Do you have a calling?

by Demi Prentiss

Most of us think of “a calling” as something for church people who are bound for ordination.  Those of us just trying to make our way in the world are more likely focusing on making a living and insurance coverage and work-life balance. “Calling” is not a concern for us, is it?

Mark Roberts’ recent blog begs to differ, looking at the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Eph 4:1):

….This verse says quite plainly: “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The context makes it abundantly clear that this exhortation was not only for pastors, missionaries, and other special workers. It was for all of those who would read or hear the letter we call Ephesians. It was written for ordinary Christian folk, people who, according to the Apostle Paul, had received a calling. (Ephesians 4:1 isn’t the only verse in the Bible that makes it clear all of God’s people are called. For a discussion of other verses that make this point, see this article on the De Pree Center blog “Do I Have a Calling? Or Is This Just for Special People?”)

Talking about that same Ephesians passage, which goes on to compare the Christian community to the human body, Frederick Buechner wrote in Wishful Thinking:

God was making a body for Christ, Paul said. Christ didn’t have a regular body any more so God was making him one out of anybody he could find who looked as if he might just possibly do. He was using other people’s hands to be Christ’s hands and other people’s feet to be Christ’s feet, and when there was some place where Christ was needed in a hurry and needed bad, he put the finger on some maybe-not-all-that-innocent bystander and got him to go and be Christ in that place himself for lack of anybody better.

“Anybody he could find who looked as if he might just possibly do….”   “…some not-all-that-innocent bystander….”  That sounds like it might be me!  What a thought, that God might tap me on the shoulder and get me “to go and be Christ in that place …for lack of anybody better.”

Calling – what some call “vocation” – is not restricted to church leaders. As Elizabeth Newman wrote for Baylor University’s Center for Christian Ethics, “Our vocation is a gift, not something we decide after assessing our skills and talents. To discover our vocation, then, we must learn to receive the abundant life God desires to give us.” And Howard E. Butt, Jr, founder of The High Calling, urges all Christians, no matter where they choose to devote their productive energy, to be “builders, following Jesus the builder – building our capacities and building other people up, building relationships and organizations, a company, a service, a breakthrough – building our ministry in daily life.”

Sharing their song

by Pam Tinsley

In the stillness of a lovely summer Saturday evening, an Episcopal church in the heart of the “none zone” was suddenly transformed when 42 high-school age singers lifted their voices in song. These Tacoma Youth Chorus choirs were sharing their gift of song with the local community before embarking on a two-week tour. They will soon share their song internationally in cathedrals in France and Germany and then at Canterbury Cathedral in the UK.

As the exquisite voices of these young women and men filled the church, the hearts of the audience were profoundly moved. My husband and I sat enchanted for over an hour as we listened to arrangements of sacred and secular music. For some arrangements the singers surrounded us, their voices blending sweetly behind and above us. At times our experience was almost transcendent, and by the concert’s end we felt renewed, even transformed.

We had been ministered to by these singers standing before the altar, beneath a large cross that was suspended from the ceiling.  I’d imagine, however, that the choirs would be shocked to hear me refer to their singing as a ministry. Many of these young people have never attended church, and most probably don’t now. And although the music program directors and tour chaperones are churched (though not all are active church-goers), their embrace of Christian values – caring, encouragement, compassion, selflessness, serving and seeking the best in others – has transformed the lives of these young people in countless ways. Not only have the singers developed a lifelong passion for music and learned the value of respect and hard work while having fun, they have developed deep friendships and have also inspired those around them by sharing their song – their singing and themselves.

And these young musicians will continue to share their song by passing this gift along to future generations. Five of the six chaperones are millennials, four of whom are TYC – and European tour – alums. Sharing the song that transformed their lives will in this way touch the lives of future children and grandchildren. This beauty will certainly live on!

Yes, this is ministry in daily life!

Shared values answer needs — with God’s help

by Wayne Schwab

God is on mission to make the world more loving and more.  Baptized, Phoebe’s mission is to be part of God’s mission to make the world more loving and more just. As a strong secular humanist, Liz holds love and justice to be among the values guiding her daily life.

No wonder Phoebe and Liz could work together easily.

Liz works full-time for the county branch of the food bank.  As part of her work, she addressed some church members at their Sunday coffee hour.  One of the members, Phoebe, resonated with Liz’s commitment to developing community-wide support for local and county programs to feed the hungry.

Phoebe believed Liz must have wrestled with a sense of need – Phoebe would say a “call” – to meet the needs of many for an adequate food supply; must have assessed her talents for what she could do; and then, must have made the decision to take the job at the county food bank.

Phoebe had been wrestling with the same issue in the church committee she headed.  She connected with Liz after the coffee hour and shared her concern.  Liz suggested Phoebe’s committee might like to sponsor a “fun run” to raise money for the food bank.  Phoebe welcomed Liz’ offer to mentor her in setting up a “fun run” at her church.  It was hugely successful with 225 participants and $1,567 for the food bank.

Together, Phoebe and Liz had made a part of the world more loving and more just – with God’s help, Phoebe told her committee and church.

Finding your calling

by Fletcher Lowe

“Jesus is in the legislature. If he were not there I would not be either.”

Rep. Byron Rushing, Member of the Massachusetts State Legislature

Lent is a season of penitence. In keeping with that we Episcopalians in the Liturgy put the Penitential Order front and center. We talk a lot about sin and forgiveness and reconciliation and redemption—all significant Christian themes.

That being said, let’s take a second look and go back to the reason that Jesus went into the wilderness. It was not for repentance; it was for vocation. As I read the accounts, it was to figure out what his mission and ministry were to be. Now the devil helped him in that by offering him at least three other options—each of which he refused. Out of the 40 days he emerged with his mission/ministry: to proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand. His teachings and healings and other miracles gave credence to that.

For me that provides an alternative focus for Lent: to critique how I am doing in understanding my calling as a follower of Christ in my daily life and work. Relevant questions might be:

  • In whatever I do, what is the faith connection?
  • In my everyday life, how is God calling me to “proclaim by word and example…, to seek and serve…, to strive….,” as we affirm in the Baptismal Covenant.

Each of us, by the very nature of our Baptism, has been sent “into the world to love and serve the Lord.” That world is wherever and with whomever we “live and move and have our being”: in our work and home and community and school.

Christ, in his 40 days in the wilderness, gives us a model: to take some time focusing on what we do beyond Sunday. Thanks be to God who gives us the opportunity, in our own way, to be “Christ” with those whom we meet in everyday life.