Called And Chosen
By The Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
I read a story about a woman who went to a pet store to purchase a parrot to keep her company. She picked out a beautiful bird that was supposed to be the smartest type of parrot alive. This parrot was guaranteed to be easy to train to talk. She bought a book on training parrots that claimed the technique taught would have her parrot talking within a week. She took the book and her new pet home.
A week went by and she returned to the pet store and complained, “I’ve followed the book explicitly but that parrot you sold me hasn’t said a word yet!”
The storekeeper was puzzled and asked, “Does it have a mirror? Parrots like to be able to look at themselves in the mirror.” So, she bought the mirror and returned home.
Two days later she was back, announcing that the bird still wasn’t saying anything. The storekeeper thought about it for a moment and then said, “What about a ladder? Some parrots enjoy walking up and down a ladder.” So, she bought a ladder and returned home.
Sure enough, two days later she was back with the same story, the parrot still wasn’t talking. “Does the parrot have a swing? Birds enjoy relaxing on a swing.” So, she bought the swing and went home.
Well, the very next day she returned to the store and announced that the bird had died.
The storekeeper was visibly upset and said, “I’m terribly sorry to hear that!” And then he asked, “Did the bird ever say ANYTHING before it died?”
“Yes,” said the lady. “Just as it keeled over dead, it said, ‘Don’t they sell any food down there’.” (1)
In life we buy mirrors by which to primp; we build corporate ladders and social ladders so we can try to climb higher; and we build all kinds of swings so we can seek out pleasure. But the question we’re asked every time we gather for worship, the question we’re asked each and every day in God’s world is “Where is the food for our souls?” Without that food, without being fed spiritually our spirits will wind up just like that parrot.
That hunger for the spiritual food of life is what drove the two disciples of John the Baptist to seek out and follow Jesus. And once Andrew had found the source of that spiritual food he told his brother Peter. And that act is the perfect example of evangelism, one beggar telling another where they can find bread. Andrew didn’t squander his good news he savored it and shared it.
Our passages today remind us that just like Andrew and Peter; just like the servant in Isaiah, we are all “CALLED AND CHOSEN” as the title describes. From birth on God is calling us. Through what Wesley called Prevenient Grace, that grace of God acting in our lives before we’re even aware of God, the Holy Spirit has been calling and wooing and whispering our names. We are all called by God.
Some of us have accepted that call. We’ve heard God’s whisper and God’s love song in our hearts and like Andrew and Peter, we’ve answered and been chosen. As the b God has poured out blessing upon blessing into our lives. And God has called us to be good stewards of those blessings, those gifts, graces, talents and worldly possessions that God has given us. Our challenge is to be the good stewards we’ve been “CALLED AND CHOSEN” to be.
In life, we can react to the gifts that God has given us in one of two ways. We can SAVOR them or we can SQUANDER them.
A. Mary’s mother, Lois Kimmons, sent me a hilarious true story told to them by their doctor.
He said that a few years ago he bought a small farm from some people who had moved from some city in another state and were going to make their fortune on this farm. They bought a dozen bred heifers. When the cows calved, they sold the cows and bull calves, but made pets of the female calves. They named the calves and kept them in their yard. The calves would come to the kitchen window and lick the glass. Then the woman would bring out peanut butter and feed some of it to the calves.
The woman told the doctor that when the calves were older the mean old bull from the neighbor’s farm jumped the pasture fence and then jumped into their yard and had his way with their heifer Virginia! The women actually used the word rape. She told the doctor that she had the vet give Virginia a shot so she would abort any calf. This couple never bred any of those calves. They didn’t want them to have to go through the pain and agony of a pregnancy!
These so-called “farmers” decided that farming wasn’t very profitable. So they sold their land to the doctor, and bought a small acreage in Florida. They moved to that small place and took their pet cows with them. (2)
That couple SQUANDERED what God had given them. They didn’t use the gift to the fullest extent or even to the purpose it was intended for. This couple lost sight of the purpose and goal. They SQUANDERED their resources and as a consequence, failed.
B. Let me give you one more example of someone who SQUANDERED God’s blessings. I don’t remember her name or the city in which this took place. I read the news item years ago and haven’t been able to trace it down. This is what I remember.
A prominent woman, in her fifties, lost her husband. Although they hadn’t been blessed with children, they had been one of those perfect couples. Beautiful home, successful in business, great life, great social life, active in the community and the church. After his death, she was devastated.
She never really recovered. It wasn’t long until she stopped her involvement in everything, even Church. She still shopped for herself until one day, she discovered that she was drastically overcharged. In her mind, it was deliberate. As a consequence, for the next fifteen years, she refused to come out of her house.
One clerk, from a particular local grocery store began delivering her groceries. Once a week she would phone in her order. After a while, it became a standing order. She always paid cash with a hundred dollar bill. For the next fifteen years, this same person delivered the same thing week after week after week. Fourteen cans of chicken noodle soup, a box of raisin bran, a box of crackers, a gallon of milk, a pound of coffee, a sack of red apples, a pound of cheddar cheese, toilet paper and soap.
The day the clerk couldn’t get her to come to the door, he realized she must either be sick or worse. He called the police. When they got there, they couldn’t get her to answer either. They had to break in through the back door. They found her, dead, sitting up in her bed holding a picture of her husband.
