As some of you know, I’m a bit of a church dork. I’m sorry, we shouldn’t call people names; I exhibit the behaviors of a church dork. One of the ways that I have demonstrated such behaviors was as a seminary student back in 2008, preparing for a final exam of sorts for those seeking to become pastors called ‘ordination exams’ (think: ‘the bar’ for lawyers). And one of these exams has to do with communicating knowledge of the Book of Order, which is the second part of the Constitution of the PCUSA (are we dorky enough yet). Anyways…I LOVED studying for these exams. I would pour over the chapters of this book night after night at the Regenstein University of Chicago library with my highlighters and index cards. What I loved most about this book…about church…is just how beautiful some of the theology and imagery is within these sometimes mundane rules and expectations. For instance, today we are electing officers of the church; namely deacons and elders. Let me read what the Book of Order says about these two call, this coming from the Directory for Worship:
W-2.0301: Gifts for Service
God pours out the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon each Christian in Baptism, and all are called to use these gifts for the glory of God. Therefore it is appropriate for any member of the church to pray, read Scripture, or assist in worship in other ways according to his or her gifts.
By their gifts and training, some are called to particular acts of leadership in worship and have particular responsibilities for ordering the service. These specific roles and responsibilities are undertaken in service to God and to the congregation, and should in no way diminish the leadership of other members or overshadow the primary participation of the worshiping assembly.
W-2.0302: Deacons are called to lead the congregation in compassion, witness, and service, representing the ministry of the church in the world and the presence of the world in the church.
W-2.0303: Ruling elders are called to nurture the common life of the people of God through their gifts of discernment and governance.
Just beautiful! And today we get to celebrate this particular calling as a body of Christ; Presbyterianism in action! Are you as excited as I am?!
If I am left with one question after reading through this beautiful language, it is this: how do we meet these beautiful callings in our lives, when so much of the rest of our daily existence is filled to the brim with so many other obligations and distractions?
- How do we accept a calling to lead within our church when our jobs (the thing that actually gets us money to live on) leave us absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, only then to need to be at yet another meeting here at church, voluntarily?
- How do we understand our call to authentic ministry when most of the time we at church talk about issues that have more to do with a social club than a faith community?
- How do we make time for Christ in our lives each and every day when we have enough trouble as it is making it to church each Sunday? Between sports, travel, and family obligations; we are spread too thin!
I’d like for us to all acknowledge now that the world is not perfect. There often does not seem to be enough hours in the day. The church is not always acting on its best behavior. Our priorities in life are at odds with one another. So what does scripture have to say about all of this?
We are reading this morning from the book of Ephesians. The theme for this letter seems to be centered on the unity of the body of Christ, and this chapter is no different. We pick up in chapter 4 as the author writes about our callings in life:
The opening verses here speak to the attitude to which we should interpret God’s call in our lives. Hear these words:
4 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The author then is very clear that within our unique callings by God, we are called to be united as one:
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Verses 7 and 11 speak to the particularity of God’s call in our lives:
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
And then in the next verses, the author shares with us the ‘why’ of our God-given calls…
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Friends, the Good News: God equips us and calls us to be the body of Christ even with our crazy, busy lives. As Presbyterians, we understand, through the beautifully written Book of Order, and more importantly scripture itself, that each and every one of us are called to ministry. We celebrate this each time we baptize. We celebrate this each time we partake in the Lord’s Supper.
To use the basketball analogy once again, Christianity is not a passive sport. We are not drawn to Christ, and then told to sit on the bench for the rest of our lives (I realize there is a bit irony as you all are sitting on pews at this moment). We are called to play! We are called to act! We are called to listen for God’s voice in our lives, to listen for the voices from one another in our lives as it relates to God’s call, and we are called to use our unique gifts and passions to build up the body of Christ. Presbyterian theologian Frederick Buechner would write, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
How is God calling you today? What passions or talents do you have to share with this congregation and the world? The Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of God is moving within this room right now, inviting us to get in the game!
Here is our homework this week. Go ahead and take a moment to listen for God’s voice right now. Write down on your bulletin one gift, talent, or passion that you have today that you would like to share with the church and the world. I want you over the next few days to try and put this call into action. Today we will vote on only a handful of people who are being called to particular roles in the life of the church. Let’s see what happens when we empower an entire congregation to serve Christ in the world!
What a joy it is to be called by our Creator to live our lives in building up the body of Christ. What a joy it is to use our passions and gifts to live our best lives now.
What a joy it is to witness today in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the cup, and the calling of our officers, the living Christ in our midst! Amen.