all have been called.
The best part about calling is that we aren’t called to things that we have no talent or gifts for. God leads us, through the calling of the Holy Spirit, into those things that best demonstrate the ways that God is working in our lives.
Years ago, I heard someone say that God doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called. It’s a good thing because most of us aren’t very well equipped when we first receive a call to do something outrageous or courageous for God.
All of us are to be obedient to God, not just me, not just your pastor. When we all agree to be obedient then God reminds us like he did the Prophet Jeremiah, “11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” God wants the very best for us. He wants us to have a future with hope. We are wired for hope, not despair.
Obedience to the Lord is the safest, securest, most restful place you can find yourself. When the waves of the world come crashing down upon you, obedience to God draws us into the protective cocoon where we can regain our balance, our strength and find peace in the knowledge that God has our back.
So, I live my life being obedient to God and pray that you have made that decision also. Because of that decision, today I must do what I don’t wish to do and that is to tell you all goodbye. I’m awful at goodbyes…I think we all are. So, borrowing the words of the song that Jeff played before service began, words from the Sidewalk Prophets’ song “This is not Goodbye”:
This is not goodbye
I know we’ll meet again
So let your life begin
‘Cause this is not goodbye
It’s just “I love you” to take with you
Until you’re home again.
I love you all, Amen
 https://genius.com/Sidewalk-prophets-this-is-not-goodbye-lyrics Accessed June 22, 2019.