“Everything Needed”

In this passage from what some think to be Peter’s last will and testiment there is a wonderful promise. “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness”   Everything! To be called to ministry means that God has already given us what is needed. To do more studying on how to respond to the challenges we face, to pray for more or better leadership or more people with greater giftedness is just Gideon-like hiding out. Here, in this place, as a Meeting together, we have been given all the resources we need to be fully the instrument to serve the kingdom of God as God intends.


 

 

 

Ministry, whether of our Meeting or carried on by many other parts of the Body of Christ, is consistently challenged to maintain its vision and mission. And though it may be self defeating it is understandable why we might, at times become anxious about what more we need to face our challenges? Let me put it this way:

 

Judges 6:11-16 tells us that Gideon was was stewing over why God was not caring for God’s people. He was wondering why they were not seeing miracles and wonders like in the good old days. Does that ever occur to you? We look around the our community, our state, our nation, our world and wonder how come God allows this or that horrible thing to happen. When we don’t see God acting in ways that we think God should be acting, how often do we think God has forgotten us and left us on our own? Well, it needs to be pointed out every now and then that drawing our attention to the hardship of another is one of the clearest ways God calls us. Gideon was so anxious that he was hiding in place where no one would expect to find him, staying out of sight of his enemies and trying to thresh wheat in a winepress.   It is as if God says “Look here. Here is a need to be met.” God knew where Gideon was, what he was doing with his life and what gifts he had been given.   The angel of the Lord appeared and said to Gideon “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” God spoke to the person God knew Gideon to be. God saw Gideon for who Gideon really was.

 

Gideon questioned what he could do, since his clan was small and he was not mighty. Sounds like a good Quaker excuse. But then, how often do we, when God calls us, question the calling? The Lord answered, “I will be with you.”  When God tells us to do something, we need to know that God wouldn’t ask us to do it if we didn’t have all the resources we need.  God knows right where we are and what we are doing. God knows our heart like he knew Gideon’s. God knows the abilities each of us have because God gave them to us. And they were matched to the tasks to which God calls us.  

 

Sure, when God calls it is only reasonable to question if it is truly God calling. We will question what is currently happening or what is not happening. We will question why we are not seeing great wonders and miracles, such as God performed in years gone by. We will wonder why God is not taking care of the injustice, inequality and oppression in the way God should be doing. As these thoughts come, we wonder if it is God calling, or if we are just imagining. And then if we listen, we again hear God say “Go in the strength you have……., Am I not sending you?”

 

There’s a great story of four men meeting a challenge in Exodus 17. As Israel tells it, the Amalekites attacked them at Rephidim.

 

9So Moses said to Joshua, Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. 12But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.”

There is a history of God calling a Moses, sometimes, a Joshua and even an Aaron but what about Hur? We know a good deal about Moses, Joshua and Aaron but who is fellow Hur? In Exodus 14 God says: “Moses, you do your part and I will do mine.” When you’re doing God’s work, God will do God’s part. It’s important to see that Moses doesn’t have it all to do.   He acknowledges those with more appropriate gifts, people who are faithful and then gets out of the way.

 

It had been over four hundred years since Israel had had a military engagement. To add to that the state of Israel’s morale is illustrated by all that they were complaining about. Joshua probably didn’t have many to choose from but he did not complain. He worked with what God had given. The point is that rather than complaining about what we don’t have, we need to employ what we do. … we do our part and trust God to do God’s part. So Moses tells Joshua, “I will pray for you.” Now, for Joshua, that provided great encouragement. So first Moses acknowledges the giftedness of Joshua giving him the opportunity to employ his talents and then encourages him. When Moses said, “Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand” Joshua knew he had Moses’ support and all of God’s power behind him as he went into battle.

The real twist of this story is that whenever Moses’ raised his hands the Israelites were winning but whenever Moses lowered his hands the Amalekites were winning. How about that—the battle wasn’t in the hands of the warriors at all, it was in the hands of Moses. Like most battles this was a spiritual battle. When we engage in ministry we are doing battle with the forces in creation that are about injustice, inequality, oppression and bondage.

But Moses arms got heavy. He couldn’t keep his hands raised. Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands … one on each side … literally, a supportive role. I’m afraid we’ve given inadequate importance to supportive roles as together we face our challenges.

