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God's Call

At a recent seminar on spirituality, we were told (and this was backed up with data) that here in the UK we are not living in a secular age. All the pointers indicate that ours is a very spiritual age, although for most people, spirituality is unconnected with organised religion. There is a huge variety of spiritual expression and of health and well-being in a kind of DIY spirituality, in which people pick and mix to suit themselves.

People who are exploring this kind of spirituality are usually very open to God, who often works quickly within them. Apparently 76% of people claim to have had some sort of spiritual experience, varying from a smell, to a vision, to a feeling, to a ghost.

Some of those people are actually called by God to a different way of life. And some may be called by God without being aware that God has called them. Many people move into a career or a choice of partner because it feels right to them, but perhaps this feeling of rightness is how God calls them.

About six hundred years before Jesus was born, the poet we have come to know as Second Isaiah or Deutero-Isaiah was called by God and our Old Testament reading today is an account of his calling, written in his own poetry.

The complete book of Isaiah had several authors. The first writer - Isaiah himself - was born about eight hundred years before Jesus and a very clear account of his call is given in chapter 6. The second writer, Deutero-Isaiah, was a couple of centuries later and his call came just before the end of the Jewish exile in Babylon. This second writer had seen plenty of suffering in Babylon and struggles to understand the problem of suffering, in relation to God. Why does God allow suffering? What does it all mean? Second Isaiah gives his own observations and theology in his wonderful "Suffering Servant" poems in chapters 42-53, which have since become seen as an amazingly accurate description of Jesus.

When Deutero-Isaiah was called by God, the people had been suffering in exile for years under a foreign power, so Deutero-Isaiah's call is full not of God's warnings and threats, but of comfort and hope. In a hopeless situation, God offers his people hope through their new prophet:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

The punishment is over, the price has been paid and it is time now to prepare for the way to recovery. So the call continues:

"In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

Like the Suffering Servant songs, these are well-known words because they have been picked up by the gospel writers and used to refer to John the Baptist. But in the gospels the meaning has been slightly altered to read, "A voice of one crying in the wilderness", since John the Baptist came from the wilderness. In the Isaiah version it's the people who are in the wilderness, so the passage reads, "A voice of one crying, "In the wilderness.."

The Isaiah passage continues, because Isaiah wants God to tell him what he should say to the people:

A voice says, "Cry out!" And I said, "What shall I cry?"

The answer is that he's to tell the people that even though everything on earth eventually fades and dies, including human beings, God always remains steadfast and strong. God will never fade and will never fail. And the final verse is a wonderful description of how God views his people and how he will deal with his people:

He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Perhaps if we look at our own lives we can see a similar pattern to the pattern of Israelite society. Like the Israelites of old, we too have bad times, but during those bad times God tenderly carries us and cares for us. And these bad times are invariably followed by good times. The danger is that like the Ancient Israelites, we tend to forget God during the good times and look for him only when we desperately need him because there is nowhere else to turn.

Our non-churchgoing society has a noticeable spiritual hunger, a hunger which it tries to satisfy through all kinds of pick-and-mix alternatives to organised religion. Just as God called Deutero-Isaiah, perhaps God is calling people now to go out from the Church into society, to tell people about our Suffering Servant Jesus, about how Jesus can still impact on our lives today and to tell people about God's steadfastness and deep love for them.

Are you one of those people? Is God calling you? Have you asked him what you should say?

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Easter 6
30 – Sermons
110+ – Illustrations / Stories
26 – Children's Sermons / Resources
20 – Worship Resources
25 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
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160+ – Illustrations / Stories
27 – Children's Sermons / Resources
25 – Worship Resources
27 – Commentary / Exegesis
4 – Pastor's Devotions
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140+ – Illustrations / Stories
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28 – Worship Resources
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Trinity Sunday
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New & Featured This Week

The Immediate Word

Thomas Willadsen
Dean Feldmeyer
Mary Austin
Christopher Keating
Katy Stenta
George Reed
Bethany Peerbolte
For May 9, 2021:
  • One Nation Under God? by Tom Willadsen — What would the United States look like if we truly were “one nation under God?” What would it be like to live in a place where everyone was treated as one who has been “born of God?”
  • Dying Is Easy by Dean Feldmeyer — Dying is easy; living the gospel is hard.


John E. Sumwalt
Frank Ramirez
“Waking Up to Racism” by John Sumwalt
“Twists and Turns” by Frank Ramirez

Waking Up to Racism
by John Sumwalt
Psalm 98

Let the floods clap their hands;
    let the hills sing together for joy
 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.
(vv. 8-9)

Emphasis Preaching Journal

David Kalas
In the mid-1960s, a popular song declared, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of.”1 It was an era of both national and international unrest. And the American landscape was reeling from the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and opposition to both. Amidst headlines so marked by unrest and division, therefore, the sentiment of the song struck a chord with an American audience. 
Bill Thomas
Mark Ellingsen
Frank Ramirez
Bonnie Bates
Acts 10:44-48
Prejudice is always wrong. Nat King Cole is a well-known artist who was the first African American to host his own national television program. In 1948, he purchased a beautiful home in an exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood. When the local neighborhood association confronted him and informed him it didn’t want any undesirables to move in, Cole responded, “Neither do I. If I see any coming in here, I’ll be the first to complain.” He lived in that house until his death in 1965.


John Jamison
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (vv. 9-12)

Hi, everyone! (Let them respond.)

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Call to Worship:

Jesus gave up his life for us. In our worship today let us explore how to love one another as he has loved us.

Invitation to Confession:

Jesus, sometimes our love for each other is thin and pale.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, sometimes we pretend to love but fail to care.
Christ, have mercy.

Jesus, sometimes we don't know how to love.
Lord, have mercy.


John E. Sumwalt
Jo Perry-sumwalt
One evening, when I was 26 years old, beleagered by guilt for acknowledged sins, I was deep into an hour-long prayer of repentance. In despair, I grieved that I had broken the commandments and that I was not worthy of God's love.

Near me lay the Bible, unused and unfamiliar. I had never, ever read from the Bible. Yet my hands reached out and took the Bible to open it. I knew not where, nor why. But my hands knew the way. They opened to John 15:9-11 and as my eyes began to read, my mind knew the meaning with clarity. My eyes read verse 10 first:
Mark Ellingsen
Theme of the Day
God's love brings us together.

Collect of the Day
It is noted that God has prepared great joy for those who love Him. Petitions are then offered that such love may be poured into the hearts of the faithful so that they may obtain these promises. Justification as a reward for our deeds (love) is communicated by this prayer.

Psalm of the Day
Psalm 98
Stan Purdum
(See Christmas Day, Cycles A and B, for alternative approaches.)

Richard E. Gribble
Once upon a time a great and powerful king ruled over a vast territory. There was something very strange about this kingdom, however -- everything was the same. The people ate the same food, drank the same drink, wore the same clothes, and lived in the same type of homes. The people even did all the same work. There was another oddity about this place. Everything was gray -- the food, the drink, the clothes, the houses; there were no other colors.

Special Occasion