10th Sunday after Pentecost – A LSB #’s 783, 915, 698
Text – Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those He is calling according to His purpose.
CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE
Shortly after arriving in North Dakota, I began spending a lot of time calling people I attended seminary with but had not seen since graduation. We were all new to the ministry, yet each of us already had unique stories to tell. It was fun hearing their voices again & laughing with them. For friends, living thousands of miles apart, the telephone is a tremendous blessing.
And, as with all blessings, there comes a price, but I’m not thinking of the phone bill. Telemarketing is the slick name for the price you pay of having a phone. Most people react negatively when they’re on the receiving end of that kind of call.
There’s disappointment; 1st because we hoped it might be a friend calling & it wasn’t, & 2nd, because we don’t want to hear the sales pitch. We do not enjoy being manipulated. Do you ever get that feeling of being manipulated when someone is talking religion?
Perhaps you find sermons to be like that? There goes the preacher again, up on his high horse, trying to tell us how to live & how not to live. Why should I stick around for that? I have got better things to do!
I’m still suspicious of religion that way myself. And there are far too many preachers out there simply trying to manipulate you for their own purposes. Some years ago, there was one who had an air-conditioned doghouse for his pet. He was manipulating people in order to serve himself.
However, since God is the active force in our salvation, in many respects it does not matter what kind of preacher you have. It is God Himself who is calling you, regardless of the manner in which He does it, or through whom He calls. The sermon text states that God is calling you according to His purpose. Are you listening? Are you paying attention?
I used to work for a customer that, when he received a call that was a sales pitch, he’d simply state, “I don’t take solicitations over the phone.” Then he would hang up. And there are plenty of other times that we’re on the phone when we really don’t want to be.
Maybe the kids are screaming in the background, or you’ve just gotten home from an exhausting day. Maybe we’ve had a few hours where everything we tried went completely wrong & we are at the end of our rope. Hanging up on whoever is calling can become a very tempting option.
But if you were to answer the phone & it was God on the other end, would you hang up? If you were able to believe it, & to keep your senses, would you even dare to think of such a thing? The answer appears simple & obvious, “No.” How could I dare to hang up on God? Still, before we become too proud of ourselves, let’s examine our lives more closely.
Actions speak louder than words, & what exactly do our actions reveal? Maybe you’d rather not look, but that’s where this sermon is going. When is the last time you were regularly involved in Bible study? That’s always an easy one for the pastor to throw out there. That isn’t really hanging up on God, is it?
Another solution would be to study God’s Word on your own. Our denomination offers tons of Bibles, booklets & devotional aids to use in personal study of Holy Scripture. But, even in personal study of God’s Word you can get off base, & it’s so difficult to relate those old stories to my life in the computer age.
Hopefully, you’ll get to thinking, “Well, all right, my excuses are sort of like hanging up on God.” So God does not call to us in only one way. We have three means of grace that Scripture teaches about & God comes to us in all three. He promises to be with us in Holy Communion. How often is it that you come to the Lord’s Table? Do you take God up on His personal promise to meet you there, & erase your sins through it? When you understand how sinful you are, & what God is offering there, you’ll want to commune as often as it’s offered.
Or is it that you don’t feel all that sinful? Has the devil convinced you that you’re okay? Have you adopted the attitude that you’re no worse than anyone else, so everything should be all right? If you’re blowing off God’s invitation, to receive His Body & Blood, you are hanging up on God. PAUSE
After God’s Word & Communion, the 3rd means of grace is Baptism. Luther taught that through it we have an ongoing, day-to-day death to our sinful nature. In other words, everything that we’ve done wrong, in every instance that we have fallen short of perfection, in each area where we’ve failed; Christ has already paid for it, & God has already forgotten it.
Are you unable to forget that you aren’t as good as you’d like to be? Because of pride, are you still trying to make up for your own failures? Are you suffering from regret for the many times you’ve hurt someone, or hurt yourself? Do you still punish yourself by trying to pay for your own sins?
Maybe you look at the pastor & excuse yourself by saying, “I’ll never be good enough to be like that!” Holy Baptism was given to you by God, to reassure you that every day He forgives & forgets your sins. God Himself promises that in His Holy Word. God declares you “good enough.”
