Today’s Readings: Psalm 56; Nehemiah 13:4-22; Matthew 16:21-28; Revelation 20:1-6
Lot of folks have rather romantic notion of what it means for a person to receive the call into ministry. They think it has to do with a beam of light striking one, hearing a deeply resonate voice issue the call, and the immediate response of the individual involved.
The truth is that a call to ministry is a lot more complicated than that. There is a lot of fear and pain that goes with responding to one’s call. When I received my call into ministry, for instance, it meant – among other things - moving away from my biological family that had been a key piece of my support network for my first 31 years. When I realized that call was to parish ministry, it then meant I had to leave behind things like my ego and agenda in ways that terrified me. And when I realized that my call into parish ministry meant going to communities engaged in the process of transformation and renewal, it meant that I would be around two things that I had avoided for the bulk of my life – fear (as in fear of change) and conflict (as I helped move groups away from an individualistic to a more communal way of being). My call to ministry has consistently taken me out of my comfort zone and asked me to do things I would have otherwise thought impossible.
It’s this same sort of point that Jesus was making in today’s passage from Matthew when he said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 from the NRSV).
So why would anyone in their right mind respond to a call if it’s so difficult?
The answer is given just one verse later: “those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25 from the NRSV). That’s certainly been my experience. While I stepped away people and things that were comfortable and convenient, the things I have gained from the experience of responding to my call (i.e. the deepening connection with/reliance upon God, the new friends and family of choice I have met, and the heightened sense of peace in my world) have made it the best thing that has ever happened to me. Oh, what things I have gained from my earlier series of losses!!
Of course pastors aren’t the only ones who have calls; I believe each person has their own call as well. My question for you to consider today is twofold. First, what is your understanding of call; and second, how would you characterize the effect of that call on your life. Til next time…