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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Series B

“Surprised By The Calling”
Thomas F. Fischer
Pentecost VII Series B
Amos 7:13-15


Introductory Notes:

One of the major themes of Scripture is that God works in mysterious, surprising ways. What we expect to occur often doesn’t happen. Why? Because God continues to turn the tables on our human plans, hopes, and expectations.

This paradoxical working of God is seen in many aspects of His working. He created all that is seen from what is unseen. He brings life from death. He works miracles in the most impossible situations. Virtually every working of God is, in this sense, paradoxical. What is black, God makes white. What is impossible, God makes possible.

Perhaps the most fundamental paradox is embodied in the Scriptural concept of  “grace.” “Grace” is simply God’s way of saving the unsaveable, forgiving the unforgivable, and giving freely to those who are most undeserving. 

The calling of God is not exempt from this paradoxical nature. God characteristically demonstrates the paradoxical nature of His working when He extends His calling. Whether one considers Paul, the disciples, Moses, Jonah, or the prophets, those who are called are often surprised by the calling. Though they don’t expect it, God selects such unworthy, unprepared, and sometimes the unwilling to be His servants.

Amos is no exception. As our text indicates Amos, too, was “surprised by the calling.” Amos’ words to Israel’s High Priest, Amaziah, express this.

"I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.”

Textual Observations:

1) The name “Amos” means “burden bearer.” God’s calling is a privilege. It is also a burden in that the one who proclaims the word of God becomes the focus of the acceptance—or rejection—of God’s word. (cf. Matthew 11:30 “My yoke is easy, my burden light.”) A major part of the “burden” in this text is that King Jereboam and his High Priest, Amaziah, felt uneasy with Amos’ message and presence. Amaziah’s words in verse 12 underscore this situation.

"Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there.” (Amos 7:12 NIV)

2) Note that God has a way of calling “shepherds” to minister and lead His people when their kings and leaders have turned away from Him. Amos, then (as other shepherd-prophets), becomes a type of Christ.

3) The Lord “took” (lakach) me: The Hebrew means “to seize, to snatch, to take in the hand.” The image may be like catching a bird in the hand and grasping it after a focused hunt. Another image is that of “marriage.” In this case, the “taking” is like that of a one lover chasing after another, trying to woo, trap and win one’s heart.

Possible Illustrations:

1) What’s God’s calling for you?

In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. "Your Majesty," said Prior Richard, "do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king."

"I understand," said Henry. "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you."

"Then I will tell you what to do," said Prior Richard. "Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you." When King Henry died, a statement was written: "The King learned to rule by being obedient." When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a good accountant or teacher or mother or father. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us, and when he returns, we'll rule together with him. 

Steve Brown, Key Biscayne, Florida.

2) About the difficulty of realizing one’s expectations

a) Fiedler's Forecasting Rules. (1) It is very difficult to forecast, especially about the future. (2) He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass. (3) The moment you forecast, you know you're going to be wrong -- you just don't know when and in which direction. (4) If you're ever right, never let them forget it.  (Edgar R. Fiedler, economist, quoted in The Official Rules, Paul Dickson.)

b) From Niels Bohr, the physicist: "Prediction is a very difficult art," he says, "especially when it involves the future.”

c) “The rule on staying alive as a financial forecaster is to give them a number or give them a date, but never give them both at once.”  Jane Bryant Quinn.

Suggested Outline:

I Life is full of surprises

            A. Daily Life

            B. Spiritual Life

II Amos: Surprised By The Calling

            A. His background

            B. His calling

            C. His work

III You: Are You Surprised By The Calling?

            A. Because of “grace” it’s really no surprise—all that we are is only by God’s grace…and a great surprise that we are saved!

            B. No surprise that God calls you to His purpose, either!

            C. It’s no surprise!

Children’s Messages: “Surprise!”

Idea #1: Needed: Box of Cracker Jacks or a box of children’s cereal with a surprise inside.

A box of Cracker Jacks. Ask the children what’s special about them. “There’s a surprise inside.” Open it up, find the surprise. Before opening it ask, “What’s in it?” “Another surprise!”

Jesus surprises us in many ways. Can you think of some of the surprises Jesus gives us? The greatest surprise, of course, is that Jesus died for us. But, this surprise, gives us another surprise. That surprise is that Jesus wants us to be His children and tell others of His love. Are you surprised?

God surprised Amos. He was a shepherd. But God surprised him by making Amos a prophet. God  can do the same with you, too. How do you think God might use you to tell of His love?

Idea #2: Is God calling?

Needed: Cell Phone

Ask children "What is this?" "It's a cell phone." Then ask, "What's the most interesting or fun thing about cell phones?" After receiving answers, focus on how you never know when someone is going to call. 

"When the cell phone rings, will you answer it?" Of course! God's calling is like a cell phone. When Jesus saves us and makes us His children, it's like he puts a little "cell phone" of faith in our hearts. And when He calls, will you answer it?

To make this more interesting, have someone call the cell phone right here...answer it...and pretend it's God!

Conclude the message with the following message: 

"When God calls us, he can call us to be pastors, church workers, missionaries or even children and adults like us in this church. What does He want us to do? Simply love and serve Him! Will we serve Him? Of course! Why? Because we love him, too."

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This page was revised on: Friday, January 20, 2006 12:10:33 PM