Sermons

Women’s Vocations Day

womens-equality

How much courage did it take you to come today? Maybe it didn’t take much thought at all; you’ve heard God call you to something, found out about this event, and knew that nothing was going to get in your way in order to be here today. Perhaps you heard about this event and thought that’s something I would love to come to, but is it really possible for me to go? What about my kids or my job or this other commitment? Can I really put myself first in order to be here? For others of you, perhaps you’re here because someone has nagged you to come or even dragged you here with them! Whatever it took to get you here, God has a reason for you being here today. But for all of us, at some point it will have been costly to be here.

How many of these thoughts are familiar to you?

What if I’m a bit too much? What if I’m too young? What if I’m too old? Will others take me seriously? Will I have to become someone I’m not? Will my church leaders affirm my calling? What does the Bible say about this? What does God say about this?

But what does God actually say?

‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’

‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’

‘Do not fear’ he says again, ‘for I am with you.’

‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’

We all have a calling. In fact, we all have multiple callings because God calls us, first and foremost to himself. He whispers to us so that we might draw nearer to him, so that we come under the shadow of his wings as he speaks his words of love and forgiveness and grace over us. Let’s reflect on that for a moment. God, the God, who created the universe, who created you, who died for you and still would have died for you even if you had been the only person on earth, has called you by name and declares you are his. In Zephaniah chapter three it says God fights for you and with his love he quiets you. He holds you, covers you, protects you, loves you with such a force and tenderness as you can barely imagine. And in the midst of that, he empowers you.

I don’t know what your calling is. Mine is to be a Church of England priest. Yours might to being a reader, a sung worship leader, youth ministry, evangelism.  I’m three weeks into training and I spent the whole of the first week wanting to quit. I sat in the Chapel, snot everywhere, angrily telling God that I can’t do this because I’m not enough.

I was right. I can’t do this. But I was only half-right, because I am enough. I am enough for God. If you are wondering why you are here, if you are asking God ‘why me?’ and ‘why this?’ there are two important distinctions that you need to discern. You need to tell the differences between the voices which say that you can’t do this, that you cannot do whatever it is God is calling you to and the voices that say you’re not enough to do this, that there’s something about you which disqualifies you from what God has called you to. Because whatever it is God is calling you to, you can’t do it. It’s a frustration of the human condition that we cannot do our calling on our own because we are imperfect people. But the excellent news is that God is always with us, that God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called, and it is only by his strength that we can do what he has called us to. Partnership is intrinsic to God and he invites us to partner with him in seeing the Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Your can’t meets God’s can, so do not fear for he is with you.

But God will never say that you are not enough. Sadly, society often tells women that they aren’t enough. For women, and sometimes for women in the church, the normal and appropriate and humble ‘I can’t do this’ is distorted to mean ‘I’m not enough to do this’ and it’s dressed up as humility, but what it actually is, is a corrupted humility, it’s humiliation.

The comedian, Hannah Gadsby, says this: ‘I have built a career out of self-deprecating humour and I don’t want to do that anymore. Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility, it’s humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, and I simply will not do that anymore, not to myself or anybody who identifies with me.’

Because humility is a virtue, but humiliation is not. And far too often as women we are forced to accept humiliation rather than Christlike humility. When God calls us by name it humbles us as we encounter his holiness and glory, but God will never demand humiliation of us. It goes entirely against his character. In ‘I can’t do this’ God meets us where we are, and his encouragement and generosity and power does the rest. In ‘I’m not enough’ we feel ashamed and like we cannot look God in the eye, but God became man in the person of Jesus Christ precisely so we could, so we can, look him in the eye. It’s part of how he made real on his promise that he has redeemed us, called us, named us, loved us, and has always been with us. With God, we find we our empowered, because he is the rock of our salvation and our solid ground. As perfectly and overwhelmingly loved children of the most high we can walk with the confidence and joy that only people who know how unequivocally loved they are can.

It won’t always be easy. God says, ‘when you pass through the waters’ and ‘when you walk through fire.’ But then God says, I’ll be with you, the rivers shall not overwhelm you, nor flames consume you. That should fill us with joy and a confidence and a courage to have a go, take a risk, choose the path of adventure with God because no matter what might happen, he will always be there. Earlier this year, I was walking to work and it had snowed but it was now in the melted snow had re-frozen into ice stage, so I was having to walk really carefully and every step was an effort so as not to slip and hurt myself. My whole body was tense with fear, all I could focus on was trying to keep myself safe. And as I slipped and slid down the pavement, I heard God quietly say, ‘I have always led you to the next thing.’ And in that moment, I knew he wasn’t just talking about getting me to work with all the bones in my body intact. I was pre-BAP, I frustrated with various parts of my life, and I had fallen spectacularly and bizarrely in love with this calling which terrified me – still terrifies me – and I just couldn’t see anything but hurdles. But God has always led me to the next thing, he led me here, and I am excited/scared to see where he’ll lead me next. God is with us and he sees the bigger picture. No hurdle and no anxiety can ever phase him or cause him to stumble or to leave you.

God says, I made you. I formed you. I have called you by name and I have claimed you. I will be with you, make sure nothing breaks you. No wave can overwhelm you and no flame can consume you. With Jesus Christ I bought you and that empty tomb is my promise to spend eternity with you. My Holy Spirit will empower you, I am going to use you, speak through you, equip, guide, and sustain you. How precious do I consider you? How much I desire to honour you! Do you know just how much I love you? So do not be afraid, because I am always with you.

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