Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19
ROBO CALLS and TELEMARKETERS
Driving down the road the other day, I received a call on my Bluetooth car device for my phone. When I answered it, you probably guessed, it was one of those Robo-telemarketers. You know the ones. A recorded voice said, “Hello? Can you hear me?” “Oh, sorry, I was just adjusting my headset.” Then, the voice broke into a hard sell script to offer me the latest free vacation “to a fabulous Disney resort.” I am sure you have received these calls like, the one about car repair insurance, Medicare supplements, and I even received one about the IRS coming to arrest me. Do you do what I do when those calls come? Well, I just hit the red “end call” button on my phone. I do not even give them a chance to give me the spiel.
I am sure glad God does not place the call on our lives using robo-callers. Could you imagine, “Hi Eric, this is God, sorry, I was adjusting the weather in India, but I want to offer you an incredible opportunity to serve in a particular type of ministry, designed just for your spiritual gifts.” Seriously though, we all have a call on our lives, but do we hang up when the Spirit begins to nudge us to respond to a call to serve? Being in community means we come to be fed, but we are fed for service, both in the community and in the Kingdom beyond the four walls. We are a community of varied gifts, unified for a purpose.
JESUS PRAYS FOR US
Over the last few weeks, we have been talking a lot about Christian community, and what it means to be in fellowship with one another. We discussed the fact that we are a resurrection community, an Easter community, a community raised from the ashes of human despair and strife, into the hope of life everlasting. We are a family in Christ. We are a tribe of “Jesus and His Friends,” “vines intertwined in the branch Jesus,” “sheep of the Jesus fold,” and a community living in the hope of “What if.”
In today’s gospel, “Jesus prayed the words we heard in today’s gospel reading. He prayed in the Upper Room on the night of his betrayal, knowing that crucifixion would follow with the coming sunrise. The words are part of his final words, and final words have a history of being intense, focused and passionate.” (2) The “aim of the prayer: the ultimate aim of Jesus’s more immediate prayer, is an aim for the salvation of “the world.” (1) Our Master, Lord, Savior, and King Jesus Christ prayed then, and prays now for us, so that we might have unity of purpose for our mission of love both within the community, and out there in the Kingdom. Each one of us has a part in that mission.
Jesus prays for us to be unified in him, gathering together for mutual support and love, so we might be sent out for mission. Now unity does not mean we lose the beauty of the diversity of gifts we have as individuals. As a matter of fact, it is the diversity of God’s people that make our mission in the world effective.
DIVERSITY within UNITY
As a nation, we have for over two centuries been gathered together by common goals and objectives, but sometimes those goals and objectives have become hidden in our own divergent agendas. We have always been a nation, a tribe of people with differing views over issues, cultural differences, policies, and approaches, but it is the diversity of ideas, gifts, talents, and objectives that have made us a great community of people, and somehow God has held us together.
Born at about the same time as our nation, the Episcopal Church (4) is a community of people bound together through decades of tradition, but we are so much more than our beautiful traditions. Our common mission, our identity in Christ, our variety of gifts, different ideas, and talents make our branch of the Jesus movement a place for all. All are welcome, but we, like our nation can become distracted from our unity, and we can become sidetracked and then, the whole Body suffers.
Jesus desires unity of purpose within the Body. Jesus prayed, “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” To be sanctified means that we are set aside as holy, sacred, and devoted to God. We are called to be a people, who give of ourselves, and abandon our self-interest, so that we might focus on God and God’s mission of love and yet, we still get distracted. Likewise, if we were to be merely separated from the world and focused only on ourselves, we would fail to respond to the our corporate and individual vocational calls.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about the calling of a new apostle, after the failure of the one, to remain in unity with the body. Judas followed his own way and his own agenda and we know what happened. “The appointment of Matthias as a leader is instructive for every Christian. Every Christian is chosen, called, summoned to a vocation and moment that no other person can fill, though every calling is woven into the complex web of the Church’s being.” (3) Matthias added to the others, a diversity and uniqueness to the unified mission of the emerging community.
Unified purpose takes all of us, in order for the mission of the church to be effective, and our answering of God’s call as individuals using the gifts given us by the Spirit, makes us one. You see, the church is not a respite only, a place where we come to circle the wagons, and live safely in our own little building like the disciples did in the upper room.Jesus prayed, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Jesus sends us to continue his ministry of love and reconciliation, both as advocates and as workers in the Kingdom. We are a community on a mission, God’s mission.
Each one of us has our own Easter story about how Christ has called us unto himself, and how he has equipped each of us for a particular vocation in the church and in the world. Every single one of us has a call. You may say, “Now Eric, I am not a leader,” but to that I say, “God equips the ‘called,’ he does not call the ‘equipped.’ In other words, God will give you what you need to do the work and ministry he calls you to do, because having a Christian vocation is part of having a Christian life narrative. Our life story join the stories of the saints of all ages, the Communion of All the saints, and together those stories frame the resurrection story of this community, and our common mission of love in Naples and beyond.
The only one who can tell your story authentically, from the heart, and with passion is you. “But I have no idea what I am called to do Eric,” you may say. Well, in your bulletin is a two-page Spiritual Gifts assessment.(5) I want to encourage you to take this assessment, but do so by prayerfully considering how God is calling you to serve. Then, find a trusted friend, maybe your spouse/partner and share with them what you discovered in the assessment. Ask them if they see those gifts in you. Then, let’s talk you and I talk about it, and together discern what God is calling you to do in your vocation as a Christian disciple.
You have a call on your life as a layperson, to bring your gifts to bear on God’s mission. So, as you leave church today, imagine that your cell phone is ringing or vibrating. Maybe you look down and you see the caller ID, “God is calling.” What are you going to do. Seriously now, God is calling, are you ready to answer the call?
(1) Janzen, J Gerald. “The Scope of Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer in John 17.” Encounter, vol. 67, no. 1, 2006, pp. 1-26.
(2) Lueking, F Dean. “That They May Be One.” The Christian Century, vol. 114, no. 14, 23 Apr. 1997, p. 407.
(4) BRIEF HISTORY of the EPISCOPAL CHURCH http://www.dsoconnections.org/2017/08/30/a-brief-history-of-the-episcopal-church/
n 1789, after the American Revolution, an assembly met in Philadelphia to unify all Anglicans in the United States into a single national church. A constitution was adopted along with a set of canonical laws, and the English Book of Common Prayer of 1662 was revised, principally by removing the prayer for the English monarch. Samuel Seabury was ordained in Scotland as the first American bishop.
(5) SPIRITUAL GIFTS ASSESSEMENT