You’re standing out in a field with your flock of sheep. You haven’t bathed in some time, and you are half covered in sheep poop, because that’s just the nature of the work. You are the youngest of eight brothers and an unnamed number of sisters (!), so this lowly, dirty job falls to you. One of your older brothers comes running out of the house and says, “Come quickly! Samuel, the judge of all Israel, is sitting in the house with Dad and has asked to see you! He is choosing a substitute king to take the place of Saul.”
So you sprint into the house and arrive, breathless and sweaty and stinky. You are young, haven’t even stopped growing, and you don’t know much of anything besides sheep. Samuel is old, sitting in a chair that your father Jesse has placed for him. Samuel takes a good long look at you and says, “God chooses you.”
Another scenario: After your mother’s death, your father has remarried a horrible woman with two daughters of her own. You are relegated to doing all the scutwork, and they mock you. You feel about this big. But somehow you magically get dolled up and go to the ball, where you flee at midnight, losing a slipper. And when the prince comes knocking, looking for the owner of the slipper, it fits your dirty little foot. And the prince says, “Cinderella, I choose you.”
Or your name is Meghan Markle, and you get to live your own version of the Cinderella story. How likely that the monarchy of England would include a biracial American? Only now it does. Imagine if she’d had a crystal ball that told her, as a kid, what her future would be. Imagine that when people asked her what she was going to be when she grew up, she said, “I’m going to marry a royal prince and be the Duchess of Sussex in the English monarchy.” People would say, “Yeah, well, good luck with that.”
Or your name is Rosa Parks, and you have gone to some nonviolence training as part of the Civil Rights Movement, because you believe that all people should be treated equally. And when the time comes for someone to speak truth to power by refusing to move to the back of the bus, the movement says, “We choose you.”
Or you are a virgin named Mary, living in Nazareth, which is such a nothing little wide spot in the road that the Hebrew scriptures never even mention it. You have no formal education, no special smarts or speed or whatever. And yet, an angel appears one day and says, “God chooses you to bear God’s son.”
Given the opportunity, these individuals bloom like mustard seeds, thrive, live into their full potential.
Each of us is chosen. It is up to us to figure out two things:
What does God choose us to do and be in this life?
How do we respond?
We get to spend time in prayer, in meditation, in discernment to figure out what that call is and to decide how we will respond. How do we show up to a call that is scary? Freaking out about a call is okay—just don’t stay in that space. Feel overwhelmed. And then figure it out. Lots of prayer, lots of deep breaths, lots of asking for help.
The call may not be glorious. It could be very difficult. Maybe you are called to take care of an ailing spouse. Maybe you are called to show up at rallies and public hearings to talk about justice. Maybe you are called to be a teacher, a parent, a grandparent, a builder. Maybe you are called to get sober and then help others do the same. We are not all called to be Cinderella or King David or Meghan Markle or the Virgin Mary. Some of us are called to be a Rosa Parks. All of us are called to be fully our own selves, owning and developing and using all of our gifts and talents for the benefit of the broader community.
Here’s how important it is to consider our call as individuals and as Church community. Just in the past few days we heard Jeff Sessions quote Romans 13: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Let me just hold up Jesus Christ as one example of one who spoke truth to his own authorities. Jeff Sessions is taking the name of God in vain—be suspicious when government has to rely on this use of scripture to justify what is not justifiable. And perhaps you noticed in our scripture reading today that God appointed Saul as king, and God later thought that wasn’t such a great idea, because Saul was not a good ruler.
We are called to be our best selves. We are called to live for a cause greater than ourselves—for community, for a better world. There are families being split up today, toddlers and babies being separated from their parents, waiting for the rest of us to express our outrage. We are called to show up. And then to give the results over to God.
We are called to thrive. Our call doesn’t guarantee riches and fame and glory. It may mean a ton of work. And it’s what we’re here for, what gives our lives meaning. We get to show up with a yes on our lips and a whole lot of love for God and the world in our hearts. And we will grow like mustard seeds, we will turn from young shepherds into kings. The kin-dom of God is like that. Amen.