by Rev. Dr. Noriel C. Capulong
SU Church/ May 21, 2017
Scripture Text: 1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 1:4-8; John 14:12-17
Today is the day we have set aside for the annual election of officers of our church. Our church electoral committee must be commended for their real hard work in really spending time, even extra time preparing for this elections. In the midst of their hard work, they noticed one chronic problem every time they prepare for elections of officers like this. There remains this difficulty of finding those willing to be nominated. There is this chronic problem of finding those willing to serve and willing to respond to the call to serve. In fact, the list of nominees took time to be completed and finalized because of a number of those who refused to give their consent.
This is quite an unfortunate situation for a church like Silliman University Church whose membership could be among the most talented, most gifted and whose skills are so varied covering so many areas and disciplines. May be, just like the San Francisco Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team, with a strong, deep bench, full of talent, each one willing to be sent out to play, nobody gets left behind in the bench. Each one can play strongly motivated. Each one knows his role in the team and each one so conscious of always playing as a team.
In the same way, Silliman church also has a deep bench when it comes to talent and variety of gifts, but very few are willing to come out and play, or do their share in pushing forward the programs and the ministries of the church.
And there are so many reasons advanced for refusing. I am too weak in public speaking, I can’t preach, can’t teach, can’t lead, I can’t sing, I lack skills, I am too young. I am living too far, I am too new, too ignorant of church work, most of all, I am too busy.
But then, let’s listen to what the Lord says through the prophets. In Jeremiah 1, clearly, it reveals that when God calls, age doesn’t matter, the amount of knowledge or learning doesn’t matter. Jeremiah was called when he was but a mere youth, a young teen ager. At any age you can be called and summoned to serve whatever may be the training or background you may have.
In 1 Samuel 16, at the moment of the call of David, it shows that when God calls, he doesn’t look at appearance as a basis for His calling, he doesn’t look at the status, or educational attainment. David was the last and the least among his brothers to be considered for the office of king, being just a mere shepherd boy and the youngest, the most immature among the eight siblings. But when God calls, He doesn’t look at any of these things, he looks only at the heart.
God looks only at the heart because the heart, as understood in ancient Hebrew understanding, is the primary part of our body that represents the personhood, the whole being of the person. The heart does not only refer, the way we often assume, to the emotional, sentimental aspect or feeling level of the person. The heart, in Hebrew, refers to the power of decision making. It refers to the will, the will to decide, to accept, to commit, the capacity to remain loyal, faithful and trusting in a relationship. It refers to our capacity to enter and keep a relationship of complete loyalty and obedience to someone we acknowledge as Lord and master of our life.
This is what God saw in the heart of David. He saw in the eyes of this young man the heart of a fully trusting servant no matter how youthful and innocent he may be. Now, when God looks at our own heart what would He see? What indeed is in your heart right now? Does God see a heart that fully trusts or a heart that is full of doubts, worry, fear and suspicion and mistrust? Whatever is in there you can’t hide it from God’s eyes. But one thing is clear from our two texts in Jeremiah and 1 Samuel, when God needs you, God will pursue you no matter what, no matter what excuses you may offer. There is only one thing God requires of the person- trust. Do we trust God enough?
In our text in the Gospel of John, Jesus provides for a very crucial dimension in calling and commissioning his disciples whom he was about to leave behind. He has already chosen them long before. They have been his constant companions in all his works of mission, in his preaching, healing and teaching. They have seen his mighty works, his miracles that did wonders in the life of people and even in nature. Now that he is about to leave them, Jesus gives a very moving statement to his beloved disciples.
Earlier, we said that God has called leaders and prophets like David and Jeremiah because they trusted the Lord in spite and despite their inadequacies. The Lord saw what is in their hearts and they in turn trusted him and followed the leading of their God.
Jesus however, in our text, replaced the word trust with the word believe. From hereon, the word believe now becomes the key word. Jesus tells his followers: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
As Jesus’ followers, are we really capable of doing greater works as Jesus declared? Jesus himself said it. Yes we can, but only if we believe, only if we trust with all our heart, willing to do everything in his name. Yes, everything we do here in church, in our worship, in our outreach, in our Bible studies, in our retreats, in our organizational meetings, in all other programs of the church. We do all this, only in his name, not in the name of anyone else. When we sing together, pray together in worship, we do this not for ourselves, not to please us, but primarily to praise our God and honor him.
And as we believe with all our heart, we have and are already doing greater things than these. For every soul that that has experienced the joy of hearing the gospel being preached, being read and being sung, for every heart that becomes reconciled back to God and becomes filled with hope, for every Sunday School kid that becomes so excited in listening to the latest Bible story that will be taught to him, for every hungry child that is fed and becomes fascinated with the gospel story as it is shared to him, for every prison inmate that hears the word that forgives and assures him of God’s love, for every act of participation that you do in the various ministries of the church, whether as CWA, or UCM or CYAF or CYF or as choir member, or as an officer, you participate in the doing of far greater works.
For you know that Jesus started his mission and left this world with only a small group of his followers making up the first congregation of the Christian church. But now, certainly this early church has exploded into what has become the biggest and most influential movement in all history. What the followers of Jesus did has come out to become far greater works than what Jesus had started. But as they believed, and as they trusted in the power of their God, the Lord sent to them a companion, the advocate, the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus himself to all those who, in faith and trust, will continue his works.
When we do God’s work, we are not alone. The Spirit of the Lord fills up where we may feel so inadequate. The spirit takes over when we feel we are already on the edge and feeling so exhausted and even hopeless in what we are doing. As Jesus says, this is the spirit of Truth which the rest of the world cannot receive and cannot understand. For we don’t see it nor can we ever fully know it. We just feel it, empowering us with the truth of what we believe and the truth of what we are doing.
Most of all, we can feel the power of the Spirit at work when we do God’s work because we are driven mainly by the power of His love. It is love that saves us, and transforms us, a love that gives us hope even in the face of seemingly hopeless situations and enables us to love back by doing the work of God. We do God’s bidding, not because of the compulsion of commandments. But we do God’s work purely in response to the love we have already received from God through Jesus. Thus, as we believe and trust, we work, we serve, in all thankfulness and gratitude to the kind of saving love we have already received. We than share this love through works of service and witness to all others who still need to experience such kind of redeeming love from our God.
To love then is to obey, to obey is to serve. With love inspiring us to serve, giving us the motivation to offer ourselves in pure service, then greater works can indeed be possible even now, beginning today. May it be so. Amen.