This week our texts speak about the call to ministry and the reactions to people who are called. Jeremiah heard the Word of the Lord, a word that contained an intimate knowledge of his deepest self. All calls begin with a sense of the Holy opening a self knowledge that is deeper than we had known about ourselves. This knowledge doesn’t contradict who we are but rather expands and deepen us.
This call from God reveals a self knowledge which is truer than anything we have heretofore encountered and it leads us into a world that doesn’t quite recognize and more often than not does not appreciate what has taken place inside of us.
In our Gospel, Jesus has just stood up in the temple and announced that his ministry is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. God is declaring liberation and I (Jesus) am presenting and representing that liberation and healing. As much as people were awed by his teaching they only wanted to see Jesus the way they had previously seen him, I,e, the carpenter’s son. They drove him out of town and so we can see his ministry begins in the classic tradition of the prophets, that is through the gate of rejection.
In our church many are called to ministry. Many find they want to see their lives make a difference and somehow represent the love of God. Some of these people are members of our church and some come to us to volunteer their time and energy to feed the hungry or to find spiritual focus. Each person hears their own calling and chooses how to manifest that call.
Our clergy are the local models of people who have heard the call and left everything to make the Light of the Word be present in the world. We hear people ask us, “Weren’t you going to be a writer, or a lawyer or…How did you end up being a priest?” Yet that ancient voice which called the prophets somehow has given us the strange idea that our dedicated life should be used for prophetic and pastoral purposes.
Once that voice is accepted, the spirit leads in all kinds of strange and wonderful ways. We find ourselves called to special training, to the special discipline of the church and to church and life situations we could never have imagined. Sometimes we stay for countless years in one place and sometimes we are called to new places to share our calling with others.
We have been graced to have hosted Heather for the past couple years as her sense of call has been tried and tested and made more and more manifest. Heather has answered each question from our diocese and from our congregation and has grown in grace and stature through the process. Now she has received her first call as an ordained priest where she will minister through ‘Word and Sacraments’ the ancient message of God’s reconciling love. It has been our honor and joy to witness and to be blessed throughout our time together. As with all legitimate ministry we have all grown from grace to grace, deepened, nourished and challenged to be truer to our callings.
We now offer Heather our love and gratitude, in essence our blessing, as she begins this next stage of her ministry. Our sadness is outweighed by our joy in what has been and what will continue to be a blessing for both for her and us. And when we see her or hear reports of her work in the months and years ahead, we will continue to participate in the mutual grace that has been our shared experience.