The devil is the one trying to convince you that eternal life depends on what you do, or don’t do. But it doesn’t. It can’t. If it did, there would BE NO salvation. Satan is the one giving you the sales pitch. The heavenly Father is calling you according to His purpose. Though your baptism occurred years ago, He is still calling to you, through your baptism, every day. At baptism His Holy Spirit took up residence in your heart. He lives there. God wouldn’t live inside you if you were not worth the death of His only begotten Son. Yahweh chose you, & He loves you. Why do you ignore His call?
The Holy Spirit, living in you, creates that inner longing to follow Jesus & to be conformed to the likeness of that same Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit who motivates you to answer when God calls. In order to hang up on God, you have to go against the Spirit that lives in you. As you grow in your faith you will recognize that battle more clearly.
One of the things the Missouri Synod has taught very strongly, throughout its history, is that God only promises to heal us in His Word & in His Sacraments. You may find God out in nature or while meditating, but nowhere in Scripture does He promise to heal your soul there.
The devil wants you to doubt God’s promises. He’ll offer you another promise, just like he did to Adam & Eve. And then, when you’ve taken up Satan on his offer, he’ll pull the rug out from under you leaving you stranded. He’ll even turn on you & accuse you of being a fool.
Suddenly, the wide & easy path, that Satan tempted you with, will seem much closed in & narrow, a tunnel leading nowhere but straight to hell.
That’s why it’s so important to know God’s Word, & to place your faith in it. It’s there that God reveals to you His love & His way to eternal life. When we read of Jesus’ struggles, with the weak & foolish disciples, we can see the truth of our own lives right there in God’s Word. At times, it’s like God is telling my own story, of my foolishness, & of my doubt.
Maybe you’re confused about God’s plan for your life. I’ve been there & done that. I can sympathize with you because, quite frankly, it stinks. Maybe you just don’t feel certain about where to turn to for help. Even as Christians, God will allow times like those in our lives, in order to teach us how to trust Him. Through times of struggling & doubt our Lord teaches us to recognize His call, & He teaches us to trust in Him alone. PAUSE
Here’s a story to illustrate that point. A boy is caught at the window inside of a burning building. Smoke is billowing up into his eyes. As his father calls to him, the boy says, “Dad, I’m afraid to jump, I can’t see you.” But his father calls back to him, “It’s okay son, I can see you & I will catch you. Jump!!”
That Father is your almighty, perfect, & loving God who always sees you. He’s calling you through His means of grace & they’re found right here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. Jesus is calling you to trust in Him because He will care for you & He cannot fail.
If you jump from the things that are convincing you to hang up on God, your Savior will come to your rescue. In fact, He’s already here waiting. When your Lord calls it’s not like a telemarketing call. God’s calling has the power to make you what it is that He is calling you. God’s Word has the power to make things come into being from nothing.
Telemarketers don’t give you the money to respond to their offer. God does. He gives you the faith, the hope, the belief in His promises, & it’s God Himself who makes you His child.
In the Epistle lesson, Paul wrote, “And those whom He predestined, He also called, & those whom He called He also justified, those whom He justified He also glorified.” Those verbs are in the past tense. Paul is speaking of our glorification as something already done. That’s how certain Paul is of God’s calling. For him our resurrection is already a done deal.
Today, here & now, God offers to you that treasure, the very Kingdom of God. He’s offering it to you in the waters of your baptism, in His Word, & in the very Body & Blood of His Son. The God who created you is calling you to receive eternal life, the renewal of your soul, & the removal of all the sin & death rotting away inside. In the 24th chapter of Luke it reads, “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer & on the 3rd day rise from the dead, & that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations…’” (24:46-47 ESV)
That forgiveness has been proclaimed to you this morning & through the power of that proclamation, He calls you to eternal life. That is God’s purpose for you. Amen.
Today Your gate is open & all who enter in shall find a Father’s welcome & pardon for their sin. The past shall be forgotten, a present joy be given, a future grace be promised, a glorious crown in heaven. Amen. LSB 915:2.
 Romans 8:30 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet