The Message Translation
Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given our own gift. The text for this is,
He climbed the high mountain,
He captured the enemy and seized the booty,
He handed it all out in gifts to the people.
Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven.
He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. _______
Ministers get questions of “the call” a lot, especially as we begin the path to ministry. The call story of how one got into the pulpit is of particular interest, and I think I’ve told you mine a time or two before: It wasn’t so much the shining a-ha moment, I’ve said, but a gentle nudging all through the years. For some, writes Horace Bushnell, it’s possible to never NOT be Christian. I like that. And that’s what I have been saying to any who ask about my call story.
Because the call shifts and changes as we grow into ministry-- not just ministers, but all those in ministry-- which is all of us! If we are growing in faith as Paul writes to the Ephesians to do, we have to keep looking at the call: Why are we here and who is God calling us to be?
My experience of call changed this past year as God pointed me back to school, which had been a “maybe some day.” Then I applied on a whim, thinking... eh, we’ll see what happens, and committing to take it one day at a time.
After I applied, I had a minor freak out conversation with some colleagues on a retreat last spring, in Vermont, asking: What if this isn’t a call? What if it’s just ego and the excitement of more study? What if I’m not supposed to go and do this New Thing? My colleagues said minor encouraging things of “oh, well, you’ll figure it out,” and we closed up the evening. The questions remained.
That night, though, I woke in the middle of the night to someone saying my name. Groggy and not really understanding what was happening, I opened my eyes, and couldn’t remember where I was. Confused, but still with an awareness of someone needing my attention, I remember thinking: Oh, I know this one! When someone calls your name in the middle of the night, you’re supposed to say, “Here I am, Lord!” So I did. And then fell back asleep.
And woke up the following morning to laugh with my colleagues about my silly dream and wrap up the retreat to drive home. And it wasn’t until I was behind the wheel, driving down the mountain, that it hit me what, exactly, happened the night before. I was actually shocked! While I hang out with God in meditation and prayer as often as I can, the experience of hearing and feeling deep awareness of a Call and then Response was... something else.
I know that these next few years God and I are going to work together to focus my own individual ministry, in this church and beyond. I also now know intimately that a call isn’t stagnant, but shifting, moving, dancing, spirit-filled, and robust in God’s love.
Further, I know that each of you have felt some sort of call, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Some of you felt the call to work in the potato booth. Some of you feel the call to minister in caring love to those within our church community: reaching out to the homebound, helping fold the Post to get our church news out, partnering with someone in prayer and presence, sending cards of love and prayer, and knitting blankets and shawls. Some of you feel the call in finding creative ways to draw people together, like the tailgating event next saturday or the church hike next month. Some of you feel the call outside and beyond our immediate church community: helping bi-weekly at food share, volunteering time and energy for causes in which you believe, fostering and caring for children who need you, lifting prayers for the world we live in and the future we look towards, together. There are so many things that we do, individually and together, answering God’s call to be the best we are able to be, strengthening the Body of Christ.
If we tried to do all of the things ourselves, we would burn out. We can’t have all the gifts God has given, and yet we can use what we have well. Not everyone is called to do everything. We are all called to do something. Together, we are all called to be the Body of Christ: working together with our unique gifts and talents to strengthen and embolden God’s vision for what the world can be.
Each of you brings a unique perspective to how we do church together, how this body is made. Just as individual calls need attention and awareness, so too our communal call does. We are checking in on our call as Christ’s body, in this place, in this time, too. Who is God calling us to be as a church community in the next few years? Where does our energy and focus lie?
In the next few days, you’ll receive an email or letter about a tool we’ll use to help us check in about where our church is being called. It’ll be a short survey- taking about 20 minutes to complete- that everyone in high school age or above is welcome to take individually and add input. Where is Wapping Community Church called to go in the next few years? Where do we have energy and excitement? Where should the energy and focus of the ministerial and leadership team be? How can we together add our different God-given gifts to this Body to move into love and community? How can we grow up into Christ and love?
Of one thing I have deep faith because of what I see around here every single day: This body of Christ is called to be robust in love: living into the wholeness of self and community that Christ calls us to be, speaking truth to each other, calling out the gifts and talents of one another so that we all may continue to grow into that call. Live into wholeness by helping us to discern where we are called, as a body.
The momentum to build up our faith and community in Love is one that will continue to bond us together as we move into how we can be more faithful, more compassionate, more Christ-following in our ways. We grow up, and into love. We build up our selves, and as we do, we build up our collective Church in the image of Christ and in the path of love. The gifts that first came from God are ours to offer to the world in the name of the Still-Speaking God who invites us to look at our call again and again, to see the magnificent way in which we move in unison with the spirit.
Referenced: Bushnell, Horace. Views of Christian nurture, and of subjects adjacent thereto (1847. Delmar, N.Y: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1975.