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What God Has Called You To

5th Sunday after the Epiphany - Feb 4, 2024

Rev Sarah Colvin

Frederick Buechner has a famous quote that reads, “Your vocation” or sometimes, “What God has called you to” (because we know those are the same things), “is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

I don’t think I ever heard the quote until I felt called to ministry, but I wish I had.  The first time I felt a call to ministry was when I in high school.  I had figured out where I would attend college (Sewanee, University of the South) and then I would figure out seminary. Aaannnd I got side-tracked for a few decades, but you see calls do not go away.


I say this speaking from my own experience, because one can really only speak from one’s own experience, but this sermon is not about me.   I think one easily can say that it is not just calls to ordained ministry that don’t go away but calls from God—any, and all—do not go away.  God seems to be persistent.


As many of you know, before I became a priest, I was a physician, specifically a medical examiner.  The easiest way to understand how I viewed that calling is that we spoke for the dead.  We told truth---sometimes this was high drama (like TV), but most of the time it was mundane.  Still there was a calling that at moments of performing that job, what I did—gave me satisfaction, if not quite joy, and met the world’s needs.   Now sometimes jobs just feel like jobs, but so much of life depends on how you do the actions you are called to do.  And besides paying jobs, volunteer jobs, or life in retirement has many options to bring joy to you and for you to meet the world’s needs.  This is vocation, whether it is a paid job, or volunteer work, or whatever else you do in the waking hours of the day. 


I start there, because no matter what you do, as a Christian we are called to a different life. However, studies have found that people who self-identify as Christian for the most part don’t actually live their lives very differently than others, at least from what can be measured objectively.  Basically, most people are not jerks.  Still, I think the intention as to how you live your life matters.  We can lean into this looking at the Epistle. “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!”  You may have heard me say this before, but many like to hide behind the words which have been attributed to St. Francis. “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.” My previous parish near Seattle loved this, because Christianity is not in the ground water there as it is in Virginia, the PNW is kind of its own missionary field.  People are also nervous identifying themselves as Christians when the masses out there view all Christians as whacky Evangelicals.


However, both on the left coast and in Virginia, we have this laid upon us – this call to Christian identity.  It’s something we profess with our baptismal vows. “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” This is the work of all baptized Christians, whether they are Roman Catholics, sane Episcopalians or whacky Evangelicals and everything in between.  This is what is laid on us. Why is it laid on us?  Because spreading the Good News of God in Christ is SOOO important that people need to hear about it.  


This calling is about living a life as close as we can to what we understand the life of Jesus to be. Jesus does his work, he heals, he casts out demons, he helps people return to their truest selves, the selves that God knows them to be, he rests, and then he prays to stay in order to stay in communion with God, a conversation, prays to be rejuvenated in between his moments of work. Then… he goes out to spread the Gospel.  “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”  It’s a very small part of the world that received the initial message, but that doesn’t change what we are to do.  Changing the world seems overwhelming, because it is, but we share the good news in whatever our walks of life are, we pray, and let God take care of the overall agenda.


Let’s spend a few moments to talk about this church – how WE live into our vocation to share the good news.  I realize the sanctuary is a hot mess, but it’s on the repair line.  One can see the short-term history of this church writ large in the Gospel.  This church has never been very large, and all churches have had a decline with Covid.  The decline here has certainly been made worse by not occupying the sanctuary for several years.  BUT … It is not beyond the stretch of the imagination that there are people out there who are searching for you, as our gospel says they were searching for Jesus.  The identity of this place is to word towards racial reconciliation and to be a bastion for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  You have stayed true to your identity and this is why this church did not merge.  This identity is not linked just with the previous rector; from what I know, this is who you are.  Now, I’m not one to rush things along.  There are so many balls in the air with the repairs, but I can’t help but think that some people out there are looking for you, looking for a place with just this very identity. And how we live out our identity, the church’s identity, our calling, our vocation, where our deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest need--- the time is coming to attend to this again more robustly.   


So when you look at the repairs happening … when you think about the congregational rebuilding that needs to happen … and even if you feel discouraged from time to time about all of that … remember this: God is persistent, and God’s call to this congregation is to be faithful to who we are, to who God has called us to be-- teaching and forming Christians, witnessing to racial reconciliation, preaching the gospel to all people without exception. We can do this, with God’s help. There is hope, with God’s help. And so, I ask you now to renew that commitment again: will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?


We will with God’s help.  AMEN.

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