God beckons us in the most unusual and exciting ways. Slow to anger and quite creative, God challenges us to pay attention to the small things and follow Christ. Whenever God calls us to serve, we are transformed by an experience that strengthens our faith and conviction in the love of Christ. It is in these times that we clearly see what Christ calls us to do: love unconditionally.
In May, small, premature Celeste was born weighing three pounds and five ounces. Life-sustaining tubes were affixed to every orifice of her body as she lay in the small incubator. Yet, this fragile gift from God brought new life to the tired nursing staff and renewed hope to her family. Holding Celeste was similar to holding a cloud, light but full of life. A smile came across her face and love erupted into the room! Instantly, unconditional love burned in the hearts of the staff and parents alike, as Celeste became that transforming experience of love that transcends all human boundaries. She is a testimony of God's love and beckons her family back to church to follow Christ in a new way!
In Matthew 9:9 Jesus beckoned Matthew to follow him and become a student of life and love. By society's standards, Matthew was not the best example of a faithful servant. His background as a tax collector, zealot, and a man prepared to engage in violence with anyone who disagreed with him made him a risky choice. But Mathew was passionate about life. God looked beyond his faults and used his passion and availability to follow Christ.
Hosea was available to God late in life and had a choice of whether to serve him or not. He preached about living under the "conviction of sin and the correction of God" to an unbelieving community. It is the grace and love of God that keeps us and strengthens us as God's free willed instruments of peace. Hosea chose to continue to preach an unpopular message of love. Our human flaws illustrate our passion. God's grace transforms our passion and energy into creative power that builds the kingdom of God. Our responsibility is to repent and return to God and say, "Here I am. Send me!"
God's promises can only be fulfilled through faith. In Romans 4:13, God's promise to Abraham is fulfilled because of Abraham's faithfulness. Through faithfulness Abraham received and accepted God's grace. God's grace is unearned and undeserved and can only be accepted through faith. Our faith provides a vision for a future church , a church without boundaries, an altar table where people of all races, classes, and colors, gather to worship God in love and peace. Through our faith, we receive God's grace to build a new church that embraces the non-traditional vision of our youth, cherishes the tradition of the orthodox, and prepares a place for all. When we fall short in our faith, God steps in because when our faith fails God remains faithful. Our faith requires us to follow Christ in a vision we can only see through our spiritual minds.
In today's climate of fear and frustration, we are called to be available to the love of God. It is our choice to be available to build a new church as a place of refuge for all people. The new church under the General Convention's vision of 20/20 can only exist and succeed if we seriously consider the reality of faith. James 2:14 (RSV) teaches us that "faith without works is nothing;" Hebrews 11:1 (RSV) teaches that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen." With faith we can build a new church that meets the needs of all. With faith we can knit and bind together a nation in love and trust, seeking Christ in each person we meet. And treating that person as though, he or she were our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Like Mathew, we can choose to follow Christ. Like Hosea, we can choose to deliver the message. Like Abraham we can live into the promise of God in faith. But it is by God's Grace that we are forgiven, strengthened, rejuvenated, and transformed in the love of Christ. Each day we make decisions about our life. Some are conscious or automatic, while others are spontaneous requiring very little thought. Yet, we always have a choice to follow Christ, live a life of love, and embrace those who we can only love through Christ.
St. Francis of Assisi wrote a prayer about being an instrument for God. St. Francis asked us to consciously consider being God's instrument of peace, to understand rather than seek to be understood, and to love rather than be loved. God does not ask us to be perfect, just available in spirit and truth, and to proclaim the message of love. Today, let us choose to be available to God in prayer, to love unconditionally, and to build a church whose doors are open to embrace all who seek a deeper meaning of Christ.