Of course the outcome depended on God, but, who do you think was most instrumental in Israel’s victory that day? Was it their leader Moses? Was it the great warrior hero Joshua? How about Moses sidekick, Aaron? Or Hur? Hur was no a high profile – marque celebrity—yet he too played an essential role in the story. Some roles seem more important than others, requiring wondrous gifts and talents—not so with Hur, but God used him.  

 

Quaker spirituality is much akin to Ignatian spirituality. It is about the movement of God’s grace within us. This sounds like a Quaker quote but its not, it’s from Ignatious: “so that the light and love of God inflame all possible decisions and resolutions about life situations.” Through the immediate work of the Holy Spirit our God is an active God, ever at work in your life and mine, inviting, directing, guiding, proposing, suggesting. This understanding of God animates and gives our spirituality its internal cohesion. Our worship practices are designed to help us be more attentive to this active God. It is an active attentiveness to God joined with a prompt responsiveness to God’s leading.

 

I know, we can’t keep from pondering our unworthiness and inadequacies, yet our own weaknesses and failures need not inhibit us. It just could be the very part of us that God can use at the time. God is working in our lives now and we are to respond now. This is certainly Jesus’ attitude when he called the first disciples. Jesus directed Peter to cast his nets into a place on the lake where Peter had already had no luck fishing. “Sorry, Jesus, been there, done that!” Despite his objections Peter still makes an enormous catch, a clear sign of his call as one of Jesus’ followers. He immediately raises the familiar “unworthy” objection. “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” he says. And this was certainly true. What I like about the story is that Jesus ignores him.

 

Jesus surrounded himself with no counts. Remember Matthew’s initial encounter with Jesus? He was a tax collector, an agent of the hated Romans, who made his living by extracting money from destitute peasants. Jesus met Matthew sitting at his customs post and said simply “Follow me.” And the response: “He got up and followed him.” Later Matthew threw a party to celebrate his new life; he invited his old friends to come and meet his new ones: “many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.” When the Pharisees objected to this spectacle Jesus replied, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” We can find hope for ourselves in that.

 

The Gospels show us Jesus entering into people’s lives and inviting them to follow him—right from where they are, from boats and fishnets and from tax booths. He does not demand that they first run to the synagogue to get pure. Neither should we postpone our response to God until we deal with our neuroses, our character flaws, our brokenness and sinful behaviors. Our response to God grows and matures and deepens over time. It is a process, not an event. Paul writes to the Corinthians that “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it.” (1 Corinthians 3:2) God will give us what we need. If we are beginners, or if we are troubled and weak, God will give us milk. Later on God will serve up solid food. All along the path we will be answering God’s call to “follow me.”

 

Our response to God has a particular quality to it. God initiates; we answer. We do not strike out on our own. We don’t hatch big plans. We are to “follow.” To follow means that we adopt a kind of active passivity toward the action of God. “Active passivity” is a spirituality of attentiveness, of watching and waiting, of noticing the ebb and flow of our feelings and inner dispositions. The question for which we seek an answer is “What more does God want of me?” We are loved by a God who loves without limit. We love him in return. What more can we do to love him?

 

This is the question that the rich young man asked Jesus in the Gospels. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus reminded him of his duties as a good Jew: to love God, keep the commandments, and love his neighbor. “All of these I have observed from my youth,” he replied. He wants to do more. At this, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” He tells the young man to get rid of his possessions, and to “follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21)

 

Jesus challenges the young man—and us—to give over what we claim as our own. This may be our material possessions, it well could be our ideas, our desires, our big plans—but I’m going to argue that the thing most likely which needs to be given over is our giftedness.   It is especially the gifts God has intentionally entrusted to us that God wants us to give back. Will we offer them to God and to God’s shaping and forming and using them? He looks on us with love. What more can we do to respond to this love?

 

The apostles may all have passed from the scene, and the social and political culture surrounding the church may have been taking a more threatening turn, but it is still true that in the apostolic teaching the church has been provided and entrusted with the power and the promises it needs to thrive in faithful witness.

 

2nd Peter 1:1-3

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

 

In this passage from what some think to be Peter’s last will and testiment there is a wonderful promise. “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness”   Everything! To be called to ministry means that God has already given us what is needed. To do more studying on how to respond to the challenges we face, to pray for more or better leadership or more people with greater giftedness is just Gideon-like hiding out. Here, in this place, as a Meeting together, we have been given all the resources we need to be fully the instrument to serve the kingdom of God as God intends.

 

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