Monday, January 16, 2012

God is calling ALL OF US.

In 1985 I went away to college,

it was my junior year, I had just completed my Associates Degree, from Jefferson College,

and I was headed to Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), in Springfield, Missouri.

My Dad drove me and my belongings to school, to help me move into my dorm room.

And after we got everything in place. A trip to the bookstore, and the grocery store, then he slipped me some money, got into the minivan and drove away.

I specifically remember thinking. Ok, now what?

My friends from high school were not moving down until 2 days later, and my room mate didn’t arrive until the day classes started.

Honestly it was the loneliest 2 days I had ever spent. I was away from my family,

and I was away from my constant companion, my twin brother Mike,

The person who had always been with me for 19 years.

I honestly went back to my dorm room.

Sat on my bed and just sat for about 15 minutes.

I decided that I would try to figure out where all my classes were for the following week.

So off I went on a self guided tour of the campus.

A few hours later I was heading back to my room, and was walking across the quad, in front of the student center, and I ran into a group of students from one of the Fraternities.

They invited me to hang out with them, so I figured why not!?

They also invited me to dinner with them. Which I did go to.

At this time I was not yet an Episcopalian, so didn’t think to look into the Episcopal Campus presence.

Eventually my friends arrived on campus and I began to plug into other activities.

But I did eventually join that fraternity and I made some very close lifelong friends.

Fast forward a few years, after I was graduated I was living in Columbia, Missouri.

I was invited to a wedding of one of my fraternity brothers.

And it was back in Springfield, and in this Episcopal church right off campus.

I had driven by it many times, in my years at SMS, but I never thought to stop in.

And I’ll be honest, the liturgy grabbed me.

I was captivated by the vestments, the language, the inclusiveness.

For once in my life I really really wanted to take communion.

I was not yet baptized yet either so I did not go up, but I went away thinking, I really want to do that.

I was living in Columbia, Missouri at the time, and I did what most people did when I returned.

I picked up the yellow pages. (There was no internet then kids!).

I found, Calvary Episcopal Church.

I called for service times, and attended the next Sunday service.

This would have probably been around the end of July, of 1988.

I attended for a few weeks, and then called up one of the Associate Rectors at the time.

And asked to meet with him. We started some baptism classes.

And in the meantime, I started to plug into the Canterbury Club there for the University of Missouri and Stephens College that met at Calvary.

I met some great friends.

Mike Kinman, Robin Kinman, and Heidi and Mike Clark to name a few.

A few weeks later August 31st, at the start of classes at Mizzou, I was baptized.

My sponsor? Was the entire Episcopal Campus Ministry group.

What amazed me is the community aspect of my baptism.

Everyone was participating and joyful at my becoming a member of the church.

And I was all so happy to be able to have communion and to share it with that group. It was a very memorable event for me.

Forming communities became important to me.

When I moved to Omaha, a year later, I sought out a few Episcopal churches, and eventually settled on St. Andrew’s.

And as we were close to the University of Nebraska Omaha,

and had a few students attending I approached our rector and asked, about starting a college, young adult group.

His response. “sounds good what are you going to do about it?”

A bit of Trivia: how many of you have seen the Jack Nicholson movie “About Schmidt”?

The priest who counsels Nicholson’s Character “Warren Schmidt” was my old rector Bob Kem.

But that’s a bit of a tangent.

What I didn’t know was at that time was that looking to create communities for students and young adults, became a pattern for me.

When I moved to Chicago in 1992, I sought out a church close to me and eventually got involved in the Vocare movement, which is a young adult, version of Happening or Cursillo.

The common denominator here was a sense of knowing where people were loneliest and stepping in to build community.

I did not seem to realize it but I had to be drawing on my own experience my first time away in college.

And how lonely I was those first two days.

A community sprang up and got me, and that made all the difference for me.

You see as someone who was always identified as “one of the twins”.

Having another identity to be a part of something else helped me, in my life.

And once I was involved in a faith community, something else happened.

You see I believe that the natural response we have to our baptism is to go out and to seek to serve in the world.

