Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our Call Stories

Friday was the ten year anniversary of my ordination.
I hope this morning you will indulge me a little as I talk about my calling and the events that led up to my ordination.
I have said many times that I was a rebellious youth.
I had my time to go off where demons dwell.
Because of this I never thought I would be a pastor.
But when I was sixteen our church had a youth service and since I was the president of the youth group I volunteered to preach.
After that service people in the congregation came up to me and said that I should consider being a pastor.
That is how it starts for all of us.
Someone we know tells us that we have a gift for something.
It plants a seed.
Anyway, around this time something else significant was happening in my life.
I was spending my summers at camp calumet as a counselor.
It was significant because at camp other people would tell me I had a gift for understanding and explaining bible stories.
My senior counselor would often read the Bible story to the kids and then say, “and now Jon will tell you what it meant.”
This is how it goes…we realize in ourselves certain talents.
When I was in college my work study job was in the chapel.
I was involved in religious life on campus.
I wanted to bring together Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others to pray and listen to each other.
I became passionate about religion, and about opening ways of understanding and peace among different religions.
This is how it works for us we find things that we care about that we are passionate about and feel called to do something about.
My late mentor and friend Nils Johnson was the chaplain my sophomore and senior year.
He knew about the world, about history, and current events.
He taught me lots about being a Christian engaged in the world.
In Nils’ office talking about issues in the world I grew to be passionate about my faith and how I could help others in the world through that faith.
That is the way it works someone takes our gifts and passions and mentors us.
After College I didn’t go right to seminary I tried other things.
I thought that I would find some other way to live my life besides ministry.
I did other things but none of those things brought out my gifts and passions the way that I felt when engaged in ministry for Jesus Christ.
I eventually realized that this is what God was calling me to do.
But I was still wasn’t completely sure.
I was living in Maine with a friend from camp (Now Pastor Dave Dalzell from
 Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Laconia, NH).
I was working at a home for abused and neglected kids.
I came home and Dave said, “Hey I think I am going to go to seminary.”
And I said, “Great I’ll go too!”
Isn’t that the way it should work.
We find people who we have something in common with, who shares our passions and we work together.
It was actually about 10 years of thinking about it before I actually went to seminary.
But I will tell you I have not regretted one day.
I love being a pastor.
It is one of the great joys of my life.

But my story is not just about me.
I would encourage all of you to think about your own paths, your own lives.
What has brought you to this place?
What has made you the person you are?
What are your passions and gifts?
Who have been the people who have encouraged and mentored you?
What is your call story?
Because we all should have a call story.
We should all have some way that God called us to do what we do now.
Our vocations are about more then what are we going to do to make money.
They are about how we serve God and our neighbors.

In our Gospel story this morning we are told that, “this very night your life is demanded of you.”
Every day we get up and go to work we should be thinking about how our lives serve God and our neighbor.
How does God use our passions our gifts to benefit the world?
You don’t have to be a pastor to serve God and others.
You only need a heart that is filled with God.

The man with the barns in Gospel this morning you know what his problem is?
It is not so much that he made lots of money.
It is not so much that he was smart about saving for a rainy day.
It is that all he thinks about is himself.
“What should I do?”
“I will do this…”
“I will store up my grains.
“I will say to my soul…”
His vocation is not about serving God and others it is only about serving himself.
And our vocations our callings are not about serving ourselves either.

Think about it.
Let us say that your gift is making money (This is not my gift and one of the reasons I am pastor).
There is nothing wrong with making money.
But why are you making money?
To buy more things.
To get more things.
For safety and security?
What if it was so you could give money away to help those in need?
What if you made more money so you could give people good high paying jobs, so they could support their families?
What if you made more money so that you could support your family?
What if you made money only the glory of God?
First of all I think that God doesn’t give us gifts to be wasted so God would not have given you that gift if God had not wanted you to use it for the good of the world.
Second, I think that you would love your work better if you saw in it some greater purpose.
The same can be said for just about any vocation we might have.
You can feed the world if you are good with food.
If you are good with computers you can change minds and mold the future.
It is not so much what we do, but the reason for why we do them.

Because this very day God wants something from us, God wants us to serve our neighbors, to love each other, to welcome the stranger, to take care of our families.
We can’t do those things if we are stuck in the “I” statements.
Instead we should work on making them we statements.
We will have enough.
We will live well.
We can have ample goods.
We together can eat, drink, and be merry.
God gave us all gifts and passions so that we can serve others and in that serving honor God.

I am thankful this day for these last ten years.
I am thankful for all the people who congratulated me, or who have said something nice about my ministry.
But I was telling my wife this week that I felt odd about celebrating it too much.
Mainly because I feel that others in their daily work don’t get those kinds of positive affirmations.
I mean a plumber doesn’t have people at his work celebrating his ten years of being a plumber.
And the thing is that we should.
Because  plumber, a banker, a teacher, a salesman, a janitor, a garbage collector…or whatever, does just as much for the kingdom of God as a pastor.

I know that when my pipes are broken in my house I don’t call the pastor to come and pray that God will fix them.
I call a plumber and thank God that he has the ability to do it.
I thank God today for all of the people in their vocations who are called to serve and make this world a better place to be.

So even though I appreciate you’re celebrating my ordination with me.
I want us to leave here this morning celebrating all the people who live out their callings to serve God.
This morning I want you to think about the ways that God has demanded of your life, and how you feel called to live out those demands.
Because this very day our lives are demanded of us.

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