In a few minutes we will celebrate the ordination and installation of Elders and Deacons. For those of you who have been part of this congregation for a while, you know what I am talking about. If you are new to this congregation well…be prepared!
After the new Elders and Deacons take their place, I will invite all who have been ordained as an Elder, Deacon or Minister to come forward and lay hands upon them; over half the congregation will get up and come forward.
Deanne and I have a precious piece of art work painted by our own Daryl Musick hanging over our fireplace at home. I brought it in for you to see. Daryl was inspired by this day of ordination and the laying on of hands and painted the scene.
Daryl can point out Sam Manu – the figure in black. Daryl’s nephew, John Linn Obery, is the LARGE figure on the left and I am the figure in the middle. Of course the question is: “Where’s Waldo, I mean, Clover?” Daryl says that she is in the picture but just too short to be seen.
Hands are laid, the spirit of Jesus Christ is passed from leader to leader, across the ages. The work of these leaders is not mere committee work – their primary purpose is to discern the will of God for Forest Hill Church at this time. It is the height of presumption to make this claim – but claim it we do.
That is deep! Soon they will answer 9 questions among them being: Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of scripture and be continually guided by our confessions? Will you, in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors and work for the reconciliation of the world? In you ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?
Why would anyone do this? Two Saturdays ago, Clover and I led a New Leaders training. The first question we asked was: “What made you say yes?”
The first person responded: “Well, because Ron Schmidt is VERY persuasive!” Sometimes we NEED that kind of persuasion.
Other responses were: “I have discovered that I have a heart for helping the poor.” He is now on the Ministry of Justice and Mission.
Another person said: “I analyze things.” His will be a good Trustee.
Another person had the gift of hospitality and service – DEACON!
All these new leaders expressed a deep humility, in some cases a sense of unworthiness – “Who am I to do this work?” Of course the response is: “Who are you NOT to do this work?”
It reminds me of Jeremiah’s call. God (who is slightly more persuasive than Ron) declares to Jeremiah; “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appoint you a prophet to the nations…to pluck up and pull down…to build and to plant.”
What does Jeremiah say? “Whoa! Wait a minute… Ah, Lord God, Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
Jeremiah’s response is typical. At some point in the process of discovering God’s call on your life and claiming your gifts – whether as prophet to the nations, or as a teacher, or as a home maker, or as a singer, preacher, accountant – whatever –YOU will go through what these almost ordained leaders went through and what Jeremiah went through (for that matter what Moses, Mary, Jesus, Paul went through) – you will not feel worthy, you will get that agitation in the gut “can I really do this? Should I really do this? How do I know?” And for some the fear of failure and unworthiness trumps the deeper yearning to say YES.
But I have found this to be usually the call of God comes to a place in you that responds in yearning, leaning forward – it may be a very quiet, a whispered “yes,” a restless “yes,” but it is a “yes.”
I didn’t know I wanted to be a minister when I went to college. But people kept appearing in my life – drawing me towards this madness. I had people who saw in me things that at the time I didn’t see in myself: “John, you need to think about this?” The people I most admired where people of faith and action. I was lucky enough to be part of a church community in the heart of Washington, D.C. during the civil rights years. I liked people, and liked ideas and was fascinated by the large questions of life and death. I wanted to be part of something big – a big idea. I was fascinated by Jesus. Now I don’t know what else I would do and be other than be a minister (well maybe a sports announcer – I like the mic!)
The key to finding God’s call for you at least starts with what you like to do. What are you interested in? What do others see in you? What do you dream about and yearn for? What is your big idea? What comes easily to you? Often times we dismiss and belittle what comes easily – as if it isn’t important enough. Jeremiah was a son of a priest and probably already in training to become a priest or a court prophet.
When a child is baptized here and after I put the water on their head, I almost always add in my prayer: “May you grow into the gifts God has given you.” I believe that each of you is beloved and gifted – Just like Jeremiah was.
I believe that the biggest hurdle that you and I have to get over in claiming our gift and living fully in the world is FEAR. I love that God tells Jeremiah “Don’t be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.”
I believe a call of God is that which touches the deep “yes” in you – brushes up against your fear and nudges you to your growing edge – a call of God is one that builds up and liberates – “builds and plants.” if you think God is calling you to hurt yourself or to hurt others – it isn’t from God.
And that is what the passage from Corinthians 13 teaches. A well know passage for sure – often used for weddings. But Paul didn’t really care about marriage. He cared about community. He cared about church leadership. He didn’t want noisy gongs, and puffed up egotists. Fine if you can move mountains, great if you have lots of wealth to give away, good if you are brilliant – but for Paul the only important thing was the building up of the common good. All our gifts are to be used for others – the collective body.
The bottom line was not success but LOVE. What God yearns for, God’s call is for your growth. To put away childish behavior and let go of the false security in knowledge or “certainty” and to press on towards the goal of knowing God, knowing yourself – that is what life is about, what this day is about.
As hands are laid upon these leaders, as you sit in the pew and witness it, perhaps you will feel the spirit upon you too. For God loves you, and delights in you, and has gifted you, and God will not let you go, ever… until you come face to face and know as you are fully known – or, until Ron calls! AMEN.