2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
The ordination service yesterday for Tracy Howe Wispelwey was very beautiful and provocative. After the other leaders of our Shenandoah Association and I officially declared that she is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, all who were present sang this song from South Sudan, where the Christians speak Arabic:
nina kulu Murassalat.
Nina Kulu Murassalat le Yesu!
we are all ambassadors.
We are all ambassadors of Jesus !
This was a very fitting message for the ordination of a minister: it must also fit each one of us who claims the name of Jesus Christ.
To be named as an ambassador is a very noble thing. In the New Testament, Jesus names his disciples to be “apostles” – that is, ones who are sent… which is what ambassadors are.
Maybe you can point to a particular moment in your life with God, when you knew that God was sending you on a mission or calling you to some kind of task. Or maybe you have not yet committed yourself to be such an ambassador or apostle in God’s service: maybe you are putting off responding to God’s call on your life.
In my experience, there were many years in which I gave myself partly, half-heartedly to God’s call. At various times during those half-hearted years, I said prayers of repentance from my half-heartedness: sometimes when my own plans hit the proverbial “brick wall;” sometimes in spiritual moments when I became able to hear God’s voice.
And then there have been the times— some of you have walked with me through these times— when I truly repented (changed my mind) from my half-heartedness toward God’s call and made concrete commitments to serve God and God’s people for Jesus’ sake. Foremost in my heart are the Spring of 2006, when leaders from Bethel called me to serve here as a licensed minister, and October of 2012, when you-all, in cooperation with the Shenandoah Association of the United Church of Christ, ordained me here.
The sin of neglecting God’s call on one’s life is as problematic as any other sin. Try as we may to run or hide, this sin is always gnawing at our guts until we repent (change our minds / hearts).
Happy are those
to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
Your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up
as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to You,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
“I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and You forgave the guilt of my sin.
This is a message of good news: change is possible; God’s forgiveness is freely available: our repentance is the key. While you are alive, it is not too late.
God always calls us to reach out beyond ourselves in self-sacrificial love. So, here’s more good news: the annual One Great Hour of Sharing is coming, this Sunday ! Through our gifts, we can reach out to people like 2-year-old Adi, who went to Christian Hospital Mungeli in India, after suffering symptoms of hydrocephalus caused by tubercular meningitis. The CHM surgeons were able to implant a shunt from his brain to drain excess fluid buildup. Three months after his surgery, little Adi was bursting with a 2-year-old’s energy ! With his ongoing physical therapy there, Adi is expected to have continued improvement. One Great Hour of Sharing supports three workers at CHM: two physicians and an intern, who helped turn CHM around from ruin to success.
Pray about giving to One Great Hour of Sharing: if not this,
then in what way is God calling you to serve?
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
since God is making His appeal through us;
we entreat you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20