Introduction – Right Pathways
Last week, in my piece entitled, ‘The Call’ I disclosed publicly for the first time, that I knew I had been called to ordained ministry. Honestly, I surprised myself with the disclosure. It was not my intention when I began the message to share that, but, I have come to take delight in following the Lord as He leads me along the right pathways every week for His name’s sake. I’ve learnt, therefore, not to protest, but simply to go along. As God instructed Joshua after the death of Moses, I have learnt not to turn from the instruction of the Lord to the right hand or to the left so that I will be successful wherever I go. So, for last week’s disclosure, I say, ‘To God be the Glory!’.
The Cloud of Witnesses
Now that I’m no longer a slave to fear and have accepted and declared my new identity, what might I behold in this week’s readings but declarations in the Lesson (Isaiah 49:1-7), the Psalm (Psalm 40:1-12) and the Epistle (1 Corinthians 1:1-9) from those whose boldness in faith add to the foundation of our faith.
In Isaiah 49:1-2, the prophet trumpets,
‘Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.’Isaiah 49:1-2
Not wanting to digress much, I insert here, I now understand why my words caused me such woe as a child with my mother, and in my career. This messenger has spent much of her life dodging bullets.
Continuing to the Psalm, in verses 10-11 (of the Psalter), David declares,
‘I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I did not restrain my lips; and that, O Lord, you know. Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance; I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.’Psalm 40:10-11 (The Psalter)
And, laying it on heavily, Paul, in the opening of his epistle to the Corinthians says, ‘Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, […]’ (1 Corinthians 1:1). Apart from the characteristic style of Paul and of his day, the opening makes it known who he is, without a doubt. The opening removes any doubt from the mind of the reader or recipient about his identity. Can’t you just hear Paul declaring, ‘Let it be known, before all else this is who I am in Christ and because of Christ’?
I reflect upon these three examples of men who did not conceal who they were in the Lord, these men who accepted their God-given identity and responsibility and I wonder, ‘If they weren’t afraid, why have I been?’ It is almost my moment of shrieking (not running into the streets naked now), ‘Eureka!’. As written in Hebrews 12:1-2, ‘Therefore since [I am] surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let [me] also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let [me] run with perseverance the race that is set before [me] looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of [my] faith, […]’, I have now, perhaps, finally decided to lay aside every weight and the sin (of fear, of disbelief and of denial of who I am as called by Christ), that clung so closely to run with perseverance the race that is set before me.
I Was Afraid to Say Who I Was
Friends, I am not shy to say that I have now accepted that I was afraid to declare who I was prior to last week. New year, new me, I guess! I hesitated, I doubted, and I avoided accepting that that was who I am. You know, there are moments in our journey towards purpose when we experience a jump to the next level, or something triggers our movement to the next level. Just over one month ago, in conversation with someone, I was asked the question, ‘What’s holding you back?’ As the old year gave way to the new, it finally dawned on me, that, in my stalling and avoidance of my call, I was the hindrance to my movement forward.
On the purpose journey, the one thing that has been proven over and over is that God does not impose His will on us. We must choose. If you will recall, in my piece entitled, ‘Faith’, I pointed that out. Without understanding what I was, at the time, saying to myself, I asserted, ‘it can all fall apart if I do not choose’. Little did I realise in producing that piece that I had been choosing without selecting…if that’s possible. Well, I suppose, as we say locally, ‘you can’t be halfway pregnant’. And, boy, was I insisting that I could be halfway pregnant! I thank God for sending that person along my way for the question set me on a path of introspection, only to learn that I was my own hindrance.
Your Light is Meant to Shine
Now, you may find yourself in such a position on your own journey towards purpose. You’re at a crossroads at which a crucial decision must be taken, and without even knowing it, you have stopped to try and decide whether you should continue. As I share this, I’m reminded of the exchange between Neo and Morpheus in the first of the Matrix movies. It’s the scene in which Morpheus offered Neo the red and the blue pills with the option either to take the blue pill and return to life as he knew it or the red pill and be awakened to the truth. Of course, we know that Neo chose the red pill and stepped into a world that was beyond his wildest imagination.
Providing further direction and continuing with this week’s readings, is the Gospel, the heavyweight in our weekly readings. This week’s Gospel is John 1:29-42 in which in which two key things happen:
- John happily identifies Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (verse 29) and
- Jesus calls his first disciples – Andrew and Simon (Peter). Do you know what I find remarkable in this account of the call of the disciples? In this account, Jesus didn’t call them as He did in other accounts. Rather, in this one, because they accepted Him as the Lamb of God, they eagerly went after Him. Still more remarkable is that Andrew was one of John’s disciples, but, recognising Jesus for who He was, left John to follow Jesus.
You might be interested to note that scholars have pointed out that Jesus is most emphatic about His identify in the Gospel according to John. This is the only Gospel in which can be found the seven ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus. What am I saying? Knowing and accepting who we are is a strong pull of others towards us. Knowing and accepting who we are allows our light to shine before others more brilliantly. It is also to be noted that the Gospel according to John begins with a declaration that this light (Jesus) shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
Friends, when we accept who we are in Christ, which is a key point along the journey towards purpose, we effectively cease hiding our light under the bushel. The light that was placed in us was meant to shine before others. I urge you, therefore, not to be afraid of accepting who you are. I urge you to continue working towards identifying your true self. I urge you to take the red pill, to pursue truth, the full truth about yourself, for when you do, not only will a world beyond your wildest imagination be opened to you, but also, others will see that light and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Conclusion – Knock and It Shall be Opened
Friends, if you find yourself standing at the door of this crossroad of your true self, just knock, for, as we have been promised in Luke 11:10, ‘for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened’. And, when the door has been opened, I guarantee you that among the things that await you will be the infinite love of the Father, the peace of the Son and the joy of the Spirit!