…before you were born I consecrated you;
‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;
Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.
I love to listen to various conversations on ABC RN. One man I was listening to on the radio was one of the doctors from Doctors Without Borders. He said to the commentator, we go were the greatest need is. She asked why? He struggled to answer. As the commentator said, he could live happily in Australia earning good money, living in comfort, in one of the best countries in the world.
I suspect that the answer that doctor was looking for was the word Jeremiah heard, before I was born God consecrated me, not to be a prophet to the nations but to be a doctor to the nations. Deep in his heart of hearts was a love for humanity and a desire to reach out with blessing, regardless of where, or who, or race, or religion. Perhaps that doctor and his colleagues never consciously say, I go because God calls me and consecrates me to serve in this way.
I believe each and every one of us is called and consecrated by God. Our calling will be different for everyone. And the way we live out our calling will change over the years.
When I am at a nursing home I encourage those listening that the service they are able to offer may be as simple as paying attention to the person in the next bed, caring about them as a person, listening to them. Added to that would be prayer. In old age and especially when we become more and more disabled we can still do the work of prayer. As a child our main vocation is to listen and learn, to begin the discernment of our gifts and begin to nurture our gifts. Even in our adult life the capacity we have to use our gifts will change, first growing and being stretched, and then beginning to diminish. As we get closer to retirement our role shifts more to nurturing others in their capacity. We all have gifts and talents. In retirement our interests and use of our gifts will change again. We are all being called to use our gifts and passions for the Glory of God and for the building up of the Kingdom.
In the Gospel Jesus says ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.’ Luke 12:35. Now that doesn’t mean you can never put your pyjamas on and go to bed. As I have been saying over this past month rest and reflection, play and recreation are very much a part of our relationship with God. Be dressed ready for action is about our lives generally. As we renew our covenant relationship with God this month part of it is to be willing to serve and to give our lives in service. Hopefully because of the rest and play that are an integral part of our service, it will be joyful service. Indeed if we are not enjoying the service we feel called to by God then we need to ask what is going wrong. It may be that we have unwittingly agreed through emotional pressure to do something we are not gifted in. Or, perhaps, we haven’t woven enough play and rest into our lives and ministry. Or maybe the training was insufficient and we need to ask for more help. So if you are not enjoying your ministry, see that as a red flag that we should take notice off.
Of course there will be times when we move into a new challenging level of ministry and it feels like jolly hard work. That’s OK because in due course you will become more proficient and more comfortable in that role. I remember my first sermon. I thought my legs would fall off they shook so much. I also remember visiting a person who burst into tears when I was with them. I was beside myself with anxiety. These days I know it is my job includes giving people space to cry.
In a few moments we will tick the boxes in the leaflet for different ministries. I trust we won’t then do the ministry like a teenager who begrudgingly does the washing up they have been told to do when they want to continue playing the video game. We are after all being called to serve God. May be to help you do that, we might imagine that the queen or Governor General is coming to visit in a few weeks’ time. Feel free to substitute someone you deeply love and respect as the one coming. Now because you ticked the box as a reader, intercessor, musician, flower arranger, morning tea or whatever, you are rostered on for that day. We have done the training so is just a matter of turning up and having a look at the reading two minutes before you do it. No! Firstly we have looked at the roster a few weeks out and know when we are rostered on. It is in the diary with a big red circle.
The family have rung to say we want to come for breakfast that day. Sorry guys, breakfast will be very late that day because I am on reading at Church and anyway, the queen is coming so I will be there even if I wasn’t on reading. Invite the family to join you at worship.
Then of course you will make sure you know what the reading is. You practice it seeking to get the inflection right and have pauses with suitable length so that even the queen hears the word of God for her. Now the chances of Queen Elizabeth or the other person you deeply respect coming here may be very low. But hopefully by creating this image in our minds we have a sense of how important our role is.
The people doing the flowers will ask, how do we want the flowers to look when the queen is here? Folk mowing the lawn and preparing the grounds, know the queen will walk around to the hall and notice most of the grounds. As welcomers, how will we make the queen feel very much at home? But of course it is not the queen it is Jesus himself and we may not recognise him. He might look like a homeless person. He may look like a member of the royal family. He may look fairly non-descript. Let’s use our gifts and talents to prepare as if the queen is coming to worship at our church. Let’s do our various ministries knowing that Jesus is coming and we won’t recognise him at first. Bit by bit we will realize that Jesus is present in each and every person here.
Before I finish I want to say two more very important things. I’ll try to do it quickly. Once we have been doing our ministry for a while we can then look around for someone to train to do it with us. It may be that we overhear someone say they are singing in a group at school. If it seems appropriate tap them on the shoulder and ask them to think about joining the band. With your pew sheet you have received a card. It is from the diocese to help you to pray for vocations particularly to ordained ministry. Often that journey starts because someone in the Church says, would you be willing to be a reader at Church or a Liturgical assistant. Our initial invitation is to step up to a ministry that is more challenging than what they are doing now.
Now it may be that we can arrange the flowers by our self or do the intercessions by our self but inviting someone to join you and having a little team means that it enriches our experience while helping them to grow to their full potential. It is often better if we do things in little teams as the fellowship creates community in the Parish. And it may also start some one on a journey they could not even imagine at that stage.
Now finally the most important part of being called to serve. When we serve other people we may not always be conscious that Christ himself is present. The Good News is that as we serve we are blessed by Christ more than we bless the person we are serving. You remember the story of the road to Emmaus. The two disciples don’t notice Jesus. But having shared the journey with him and appreciated the conversation they do the customary thing and invite him to dinner. It is only when he breaks the bread during their meal that they know it is Jesus. Let’s reach out in service to the people we encounter. At times we will look back and realise that we have been blessed by the presence of God as we served that person.