Summary: I delivered this sermon following my own ordination ceremony. It encourages people to answer the call of God on their life.
Answering the Call, Mathew 16:24-26
When I met Bill Ellerman I was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps, stationed in Yuma Arizona. Bill was a retired Baptist preacher who happened to be the father in law of a woman who my wife worked with at the time.
Bill was a wonderful man. He was the kind of man who exuded a kind of godly presence and love. When you spent time with Bill you felt better for having done so. In fact, after I knew Bill for a while, it came as no surprise that everybody who knew Bill called him dad.
One day I was talking to Bill about the sense of God’s call on my life that I have almost always had in my heart. When I became an active Christian at the age of 16 I immediately began to wrestle with the sense that I had deep in my heart and spirit that God had somehow called me into the gospel ministry.
I often wondered why God would choose a messed up kid like me from Northern California. How could He could possibly take a rough around the edges Marine and turn him into an ambassador of grace?
One particular day I asked Bill if perhaps we could have a Bible study once a month or even every couple of weeks so that he could tell me stories about the ministry and help me to begin to prepare to pursue the ministry.
Bill said that he would do one better. He told me that the following Sunday I would be going with him to Emerald Springs retirement community and to come with a sermon prepared because I would be leading the service.
I was scared to death at the prospect of preparing and delivering a sermon! I wasn’t ready for this. Though I had spent a lot time studying the Bible, I had no formal ministerial or theological training to speak of. I had taken an Old and New Testament survey course; I was by no means a theologian.
Well, in typical Marine Corps fashion, I figured that the best thing I could is get a manual. I went to the bookstore and found a book of the best sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Spurgeon is a well known English preacher from the 1800’s.
His sermons are poetic and powerful.
And he, like me at the time, never had any formal theological training. He relied completely on his Bible, his reason, and the Spirit of God.
To a young would-be preacher this seemed the most appropriate place to start.
I spent every free minute I had that week pouring over Spurgeon’s sermons. By the end of the week I had prepared a beautiful sermon filled with pros of every kind and metaphors which could match the quality of any poet.
At the end of the week I sat my wife down in our living room so that she could hear as I read to her what was to be the first of many wonderful sermons.
Then I watched in horror as the expression on my wife’s face faded from joy to confusion and ultimately to absolute bewilderment; it was then that I realized that I had written something very beautiful and dreadfully useless.
After she could stand hearing this sermon no longer, she stopped me mid sentence said, “You know the way that you just talk to people when they ask you about the Bible or about God? Why don’t you just prepare a sermon that sounds like that?”
It was like a light went off inside of my head when she said that. How could have escaped me? Why was I making it so difficult to just share the love of God as it has been revealed in the Bible?
A few days later I showed up at the retirement village and met my friend Bill there. He directed me to the small pulpit in the cafeteria / chapel and I made my way there. As I walked to that pulpit I was awfully nervous. My palms were sweating and I’m sure that stuttered through some hello’s and handshakes to the 15 or so people seated in that room.
But once I stepped behind that pulpit, something happened to me that I will not likely ever forget. Something changed inside of me. My nervousness melted away, my speech slowed to a reasonable pace, and I really felt as though I was right where God wanted me to be.
It felt natural to speak to the people about God’s love. It was wonderful to quote the Scripture and see people respond to it. From that point on I chose to pursue the gospel ministry.
I sought out places to preach and teach. Nursing homes, rescue shelters, no pulpits were too small and no crowd was too poor or sick for me. Then, as now, I just wanted share the message that God has put inside of me. I just wanted to share His love and mercy to a world so full of pain.