Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Musings - Jesus calls disciples

The lectionay readings for the 3rd Sunday in Ephinany are Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27:1,4-9, I Corinthians 1:10-8 and Matthew 4:12-23. 
The passage in Matthew contains the story of Jesus calling Peter and Andres, James and John from their fishing boats, to 'be fishers of people."   It brings up thoughts of God's call on our lives, and how we live out that call, and vocation.  I can't help but think of my own "call story".  Pastors (and those in training to be pastors) are frequently asked, “how did you know that you wanted to be a pastor?”  In seminary, that is called  our "call story" and the professors warned us that pastors are frequently asked to tell theirs.
Now, for me, this is a long story that starts in my childhood.
As a child and a teen (in the 60’s and 70’s), I attended several churches from different denominations and as a teen also attended some parachurch organizations that were non-denominational.  One of the things that all these different congregations had in common (and of course they had many things in common!) was that women could not become pastors, or in some cases even leaders in the church.  That’s just the way it was.  So, being a pastor when I grew up was not even in my wish list – I didn’t know it was possible for women.
Still, by the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to do some kind of ministry.  By then, I was attending churches where women could lead youth groups and teach Sunday school to teens and adults.  The college I attended had a seminary, and while women were not even allowed in the doors of the seminary, we were encouraged to become Christian education leaders, youth group leaders, church musicians and music directors.  I decided to minor in religious education with the idea of doing something in Christian education. I majored in Psychology, which I could also use to become a Christian counselor.  I still had no idea that women could be ordained, although the predecessor bodies of the ELCA had been ordaining women for about 9 years at the time I entered college.
Life happened, and – well, in the John Ylvisaker song “Borning Cry”, the first verse tells of early faith and God’s relationship with us.  It sums up my experience very nicely:
“I was there when you were but a child,
with a faith to suit you well;
In a blaze of light you wandered off
to find where demons dwell."
Later, after I was married, divorced, remarried and had explored lots of demon dwellings, I started attending church again, thanks to a neighbor’s invitation to come with her and a growing desire for my two year old to attend Sunday school. 
As I re-learned my childhood faith, I started getting serious about being a follower of Jesus.  I discovered that I still felt a strong call on my life, but didn't know exactly what I was being called to do.  My options were limited, since I still had no idea there were churches that ordained women – mind you this is in the early 90’s!  The denominations I was involved in certainly did not.  So, I focused on my calling as a wife and mother, holy and honorable callings.  I focused on living out my faith at my job, as a bookkeeper. When I started a day care in my home just before the birth of my second child, it was a ministry as well as a way for me to live out my ministry as a mother.  And when I closed my day care and started driving a school bus for the parochial school for my church, I took the job knowing that it was as much a ministry as it was a job.  I also taught Sunday school, and VBS, lead the praise team at my congregation and served as a Stephens Minister.  I served where I could, where I was allowed.  In Lutheran language, these were my vocations. 
But I felt a call to more.  So I began exploring the desire I had in college to become a Christian education director.  When my family moved from Indiana to Ohio, the search for a new church began.  We ended up at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lima.  And it just so happened (evidence of the Spirit at work?), that they were looking for a part-time Christian education director.  I was hired.
I loved the work!  After a few years, it occurred to me that I should consider going back to college to get whatever degree Christian education directors usually got.  And that got the ball rolling for me to reconsider how God calls people and what call God had in store for me.  Because, in the ELCA, Christian education directors typically go to seminary to obtain a Masters in Lay Ministry.  While exploring going to seminary to get that degee, I came across a momentous discovery.  The ELCA (and predecessor bodies) had been ordaining women since 1970!  God called women to be pastors, too!  There was no reason I couldn’t be a pastor.
Except I didn’t want to be a pastor.  I just knew that was not where God was calling me.  I wanted to be a Christian education director and was sure that’s where I was called.
God, however, had other ideas.
It wasn’t long after I had decided I really should go to seminary to become an Associate in Ministry (the ELCA’s designation for various areas of serving, including Christian education), that I began to think about becoming a pastor.  It happened this way.  I was sitting in worship listening to the sermon, and thinking about what a great sermon it was (I can’t even begin to remember what it was about now!) and how good a job the pastor was doing preaching, when the thought occurred to me (or was it the Spirit speaking?), “you could do that!” 
Oh no, I couldn’t!  I quickly squelched that thought and went back to listening to the sermon.
But the thought kept coming back.  After several months, I began to talk about the bizarre idea that I become a pastor.  Except the people I talked with didn’t think it was such a bizarre idea at all.  They thought I should become a pastor and wondered why it had taken me so long to recognize God's call.
I also began talking to God about it.  Or rather, arguing with God.  The thing is, if you argue with God, no matter how good your arguments are, God wins.  Just ask Moses, Isaiah or Jeremiah! And so I began the process of becoming a candidate for ordained ministry.
As I went through the process – and it is a many-layered process – at each stage, I found affirmation for my call.  At some point in my second year of seminary, I stopped fighting God, and started embracing my calling.  I am called by God to ordained ministry.  And I love every bit of it.
The point is that God calls us to many things – vocations of parent and child, of friend and family member, of work and community.  God calls us to many different vocations – some are lifelong, and some are only for a time.    And even when we say no, when we say it is too hard, or it is impossible, God continues to call us.  We are called in the waters of baptism, claimed and named as children of God.  We are called to live into the name God has given us, and into the life God desires for us.  We are called and we are gifted with the abilities and gifts and strengths for that call.   
What vocation(s) has God called you to?  Is there a call, a desire, which God has placed on you that you are only beginning to realize?  How do you live out your baptismal calling?

[i] “I was there to hear your borning cry,” lyrics by John Ylvisaker, copyright 1985.

1 comment:

  1. wonderful story! these days I've no idea how to continue living out my baptism, expect I know I'm a daughter of God and a daughter of the church. BTW, I noticed you on the revgals FB group and I'm enjoying your blog lots; peace!