We look for where Christ calls us to work, to bring the good news to the world.

To build communities where all can receive a new identity and a new life, as a part of the body of Jesus, here and now.

The natural response of our baptism is to go and do diaconal work.

The Association of Episcopal Deacons has published a pamphlet entitled. Engaging the Diakonia of All Believers: and it in part says:

All Christians are called through the baptismal covenant to live out diakonia through what they do and how they live their daily life in the world.

This is the first and most fundamental expression of diakonia.

Organized expressions of diakonia occur at the congregational level, as well as through those who are set apart as ordained deacons.

Deacons are to model and lead, by inspiring, empowering, and engaging every baptized person in living out the diakonia of all believers in everyday life.

Deacons do not – cannot – “do” diakonia on behalf of the baptized, but they help to lead all people, including the ordained, into the servant ministry of all believers which is the essence of our baptismal covenant.

Too often we bring persons into our church through baptism, or confirmation and then we don’t do anything with them.

Our response should be. We have opportunities, HERE and HERE, and HERE!

To proclaim God’s presence in the world .

Through our words and through our actions. Now I’m not talking about some Pelagian heresy of salvation through works, but that by the belief that we are known as Christians by the fruit we bear.

And that is to care for the least.

When I was living in Chicago, I took an extension course of Education for Ministry from the Episcopal Seminary in Sewanee, and the last of the 4 year course of study we looked at Calls to ministry and our gifts.

And looking at what spoke and formed me in my life began to coalesce a call to the Diaconate.

And in reading from the prayerbook the rite for the ordination of a deacon, I found that during the examination, the part about deacons being called: “to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely”

And it hit me. “THE LONELY” that’s what I had been doing all those years.

Trying to find for myself a way to fit and and trying to offer to a place where the church can intersect with the lonely in our communities, especially the young adult and the students , all where I lived, especially in Columbia, Omaha, and Chicago.

Now this is just my story. And it is a story of how I was called to the diaconate.

But not all callings are to the ordained ministry.

I sit on the Commission on Ministry and we tell seekers all the time, that the question we are answering is not “are you called to ministry”, because that answer is YES.

Everyone is called to some kind of ministry, we have to figure out what.

Many are called to specialized lay ministries.

Myrna Wacker is called to the altar guild,
Our choir members are called to give the gift of their voices of praise in voice and music.
Brother Franklin is called to a devotional life in monastic community. Some are called quietly to pray for others.
Some called to teach Sunday school.
Some to visit the sick and to take them the eucharist.
Some are called to tend to the gardens and flower beds around the cathedral. Some are called to acolyte,
some called to volunteer at Saturday Breakfast,
or to assist at the bridge on the Sunday that we serve lunch there.
Some feel called to explore the possibility of creating a Magdalene (Thistle farms) model outreach here in St. Louis.
All of us are called.
And all glorify god and exercise our baptismal covenant when we do these things.

When we do these things we are witnessing to the saving power of Christ.

Society looks at us and says “who are they? And why do they do these great things?”

The answer is we are compelled to.

If we truly take serious our baptismal vows, and if we truly believe the Gospel teachings we HAVE to.

There is opportunity all around us.

To live out your lives as Christians.
You just have to hold your breath and take that first step.

Step out of your comfort space and do it!

Because you know in trying you cannot fail!

Think about that! What could you accomplish if you knew you couldn’t fail!?

Or if you knew that you wouldn’t be ridiculed or thought less of for trying.

If you knew that in your trying you made Jesus smile?

That is our calling.

To be together in community, as the body of Christ, to tend to the least in our midst.

That’s what being a Christian is all about.

And how exciting is it to be doing it here in this space and this time?!?

I invite you to look back, see how God has been preparing you.

How has god been calling you to service?

What gift of yours does the church need?

Does the community need?

And how can we as a community help you discern and to accomplish this?

To help you live into and fulfill your baptismal vows?

That is why the church community exists, to equip and teach us how to live into God’s expectations.

How will you answer your call?

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