Last Weeks Sermon

I used to envy the people in Scripture who experienced a calling complete with special effects
Paul with the bright light
Getting knocked of his donkey
Blinded by the light
Hearing a voice that told him where to go and what to do
Isaiah and Ezekiel with their spectacular visions of being brought before the throne of God
And of course Jesus with the descending dove and the voice of God booming out “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
I thought it would be very reassuring to have had a call like that
Instead, I remember driving to seminary wondering whether
I was going where God wanted me to go
or just running away from where I didn’t want to be
In a profession I had grown weary of
And a firm that had just filed bankruptcy
I wanted a thunderbolt or an audible voice
(preferably with others to witness
So I would know I wasn’t insane)
What I got was
The Session of my church back in Houston telling me that they thought I’d be a good minister and
Backing up their words
with an endorsement
And some financial aid
And my Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry
Following my progress through seminary
And in the end, declaring me fit to receive a call
I got professors who thought I was doing well in one class or another
I got such joy from preaching that I “fell in love” with it
I got amazing moments as a chaplain and later as a minister
When I was so tired I thought I’d never get up again!
But when I was also so filled with peace that I knew I’d been doing God’s work
And when I looked backwards with 20/20 hindsight
I realized I’d heard God’s call in all the things that pushed me out of the practice of law and into seminary (including bankruptcy!)
I now think there were plenty of miracles to affirm my call (even if there were no cinematic special effects)
It just took patience and retrospect to see them
And it took both halves of what we Presbyterians understand a call to be
It took the inner call
The desire to do something special with my growing faith and
The feelings of satisfaction I got from serving God
And the outer call
The confirmation of my call from my Session, my Presbytery, and the churches that have since called me to serve them
Today we will [ordain and install Doug and Barry (to establish their relationship not only as YOUR Elders, but also as ruling Elders in the PC(USA) We will also be commissioning and installing Lois to serve as your representative on the Parish Board.

Today we will install Katie, JoeB and Jerry to full terms serving on the Session.  We will also be commissioning and installing Nancy to serve as your representative on the Parish Board.
I believe that they have all received both parts of the call
They have felt the inner urging
The sense that this is the proper way for them to “fulfill all righteousness”
That to be the disciples they want to be
They should take on this discipline of service
And The sense that the time is right for them to take on this responsibility
That nothing is standing in their way
Or maybe (as I did) the sense that God has left them with no other path but this one
I know that they have received some outer affirmation of their call
The nominating committee has named them
You have elected them
And in a few minutes you will vow

“to accept (names) ss ruling elders or deacons, chosen by God through the voice of this congregation to lead us in the way of Jesus Christ?
and to pray for them,
to encourage them,
to respect their decisions,
and to follow as they guide us

because they are following Jesus Christ, who alone is Head of the Church?

Although they may not have had any special effects or movie miracles to confirm their call
I hope that as they serve they will receive that retrospective sense that they are doing a good thing
The sense that their work on the Session has been satisfying in a very special way
And the sense of joy that comes from doing what we are called to do and going where we are sent
That does not however mean that their call will be easy
There will be fun and laughter even in Session meetings and Board meetings
But serving God is never just a Disneyland vacation
Packed with nothing but fun and excitement
There will also be work to be done
Boring meetings that run too long
Perhaps tense moments when we have to work at disagreeing without being disagreeable
Some tedious chores like minutes and reports that have to be done just to keep things going
How can any call be “easy” when it includes taking our part in the work of our Lord?
When we Christians read the passage from Isaiah that we read this morning
We understand that to be referring to the call of Jesus
After all it mirrors some of the words heard at Jesus’ baptism
    Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
    I have put my spirit upon him;
But that also mirrors what happens in our own baptism
Isaiah goes on to say that this servant of God is called
To bring forth justice to the nations
To not cry or lift up his voice
To not grow faint or be crushed until he has accomplished his mission
If Isaiah was talking about Jesus,
And if we together are the Body of Christ in this age
Then Isaiah was describing the call of every Christian!
But before you feel overwhelmed, Isaiah reminds us that this call comes from the LORD
the same LORD,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
the LORD,
who took you by the hand
and kept you
It’s a lot to ask that we even try to be
a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
But it’s the LORD who called us
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
And we will never be doing it alone.
The fact that “God will be with you”
The fact that there will be times when you feel his presence
Is the greatest miracle
the best affirmation of your call
and its greatest reward!