Our high callingPublished 4:08pm Sunday, August 3, 2014
By Rev. Bob Henderson
I know a priest who is the best guitar player I’ve ever heard. Start singing any song, in any key and he can pick up his guitar, follow along playing the accompaniment, even if he’d never heard the song before.
I once asked him why he didn’t play more. He replied that playing the guitar was too easy, he didn’t have to work at it. The obvious implication was that if exercising the gifts given to us by God isn’t difficult, if we don’t have to work using our gifts, they aren’t valuable or worthy of offering.
People sometimes feel that way when called to do things in the church. If it isn’t hard, if they don’t have to work at it, they believe their offering isn’t valuable enough to offer to God, the church or the world.
What a terrible way to feel!
There is nothing we do in the church or as Christian people, that is better or worse, more valuable or less valuable than what someone else does. Teachers aren’t better than ushers; choir members aren’t better than those who fix flowers; acolytes aren’t better than those who pick up the trash in the church yard; those who pray daily for the church have a ministry no better or worse than greeters, children’s chapel leaders or nursery ministers.
That’s what I think Jesus was talking about when he said:
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” Matthew 10:40-42
Not everyone can be a prophet, but everyone can hear a prophet and believe. Some who hear the prophet can tell others what they heard or even invite them to come hear the prophet.
Not everyone can be an obviously righteous or holy person, but every one can recognize another person’s holiness, everyone can desire that holiness, everyone can begin seeking that holiness.
Not all of us can speak in front of a crowd or do the “up front/out front” things, but we can all do something. We can all be kind; we can notice needs that are not met and help meet them; we can all help others even if it is just giving them a cup of cold water. Yes, all of us can do something for other people in God’s name; all of us can offer our gifts and our talents.
That’s why I really hate it when someone tells me I have a “higher calling.” I don’t have a higher calling than anyone else. Granted, as a priest, I do have a high calling, but it is only a high calling because it is the highest calling for me!
Each of us has a “higher” calling, too; even if that high calling isn’t to be a priest. It may be a higher calling to teach children; to read to shut ins; to take flowers to the sick; to bake cookies for Bible School; to greet people or help them feel comfortable in our parish – we can all help others in many and varied ways. We can all serve God, our brothers, our sisters and especially “the little ones” of this world – the helpless, the sad, the downtrodden. How we do that, how each of us does that, no matter how we do it, is our higher calling.
So, don’t believe that I have a higher calling because I wear a black shirt with a funny collar or because I stand in a pulpit every Sunday. Instead, believe that each of us, and especially you, have a higher calling because all of us are children of God and God is calling us to serve. And, believe that there is no service to God or in God’s name that is not a high calling.
I know that’s sometimes hard for us to believe. We see others doing things we don’t think we could ever do, and as humans decide that they are doing something valuable and important. Then, we look at the things we can do, what we enjoy doing, what we like to do and judge the value of those things, saying to ourselves, “That’s not important, anybody can do it,” or worse, “That’s not important enough to offer.”
But what we can do, what we can offer, no matter what, is important. Remember, Jesus said “… whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones …” What could be more mundane or ordinary than giving a cup of cold water to someone – except to the one who is thirsty?
What is your “higher calling”?
I don’t know, but you do. If you don’t know, you can know, if you listen to God. And the best way to do that is to think about what you like to do, not what you dislike; what’s easy for you, not what’s hard.
If you like to sew, sew things the church needs or clothes that people need. But, if you hate to sew, why torture yourself trying to do something you don’t do well or enjoy doing. Instead, find something you enjoy and offer that to God, to the church and to others.
Whatever you do, whatever you have, whatever you offer is important – many times more important than you can ever know or appreciate.
Remember too, that evil will try to keep all of us from offering what we have by encouraging us to believe we have nothing valuable to offer. Accepting that belief is probably not a sin, but it is sad.
It’s sad because it means we haven’t truly heard the gospel; it means we don’t really believe we are children of God, valuable in His sight; it means we don’t realize that as children of God, we have been given, graced if you will, with gifts, talents and abilities to use in God’s service; it means we will never realize our high calling to offer those gifts in the name of God to the church and the world.
When that happens, when we don’t recognize our high calling and fail to offer it, we and the world are diminished.
The Rev. Bob Henderson is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka.