Sermon 21b for 2015: Christ Calls Us To Ministry Introduction: You ve Been Called

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1 Sermon 21b for 2015: Christ Calls Us To Ministry Introduction: You ve Been Called We ve begun focusing these last few weeks on our theme for the year, Christ is Calling, As a way to begin to understand the very personal way in which God enters into our lives He calls us, one by one; And to the wonder that Christ calls people like you and me To a particular way of life with God and one another; and how we are can respond. We ve touched on the reality that to answer Christ s call; Each of us needs to take a physical step to make room for God in our lives; Through prayer or scripture reading or talking with others So that we may begin to discern God s will for us; And what He wants us to do with our lives. Last week, our Presiding Bishop focused on the quality of that life in response to Christ s call; About how we ve been given the responsibility for taking care of the least among us; And that we have been called to a path of greatness; Not through power, but through service to others in God s name. This Sunday, we turn our attention to ministry; We turn our attention to the way you and I follow Christ s call And approach our everyday lives as Christ s hands and feet in the world; Because not only is Christ calling us into a life with God; He is also calling us, all of us, to ministry here and out there in the world; For the Christian life is no spectator sport. Several years ago my friend, the Rev. Paul Johnson, who is an Episcopal church planter; Had a sudden change in his family vacation plans; And found that to attend an important family reunion; He was going to be out of town for a Sunday that he hadn t planned on missing. 1

2 Because it was summertime and many other priests in his Diocese were on vacation; Or already committed at another church, he was having trouble finding a replacement. When he was at his wits end, he decided to call a special Vestry meeting To tell them of his dilemma and suggested that since he couldn t find a priest; That one of the members of the Vestry would have to preach that Sunday. At first they thought he was joking, as nervous laughter circulated around the room; But after a few moments, it became quite obvious that Paul was serious; And the room grew very quiet; Public speaking being the number one fear in America, even ahead of death. He told me they were visibly anxious and wouldn t even look at him; For fear that he might call on them to preach that Sunday; None of them wanted any part of that ministry; And one small voice suggested that that was the priest s job, not theirs. Well, Paul was finally able to find a substitute for the Sunday he was going to be away; But as the years went by, he has taken to teasing those Vestry members As they come into church that he doesn t really have very much to say this morning; And would like them to take over the pulpit and then he laughs. I suspect that deep down many of us think that real ministry Is only for the highly trained, for the seminary educated, the ordained, professional Christians; And when we speak of Christ calling us to the ministry; We usually associate that with the people who wear funny collars and boring shirts. Others of us think that if we re doing ministry of some kind; It s really only ministry when it looks like the ordained person s ministry; Like reading or serving the chalice, singing in the choir, leading a Bible study; Or that ministry should at least be church related like serving on the Vestry; Participating in our outreach programs or serving at the Fair next week. 2

3 A lot of good Christian people have a difficult time understanding that Christ is calling us; All of us to ministry here at St. David s in all its variety - though maybe not preaching; And ministry out there in the world in our everyday lives; Ministry that begins with a listening ear and a willing heart; And whatever God has in mind. And even though ministry out there, in the world, often doesn t look quite like the ministry here; It s actually the most powerful way for you and me to know Christ and make Him known; For as we listen for Christ s call, God calls us to ministry here and out there; And His call always comes with the power and promise of His presence. The Readings and Our Ministry All of the readings we ve heard this morning have something to say About the quality of the lives we are being called to lead; And the ministry Christ is calling us to take up as His followers. The Book of Esther is a book about seeking justice And speaking truth to protect the lives of others in the face of evil doers. It s a sweet and short little book in the Old Testament About a Jewish woman who rises to become the queen; And a prideful, evil man, Haman, who wants to do away with all the Jews; Esther s uncle Mordecai, challenges her to use her authority to protect the Jews; And after some serious soul searching and personal danger she does just that. The book is a reminder that when we you and I are placed in positions of power; We are called to a ministry of using that power for the good of everyone; Check it out this week it won t take ten minutes to read the entire book. The Book of James, which we have been plowing through for several Sundays; Is speaking today about the ministry that we all share in answering Christ s call; Praying for ourselves and others when there is suffering; 3

4 Singing and thanking God when life is good; Anointing and caring for the sick; Forgiving others for their sins; And remembering the incredible power of prayer and relying on it in our ministries. It s a vision of ministry that reminds us that we are not doing ministry on our own; But are connected to the incredible and gracious power of God at work through us. And in the Gospel this morning, we are confronted with the challenging reality That our ministry is our own and that others have their own ministry, too; And we would do well to withhold our judgment of them; Because our following and our ministry is a full-time job. The Gospel begins with John, one of Jesus friends and closest disciples; Complaining about a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus; A man who wasn t part of Jesus select group of twelve disciples. In modern tones, we might hear John complain to Jesus that there s this guy out there Named Pope Francis, who is casting out demons And casting a Godly vision for America and the world Who is not an Episcopalian, do you want us to stop him? Jesus is remarkably unconcerned with following any kind of official ministry guidelines; Ministry in His name is ministry and you don t have to be part of the inner circle; In fact, Jesus says it s not only okay, it s good. And then Jesus takes up a subject He takes up often with those He has called; When they become overly concerned with their power and position; And forget that their individual following is more than a fulltime job And warns John and us about how we need to pay attention to our own lives and ministries Or face some terrible consequences. 4

5 Take care not to be a stumbling block to other believers; Stay away from things that cause you to sin: Don t look at it; don t touch it; walk away from it; And be yourself, be salty and be at peace with everyone; God can use anyone for His purposes. And ministry, the work God has given us to do can be carried out by everyone; God calls whom He chooses and gives ministry to whom He chooses And He chooses you and He chooses me. Taking Up Your Ministry I have a model for ministry in my mind That sees the church as a wide circle in the midst of the world; Open to everyone, but with some specific responsibilities for worship; For building a community of love; And for using our shared resources in response to Christ s call. As a priest, I have both feet planted inside the circle; My ministry takes place here, among you, and the people God calls here; I am called to use my gifts and talents and abilities to draw you and others Into the love of Christ so that you are empowered to go forth into the world; Knowing God in Christ and Making Christ known to others. You all have one foot planted firmly in the circle and one foot planted firmly in the world; Part of you ministry is here, where you are fed and feed one another; Part of your ministry is out there in the world Where God has called you and empowered you as His minister Where God has called you to use your talents, your abilities and your money To do ministry in your home, at work or school, in the wider community, and in the world. It s not a perfect model for ministry because part of my life and ministry is outside St. David s; And there may be times when you both of your feet are here, doing ministry; 5

6 But it s a helpful model, to me at least, to remind us That God calls each of us to ministry, to vocation, to a calling In every area of our lives. And though you may have it in your mind that your life in the world Is just a job or going to school or being a good spouse or partner or parent or child; Or merely your duty as a good citizen at large in the world; In God s eyes, in God s mind, it s all ministry; All a living, tangible response to Christ s call on your life; And God will empower you and me through His Spirit to minister Wherever you and I find ourselves and whatever you and I are doing in His Name. It s a different way of looking at your life; A different way of using your gifts; But it s the way God has chosen for you and for me to answer Christ s call. And so I invite you today and every day, to allow the power of God to come upon you; I invite you to allow the Spirit to come upon you So that you may know your life as a calling to ministry in here and out there; And have the presence and power of God working in you everywhere; For Christ calls you. Amen. 6

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