The Message, January 15, 2023: "Born to Serve," Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42

The Message, January 15, 2023: "Born to Serve," Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
January 16, 2023


“Born to Serve”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42

            Are you called? Have you felt a calling in your life? Do you feel called to pursue a particular career? Or … do you feel … or hear … another calling for your life?

            When I was in high school, I was very active in my church. Of course, having a mother who is a minster meant that I was at the church A LOT when I was growing up. However, in my earlier years it was often against my will. (Sorry, mom.) But when I was in high school, I was actively involved of my own free will. I was in the youth group, I helped with the middle school youth group, and I helped teach the Kindergarten Sunday school class. It was at that time that people started telling me that I should go into the ministry.

            I scoffed at the notion. I enjoyed being involved with the church, but I certainly was not called to the ministry. That was for other people. That was for older people. And excuse me for saying this … that was for boring people. My apologies to the other ministers in the room. But I was seventeen years old. Everyone is boring to a seventeen year old. Despite the encouragement of others, that was not my calling.

            Now, just because my mother was … and is … a minister, did not mean that I was born to be one too. It is not a bloodline succession. It was not my predetermined destiny. Yet, I did feel called to serve. As I grew up, I had contemplated becoming a police officer. I wanted to help and serve the public. After that, my dream was to become a nuclear physicist. I was going to help solve the containment problem of nuclear fusion. I was going to help save the world! I received a degree in Political Science in college with the hope of going to law school. My desire was to become a diplomat and serve the global community.

            I was not born to be a minister, but I was born to serve. And so are you.

            Consider those words that we heard from the Prophet Isaiah. In verse five, Isaiah said, “Now Yahweh has said … the one who formed me from the womb as a servant for him.” Formed by Yahweh … formed by God … within the womb to be God’s servant.

            Of course, you may be saying, “That was Isaiah! The greatest of the prophets. That is not me!” Where have I heard that before?

            We are created by God. We are a manifestation of the love of God. We are created in God’s image, we bear a spark of the divine. God is in our DNA. God’s breath is our breath. Our spirit is God’s spirit.

            God calls us when we are in the womb. Not just Isaiah, or Jeremiah. Not just Paul, or James, or John. We are all called, we are all formed by God. God’s intention for us has been set before we are born. We are called to serve. We are BORN to serve. We are God’s light.

             That may sound awfully intimidating. “What?! Me?! God’s Light?! I cannot do that. That is way too big a task for me!”

            Calm down. Be not afraid.

            This passage was written to the Children of Israel when they were in captivity in Babylon. The words were spoken to and through Isaiah, but they were spoken to God’s people. The call was to Isaiah the individual AND to Israel, the people. It was an individual call and a corporate call to all of God’s Children. God’s call is to the one body that is made up by many.

            The call to serve is a call to the entire community. It is a covenant with God and a covenant with one another. We as individuals are to be God’s light to the world, and we as a community are to carry forth God’s light. And we are called to do it together.

            God made it clear to Isaiah. He was not called to simply gather his own people, as if that was a simple task. In God’s vision, it was. Being a light to one’s own people is too small a task. We are called to be a light to the nations. We are called to serve ALL people.

            Do you feel it? Have you felt the call tugging at you? Leading you? Have you responded?

            God knows that it is not always easy. God knows that it is not always clear. God knows that it may seem overwhelming and the path uncertain. God did not abandon us to our own devices. God did not forsake us. God’s love came down. God’s Word became flesh and lived among us. God said, “Let me show you the way.”

            Human history chronicles our struggle to find our way. There have been times when we have answered the call in dramatic and meaningful fashion. And there are times when we have failed to respond and the results have been heartbreaking and devastating.

            God’s love became flesh. Jesus Christ came that we might know how to respond to the call that God placed within us. John testified to that reality. “There he is! There is the Lamb of God. There is the one who will take away the sin of the world. There is the one who will restore our relationship with God. There is the one that will show us how to respond to that longing that we feel in our hearts.”

