Summary: God calls us all. Our problem is not knowing what we are called to do, it is having the courage to do it.
It Takes Courage to Dance
A calling from God comes to us all. It is our vocation, the reason we take up space on this crowded planet. We recognize that our calling may not be our career. Nevertheless we long to be used to make a difference. My experience leads me to believe that the problem with our calling is not so much deciding what it is but having the courage to follow God’s calling. Most of us have a fairly good idea of what are vocation is leading us to do, what we lack is the courage to do it. Because to perform our calling demands risking our name, money, time, or some other commodity that we can’t bear to lose.
Nothing happens without courage. Courage is the opposite of the status quo. Without courage Hitler rules the world. Without courage we would speak Russian. Without courage we could be a colony of Britain. Without courage diseases would still be ravaging our continent. Without courage we would still be lost in our sins. Courage is the prelude to our calling but it is the prelude to change.
It took courage for Clarence Jordan, in the late 1950’s, to set up Koinonia farm a community of racial reconciliation in southwest Georgia. It took courage to stand up to the KKK. It took courage to stay to the task when part of the farm was burned and machine gun fire was a common occurrence.
It took courage for Dorothy Day an unwed mother and journalist to fight for the rights of working poor in NYC. It took courage for her to write columns demanding that Christianity follow in Jesus footprints and care for the poor. She had to confront the religious authorities of her day to found the Catholic Workers Movement.
It tool courage for Albert Simpson, the senior minister of a prestigious Presbyterian church in NYC to leave the church when they refused to accept Italians immigrants for church membership. He went own to establish the first American missionary training center.
To celebrate courage does not mean we praise every act of bravado regardless of motive or results. Many foolish things have been done in the name of courage. Some things seem courageous like religious zealots insisting that everyone agree with their position. Courage is easily disguised as fear. When people are driven by fear they will do anything to protect their turf.
Courage is certainly not limited to grand and illustrious movements. The mother who decides to stand up to her daughter about her boyfriend who may be cool but is not acceptable is courageous. The man who refuses to give in to the cancer but looks to God to do his will is courageous. The truth is that most of us are, who we are, because of a series of courageous people.
One of the people who made the biggest difference in my life was Jim Courson. He was the first full time youth minister we had in our church. But it would never had happened if a bunch of courageous families had not said we need a youth minister and we can afford one. They put their money where there mouth was and Jim was hired. He made a difference in too many lives to recite this morning but it would have never have been if their had not been some courageous people who responded to God’s calling with their gift of generosity. Whatever your calling it will take courage to follow it. The courage to give financially, the courage to sacrifice time, the courage to try something new, the courage to risk your reputation.
Philip Hallie is professor of philosophy at Wesleyan University. His field of expertise is the death camps of Nazi Germany. During his years of research he came across an obscure story about small ton in the south of France. The town was named Le Chambon. The story that follows is one of courage and testimony of the truth of Paul’s words to Timothy. The Chambonnians were Huguenots, French Protestants fired by their faith in Christ. This town became the only safe haven for Jews in German occupied France. This town was led and taught by their pastor Andre’ Trocome’ and his heroic wife Magda.
Many of the French were deceived by the Nazi’s propaganda which concealed the death camps, many of which were dedicated to the death of children. But the Chambonnians did not buy into such propaganda. They obeyed what God told them to do, they just did what Jesus would want them to do, and they sheltered and saved their neighbors the Jews.
One evening the pastor and his wife were invited to a member’s home for supper. When they did not show up the host family sent their daughter to the pastors home to see what was detaining them. When she arrived she saw the pastor and Magda being arrested. In typical fashion Magda invited the officers to eat supper with them. Courage to live the gospel regardless; hiding the Jews or feeding the Gestapo. To perform God’s calling will take courage.