But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. – 2 Corinthians 4:7
Over the weekend I attended the installation of a friend who was elected Bishop. It was a wonderful event. We celebrated a festive worship service. Dignitaries from across the ELCA and from other churches were present. My friend knelt and hands were laid on him. He was called as Bishop. These times when we pause to set apart persons for public ministry are truly awe inspiring.
But all of this got me to thinking. Do we forget in these times of celebration that pastors and bishops and other church workers aren’t the only ones called to ministry? As I read the scriptures it is clear to me that every one of us is called. We are called to follow Jesus into the world, wherever he may lead, doing whatever he may point us to do.
We often mistake what being called is though. We think that we must do something BIG to be called. Or that we must GO someplace else to be called. Or that we must be PERFECTLY holy to be called. Or the list could go on. We look for every way possible to get out of being called to holy ministry in the name of Jesus; or to every way that we don’t measure up to get out of the Lord’s service! I’m too old; I’m too young. I’m not smart enough; I’m not able. I need to focus on other things right now; I’d have to go somewhere and I can’t do that.
Consider then these examples from the Bible. Sarah was in her 60’s when she and Abraham left Ur and well into her 80’s when she became the mother of God’s covenant People. David was but a small boy when God anointed him the next king of Israel. Esther was a religious minority when God called her to save his chosen people. Moses was a murderer and slow of speech when he was called to lead the Hebrews to freedom. The Prophet Haggai served for only a few months of his life. While the Prophet Samuel served for the entirety of his long life. The Apostle James never left Jerusalem once he got there. And Paul travel throughout the known world. Peter was an uneducated fisherman. Luke was a physician. And the list goes on.
The bottom line is this: God calls all sorts of people, from all walks of life, and uses them for all sorts of tasks. There’s a saying that fits this: God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called. All of these biblical figures were but jars of clay. The world could look at them and point out the many and various ways that they shouldn’t be called; that they weren’t of any value. But our Father in heaven looks not upon our outward nature but upon our heart, as he did with King David; he calls us to be laborers in his vineyards. The surpassing power that worked out of the lives of these saints is the power of God…and it is that very power of God that is at work in you!
In the Baptismal rite the pastor places their hands on the head of the newly baptized and says: Sustain this person with the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever. Luther referred to this as the ordination of the laity. Peter writes in his first letter: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (2:9)
So my sisters and brothers, despite what the world might say, despite what those who know you might say, despite what even you yourself might say; you have been called by God. You have been called to follow him and to point to him and to demonstrate the Christian life both now and forever in what ever walk of life God has placed you. You may not be preaching a sermon with words…but the way you live your life in faith, hope, and love will speak volumes to a world in need of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light!