That was strange enough but as you walked through the house, you noticed that there were those brown paper grocery sacks sitting everywhere. There was sack after sack after sack sitting in every conceivable spot. Some were filled with empty coffee and chicken noodle soup cans and plastic milk jugs. Many of the coffee cans were filled with change, quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies.
And the grocery sacks? What didn’t have cans in them had money in them. There were sacks of hundreds, fifties, twenties, tens, fives and one dollar bills. The money was all neatly stacked and separated. When the final count was tallied up, there was over 2.2 million dollars in cash and change sitting around in brown paper grocery sacks.
As they got to investigating, they discovered that this woman had cashed in all of her inheritance shortly after her husband’s death. She had converted it all to $100 bills. And apparently, in her grief, she decided everyone was out to defraud her. So, she SQUANDERED her inheritance by hoarding it. She didn’t squander the money. But she did SQUANDER the potential of that money. And she SQUANDERED her life.
A lot of people do that with the gifts God has given them. But that’s not what we’re “CALLED AND CHOSEN” to do.
A. You and I are “CALLED AND CHOSEN” to SAVOR the gifts God has given us through our SERVICE. We are “CALLED AND CHOSEN” to SAVOR AND SERVE.
I heard a story about a missionary who just got back from Tanzania. This missionary recalled worshipping in a small church where no one would attend without bringing an offering. Everyone brought an offering of some sort. If they didn’t have money, they brought what they had.
They brought fresh produce, hand made items, livestock, food stuffs, whatever. Everyone brought an offering. All of the offerings were brought to the front of the church and placed on, at or around the altar and dedicated to God and the work of God through the Church.
After the worship service, these items were then auctioned off and the funds went to support the ministry of the Church. One woman brought a single egg as her offering. A single egg. She didn’t have much but she gave all that she had.
Sort of reminds you of another woman, doesn’t it. A woman at the Temple. A woman who put her two cents in concerning giving. A woman Jesus praised because she too, gave all that she had.
Both of these women, the one with two cents and the one with the egg SAVORED AND SERVED in the best spirit possible. They SAVORED the gifts God had given them. But mostly they simply SAVORED their relationship with God. And as a result, they wouldn’t have missed being able to SERVE through their giving.
B. A preacher friend of mine, Rev. Richard Donovan, who has a sermon service called Sermonwriter, sent me a story. Dick says his son was the one who pointed it out to him. It points out the kind of life that “SAVORS AND SERVES” that I’m talking about.
Warrick Dunn is the starting running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dunn grew up in a poor home, and he knows first hand how difficult it is for single mothers and their children. Now that he is enjoying some prosperity as an NFL player, he is sharing that prosperity with people who could use a helping hand.
Dunn started a program which he calls “Homes for the Holidays.” He provides a helping hand to single, working mothers who have qualified for a low-income, first-time homebuyer mortgage.
For each mom selected for support, Dunn contributes several thousand dollars toward the down payment and furnishes her new home: from linens on new beds to groceries in a new refrigerator.
My friend’s son notes that Dunn isn’t having such a great season this year. His future in football is uncertain, but he has not reduced his participation in Homes for the Holidays. (3)
Us ordinary folk don’t have Dunn’s fame or fortune, but there are lots of us. And it would be enough if we were to have his big heart and his spirit of SAVORING AND SERVING. For he truly has SAVORED the gifts God gave him.
And that’s what we’re “CALLED AND CHOSEN” to do. The amount isn’t important, but the heartfelt desire to please God is. And God knows we can’t give equal gifts in our stewardship. God doesn’t want equal gifts, just equal giving. God desires giving and living that “SAVORS AND SERVES”. Giving and living that “SAVORS” our salvation. That
“SAVORS” the relationship with God. That “SAVORS” others. That “SAVORS” giving so others can know the love of God, too.
A church board was discussing the proposed budget for the upcoming year. The finance committee had recommended a 10 percent increase. The discussion was building into a crescendo of voices calling for cutbacks and budget reductions. “We can’t afford this!” one board member exclaimed. “This is asking too much of our members.”
One of the older saints of the church asked to speak. He slowly rose to his feet, and in a calm and quiet voice he said, “This church can afford what it chooses to afford. I drive through the neighborhoods where our members live and see new cars in the driveway and boats in the yard. I hear of European vacations and ocean cruises. It is not a matter of having enough; it is a matter of being a good steward with what we have.” (4)
One of those men wanted to SQUANDER the gifts and blessings of life. The other man wanted to SAVOR them and use them to SERVE OUR SAVIOR.
Our challenge, not only during the Stewardship Campaign, but every day that we live is asking ourselves how best to receive God’s blessings. Will we SQUANDER them or SAVOR them.
We’ve each been CALLED AND CHOSEN to follow Christ Jesus our Savior, but the choice of how we do that is up to us. But ask yourself this: “Which one is more pleasing to God?”
God didn’t SQUANDER the potential for Salvation in Jesus. Instead, God SAVORED it. Just as God SAVORS every soul that Jesus returns to Him through cross and the empty tomb.
You’ve been CALLED AND CHOSEN. How will you respond?
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. PEJUL93 Ernest Campbell, faculty of Union Theological Seminary, New York, submitted by Dicky Love+”
2. Thanks Mom!
3. SermonWriter for Year A. Copyright, Richard Niell Donovan, 2001, www.SermonWriter.com
4. From Rev. Gary Kindley
Copyright 2002 Billy D. Strayhorn. Used by permission.