15 January 2023

It is a joy and a blessing to be called by Christ – as we all are. Answering the call is not easy, however, and asks of us, as it did of Jesus, a commitment to giving of ourselves, to making the sacrifices – small and large – that allow the reign of God to be manifest in our lives and in our world. Sacrifice is not a popular word, but it is one that needs to be rediscovered if we are to address the massive challenges facing our world.

I pray that our worship gives us the courage and the faith to lay down our lives in service of Christ and God’s reign again.

Isaiah 49:1-7: Isaiah’s second servant song seems to refer to both an individual and to the nation of Israel. Either way the message is clear – the work is hard and leads to mockery and rejection, but God will make God’s servant a light to the nations and will ultimately bring the servant praise and recognition.

Psalm 40:1-11: Praise for God’s grace and rescue, and a commitment to serve God and proclaim God’s justice.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9: God has gifted God’s church with all they need to serve in partnership with God, and to remain strong until the return of Christ.

John 1:29-42: John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit, and two of John’s disciples follow Jesus. One of them, Andrew, calls his brother Simon to meet Jesus, and Jesus names him Peter.

Following on from Jesus’ baptism, his mission is now proclaimed and affirmed in the readings this week. The prophetic song of Isaiah’s servant holds challenging foreshadows of Christ’s sacrificial life. The psalmist’s commitment to serve God is echoed in Jesus’ own ministry, as is God’s gifting of followers of Christ in God’s church. Finally, as John testifies, Jesus is the one who leads people into transforming encounters with God (baptism in the Holy Spirit) and who is the “Lamb of God” who will be sacrificed for all people. The Scriptures this week hold Christ up for us as the example of one who is called, and one who has responded to that call, and is committed enough to make profound sacrifices in service of God’s reign. Like the first disciples, we also find ourselves called, and needing to respond and commit. Along with the call is God’s equipping – the hope of God’s ultimate glory (as reflected in the Psalm and Isaiah), the Baptism of the Holy Spirit given by Christ and the gifts God has given to God’s church, spoken of by Paul. If God’s reign of justice and love is to find a place on the earth, it will be through faithful, sacrificial followers of Christ who have responded willingly to God’s call.

Global Application:
It seems amazing to say it, but one of the most significant shifts that needs to be made in the world is for every person and organisation to recognise their part (their calling) in addressing the great challenges we face, and to embrace the necessary sacrifices required to bring about justice. On a global scale this involves wealthy nations making such changes as doing away with trade restrictions and unjust trade subsidies and reaquirements in order to level the playing field for poorer, less powerful nations. It may involve refusing to use sweat shops, and doing the necessary checks to ensure that producers of the products we import and sell are treating their workers fairly. It may mean cancelling third world debt, and prioritising health care and getting medicine to those who need it over the profits that can be made through these medicines. It may also mean, for those who live in poorer countries, addressing the corruption and lack of accountability that sometimes plagues aid in these countries. These are just some thoughts, but if we are truly to follow the Lamb of God, it will not be without significant commitment and sacrifice. As we work for these changes, we may be mocked and threatened, labelled and rejected. But, ultimately, as the world’s systems change, so God’s reign is manifest, and God’s life is made available to all.

Local Application:
Answering the call to follow the Lamb of God, as Andrew and Peter did, is a daily decision made in the little details of how much we consume, what and how we buy, what we drive, where we live, what we eat, how we use energy, how we work, how we treat others and how we care for ourselves. Many of these decisions result in sacrifices that we would probably prefer to avoid. At its heart discipleship is about recognising that our faith is not an individual journey, but is connected into community. Our choice to sacrifice or not impacts others in our churches, neighbourhoods and world, and so we find that as we follow Christ, we are brought face to face with others, and the impact of our choices and lifestyle on them. To make the sacrificial changes that will lead to a more just world – the world that Jesus proclaimed – we need resources beyond ourselves. For this it takes both the recognition that the Christ we are called to follow is the Lamb of God who calls us to take up our crosses, and an openness to receive the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” – the transforming, empowering encounter with God – that John said Jesus would offer. But as we embrace the life of sacrifice and of following Christ, we each become foundation stones – Peters, rocks – in the reign of God being built among us.

The Call Of Compassion
A Small Price, Really
Counting The Cost
Faith That Carries The Cross

Hymn Suggestions:
A Charge To Keep I Have
The Church’s One Foundation
May The Words Of My Mouth (Link to YouTube video)
I Give You My Heart (Link to YouTube video)
I Will Offer Up My Life (Link to YouTube video)
Everyday (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Celebration of Sacrifice

Video Suggestions
Could There Be Peace?
A Voice In The Wilderness