            John’s account of the call of the disciples is very different than those that we read in the other gospels. He begins with John the Baptist pointing the way. John the Baptist telling all that would listen that another is coming, one who was greater that he was. And as Jesus rose from the waters of baptism, John realized that HE was the One! He was the One that had the Holy Spirit of God descend upon him. He was the One who clearly possessed the power and presence of God.

            John the Baptist said to his followers, “There he is!”

            In the other gospels, the disciples were going about their every day lives. They were working, supporting their families and their communities. There was no indication that they were searching for anything or anyone. But in John’s Gospel, the disciples were searching for something. They thought that they had found it in John the Baptist, but John had told them, “No. Another is coming. Another that is greater than I am.”

              John the Baptist was not gathering disciples for himself. He was the voice in the wilderness. He was the one that prepared the way for the one who was greater.

            And then he appeared. Jesus appeared in power, and John said, “There he is!”

            As we heard in the passage this morning, on that day, John was standing with two of his disciples and saw Jesus. John pointed him out to his disciples, and the disciples began following him. They did something that would probably creep out people in today’s world … they started walking behind him.
            Then Jesus turned and addressed them. The very first words that Jesus utters in John’s Gospel were addressed to those two disciples, “What are you looking for?”

            Not, “Hey. What’s up?” Not, “Hi. What are you doing?” Not, “Can I help you?”

            “What are you looking for?” And the two responded with a curious answer, “Where are you staying?”

            Again, to our twenty-first century ears that sounds like a strange question. Again … kind of creepy. (“What are you looking for?” “Umm … where do you live?”) But, to the First Century ears, it was a very different question. The Greek word for “stay” used here implied or asserted a relationship with God. It refers it being permanent rather than occasional or sporadic. That question offered by those two disciples referred to the in-dwelling of God. Understanding that makes Jesus’ response even more clear, “Come and see.”

            Jesus extended the invitation, “Come and see.” Look and learn.

            As they will see, and what we already know, is that Jesus was telling them that they were going to experience God for themselves. They were going to discover the truth about Jesus and about their relationships with God. Jesus was going to show them through their own personal experiences.

            On that day when John the Baptist said, “There he is!” the disciples were looking for something, searching for their Messiah. They were searching for their “Anointed One” who would lead them to freedom. What they did not realize was that their Messiah was also looking for them. Jesus was looking for those who were ready to respond to the call placed upon them by God.

            The disciples likely had no idea what finding the Messiah would mean for their lives. They likely did not realize that they could meet the Messiah just walking down the road. They were looking for their Messiah, their salvation. Did they realize that finding him would result in a new vocation? Did they realize the response that Jesus would ask of them?

            It turns out that being saved, or being found, is not a spectator sport. It is not, “Thank goodness! I found the Messiah! Now I can just sit back and relax.” Encountering Jesus touches that tug that we feel within us. Jesus Christ helps us respond to the call of God. Jesus helps us recognize that we are born to serve God … created to serve God.

            Jesus says to us, “What are you looking for?” What are we looking for?

            Are we looking for peace? Peace in the midst of the chaos and noise of our world? Peace in the Presence of God?
            Are we looking for healing? Healing from the pain and wounds inflicted upon us by a world that has failed to embody the love and care of God?
            Are we looking for safety and security?
            Are we looking for a vocation? Looking for a life of meaning and purpose?
            Are we looking for a sense of community? Are we looking for life-giving relationships?
            Are we looking for grace? Forgiveness for the ways that we have failed? Forgiveness for the ways that we may have hurt others?

            Jesus says, “Come and see.” “Come and learn. I will help you experience the Way of Love.”

            God has placed a call within us. God’s call is in our DNA.

            God calls us to comfort the people. And God calls us to confront those who seek to cause harm.
            God’s call assures us that we are under God’s care and protection.
            God calls us to embody what it means to be the people of God.
            God calls us to hang on in hope … to persevere … even when times are difficult and discouraging.
            God calls us not to be surprised when the call results in a vocation that is larger than we ever imagined.
            God’s call asks to go to places that we never dreamed.

            Yes … we are born to serve. We are God’s servants. We place our faith and trust in God and we respond to that call because we know that God will be with us.

            What are you looking for?

            Come and see. Amen.  


Congregational Church