The bible tells us that we are called and claimed by God as God’s own beloved children. In baptism we acknowledge God’s call and claim, and claim Jesus Christ as our savior in response to God’s love.
This morning I want to talk about being called and claimed by God. This past fall we considered that call, especially as related to the Apostle Paul. And just a few weeks ago, some of us shared about "Unexpected Calls: Life Changing Invitations" (12/27) I wasn’t here for that, but hope to hear more about them some time as well.
First – The Bible tells us that God knows us and calls us by name.
What does that mean? It means that the God who created us, knows each of us by name. And God calls each of us by name into relationship with God’s own self.
Further, as we read in Isaiah (43:1), God calls us collectively, in association with others whom he has chosen: "But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine."(NRSV & others) The NIV translation uses the word "summoned" instead of called , to indicate that God is not just giving the people a name or calling out to them, but is indeed summoning them – calling them to Himself.
The God who calls us has redeemed us. Further, God also promises to be with us in all circumstances.
God also promises to bring His people together. "...everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." (Is. 43:7)
Christians see that great redemption in and through Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the price of our deliverance from sin an death.
All who are called by name, and called by the name of Christ Jesus, are part of his beloved people.
> We are part of Christ’s team, if you will. And that should make us feel GREAT!
How many of you remember choosing sides for teams in neighborhood or school recess sports games? The selected captains would call and "claim" their team players. How did you feel when the appointed captain called your name to play on his or her team?
I guess it depended on how you felt about playing on that captain’s team. But for those like myself, who got called close to last for either team, we felt glad just to be called or chosen.
The good news for each of us here is that God has called you and me into relationship. God calls each of us into service, to play on His team! If that does not want to make you praise and shout Amen, nothing will!
And for a team to be most effective and win, they have to practice, work together for a common goal and stay focused. (I’m no expert on pro ball, but just ask the Eagles as I saw on the news last week or so.)
Second – The Bible shows us that in baptism we respond to God’s call by claiming Jesus as Savior and Lord of our lives.
We do that by surrendering our self, our will, to God’s.
We acknowledge that God, our creator, has chosen or ‘claimed’ us or our child. Jesus himself, gave us the example of that submission to God the Father. Luke 3 says (21-22), "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’"
Notice how God, our Heavenly Father, claimed and proclaimed Jesus as his own son. Further, God calls Jesus "my beloved" or "whom I love", even before Jesus performs any miracles or accomplishes his earthly ministry. His love is not dependent on anything Jesus does, except perhaps that first step of baptism, which Jesus says is "to fulfill all righteousness."
Going into a new year, we may have a tendency to regret the past or set high goals for the future. We may be worried or anxious about one thing or another. But God’s words of affirmation should give us hope and assurance.
Roland P. Rink of Gauteng, South Africa shared in the Upper Room a couple of years ago:
"Quietly, over a number of months, I fell into the bad habit of allowing myself to be dragged down into a pit of worry and despair. I began to worry even when I had nothing to worry about. This habit led to pessimism that was not helpful to me, my family, or others around me.
By grace, I found Luke’s account of the baptism of Jesus. God’s Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice speaks directly to Jesus saying, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." In this profound moment, Jesus’ identity was confirmed.
These days, when worry and doubt begin to assail me, I have a new way of dealing with them. Over and over again I repeat these words: You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. In a world of distraction and noise, I find it helpful to remember that God loves me.
When times get tough and the world seems to weigh us down, we can remind each other that we are God’s beloved children. And God is pleased with us." (©The Upper Room, 10/29/13)
And although Jesus would eventually lay down his own life to fulfill his earthly mission, it was not in violence to others or at the expense of other lives. Those who claim to follow Jesus must never murder in his name. I am glad to know that some collective bodies of Christ’s church have repented of such acts.
Likewise, I am pleased see and hear that Muslim clerics and others are speaking out against radical Jihadi and extremists, and are coming together with Christians and others whose families and communities have been victims of violence by those who have acted in the name of their beliefs.
>> We are called to a new and better life with God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
That means having higher standards than those of the common world. It means striving to live God’s way, with God’s grace and the transforming power of theHoly Spirit.
In Christian confirmation, we "claim the name" and faith of Jesus Christ for our selves – for our own lives.
In the life of the Holy Spirit, persons are called by God to serve God’s purpose and plan; some to ordained ministry, others to lay ministry.
And those who are called respond to that call and claim upon their lives, for a season or longer. For that I’m sure they are glad, demanding or challenging as it may be at times.
> The reward of serving on God’s team speaks for itself. . . when someone is helped, guided, encouraged, consoled, or led to Christ themselves.
In part, this is the calling and claim that each and all of us have in Christ. And it’s why today we are Reaffirming our Baptism.
If you haven’t received Jesus as your Savior and Lord yet, I invite you to do so now. Pray for Gods’ forgiveness and put your trust in Christ. Let me know that you have invited Christ into your heart and desire to learn how you may be baptized and follow Christ.
If you’re already on Christ’s team but are sitting on the bench, now is the time to reconnect and recommit. We have many ways you can be involved in making a greater difference in our community and world.
Let’s all make God’s further vision for Church of the Open Door a reality this year!