Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, faith, God, Grace, Religion, Sermon, Spirituality
Pastor Leastman had once been a truck driver, driving an 18-wheeler from his home in Montana. During those years on the road he received his ordination through the mail, through a correspondence coarse that was offered by the Christian and Missionary Alliance at the time. In his earliest years of pastorate he had ministered to the truck driver’s irregular schedules. For many hours he drained numerous cups of Folgers from fat coffee mugs at truck stops across from scraggly looking men in mesh baseball caps and extended bellies that caused their undershirts to show through their flannel shirts. I imagined his deep and caring personality to be completely conveyed to those people whose lives where filled with monotonous hours on the road.
When I would sit and listen to Pastor Leastman preach I would immediately be drawn into the story. It was no mere illustration thrown together to support the points of his sermon, but stories that drew from a deep well of a life that had been lived, felt and reflected upon. It was a life of someone whom I was sure had experienced the divine.
At the time I was a shy and introverted child, but something in my 10 year old being was deeply touched and moved by this older man’s experiences. Something deep inside me knew that my experiences and his experiences where touching at the crossroads of faith.
When Pastor Leastman had retired my parents told me that I should offer to help him with some work at his house. So, there I was in his garage the summer of my 18th year. As we worked together in the garage we were mostly silent. Toward the end he stopped and asked inquisitively, “Brian what are your plans for the future?”
“I am going to attend Bible College and become a missionary.” I said with all the confused confidence that I could muster.
Stopping and looking me in the eyes he replied gravely, “Are you really sure that you want to do that?”
There have been many times over the years that I have heard Pastor Leastman’s voice asking me that same question, “Are you really sure that you want to do that?”
The other day at lunch I was discussing some of the lesser known aspects of my job when someone asked, “so why do you stay a minister?”
Without thinking I replied, “Because it’s my call.” My own response shocked me, although I said it with a sly amount of confidence. The truth is that is probably the first time I have used that as a response. Yet, this is truly what I believe this morning. It is my calling to be a minister.
In that same conversation I related that from a young age I was outlining the minister’s sermon on the back of the bulletin and daydreaming about what I would preach from a pulpit. I had already read through the entire Bible five times cover to cover, memorized the book of Acts and the first five chapters of Romans and rewrote line for line the entries in my father’s copy of Halley’s Bible Handbook. To this admission one of the people at lunch suggested that it would probably not be something that I should share a lot with other people. They might think that I am kinda weird. Do you really think that normal people do this job?
Well, to tell you the truth I have always been a bit afraid to name what I do a call. First, because I believe that God is calling each and every one of us. We are being drawn corporately and individually to answer God’s call in our lives. For me that calling is summed up in the Micah passage that I read for the Benediction almost every service here during worship. What does God require from us but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. God’s calling for each and every one of us is the same.
Yet, that is not the main reason that I refrain from calling my vocation as a Minister of Word and Sacrament a call. It is because it feels weird and makes me scared. So, I guess you could say that I am afraid. I am afraid that it will seem weird in our postmodern society to have the audacity to believe that I know what the divine’s purpose is for my life, that it would be presumptuous for me to say that what I do really changes anything in the world, that I am angry that I may lose my choice to God in the matter of what I do with my life or frightened that I may give this profession a bad name.
So, why do I care to tell you all of these intimate feelings and reminisces about my call? It is because I want you to think about yours and ours.
One of the greatest men I knew died last week. Dr. Rev. Jack Stotts. He was the President of Austin Theological Seminary when I matriculated at that small school. He was already a renown theologian and ethicist when I sat across from him and explained why I wanted start seminary. He was a wise man, a hilarious man, a man whose books are in my library right now and someone who deeply shaped my call. In an essay on the call and retirement he pointed out:
The calling is God’s calling to us and to others. The call or the calls are the concrete and specific (though not unambiguous) locations for hearing and responding to God’s calling. For example, a call to a professional ecclesiastical office is one form of hearing and responding to God’s calling. But it is not one that excludes other calls–parenting, being a citizen, etc. Calling is singular. Calls are plural. Calling is enduring. Calls are provisional. Calling is universal in scope. Calls are geographically, socially, temporally, and culturally specific. Calling is of ultimate significance. Calls partake of the ultimate. Calling gives integrity to the multiplicity of calls. God’s calling cries out for specificity in calls. Through calls God’s calling is “embodied.”
So, I will leave you with two simple questions this morning, how is God’s calling being “embodied” in you? How will we “embody” God’s calling in the life of The Palisades Community Church into the future?
photo by A n d r e a s
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