“Birthed, adopted, called”
I’d like to try something a bit different this morning – a message that is more like a conversation between two persons. Call it a “dialogue.” Sermons should actually be more like a dialogue between the preacher and the congregation, with God somehow part of the conversation through our interacting with the Word in scripture, empowered by the Holy Spirit’s presence. I say it “should” be, though more often it is a monologue. Just one person speaks. Everyone else listens.
Dialogues can be nerve-wracking, because a conversation can move in numerous directions. You may start out thinking you know where it will end up, but along the way things can shift to an altogether different location. Take Nicodemus and his dialogue with Jesus. Where he started out in this nighttime encounter was not where things ended up. From this conversation many of us have memorized a pivotal verse about God so loving the world and giving his Son and a deep-seated trust that leads to eternal life. The words, however, are not for a bumper sticker. It takes a lifetime to unpack them or, better put, for this faith to be brought to birth in us through the work of the Spirit. Faith, trust, belief – this is a dialogue, not a monologue.
To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about this morning’s message, because I’m not sure where it will end up. I was delighted this week to have our sister Meghan back as part of a worship team. I’ve missed her input. As you may know, she is slowly, but surely (I hope) moving toward a call to ministry. I thought it might be helpful for the two of us to talk about that. Perhaps, if we (and you) are comfortable enough, we can widen the dialogue and receive some questions you might have. I trust that since it says in our bulletin that the ministers of this church are the people, talking about our call to ministry is not just for those in what we call “set-apart” ministries, like being a pastor. Truthfully, all are called, just as being born from above is the Spirit’s work in us all. Furthermore, spiritually we are all adopted by God, given a great inheritance by our heavenly Abba, not just the preachers and teachers among us.
The scripture immediately before this message was about Isaiah’s call to being a prophet of God. It’s marvelous to encounter, yet a little daunting to consider next to our own sense of call. I don’t have such a dramatic vision story to tell about my own formation as a minister. Just like there is not a Damascus Road, blinded-by-the-light-as-the-apostle-Paul-was tale to be told about my coming to Christ. The Spirit has moved in my life, however. Just as I know it has in yours, Meghan.
Why don’t we start there, keeping it simple?
The process from here for Meghan (new denominational polity):
1. Congregation submits name to the Calling & Credentialing Ministry Team.
2. Receive paperwork. returns “Discerner Information Form.”
3. Enters into the Discernment process, puts together a Calling Cohort.
4. Cohort meets at least 4 times during the year.
5. At the end of the discernment year, if continuing is right, fill out a Pre-licensing Interview Guide and submits it to the Ministry Interviewing Task Team.
6. Does Readiness for Ministry.
7. undergoes background check.
8. fills out a Covenant of Accountability that outlines educational goals and activity in the life of the church.
9. Ministry Interviewing Task Team interview.
10. which makes their recommendation to Calling & Credentialing Ministry Team, and upon approval, the congregation votes on the candidate.
11. Licensing Service held in congregation.
12. During the licensing period, licensed minister continues to meet with Calling Cohort.
As with any process, the Spirit moves through it - as it will (just like the wind which blows, from where to where we never fully know). God is God, after all. There will be dry times, moments of doubt, personal testing (40 days in the wilderness), times we do not consider ourselves worthy to the task (unclean lips), and times when the coal fire burns. Yes, there is “paperwork,” as always, but the process at heart is the work of the Holy Spirit moving among God’s people. Notice, it’s not just about one person. Calling is the church’s Spirit-work.
Please understand, this is not just about one person answering God’s call. We all are invited to stand with Meghan, such that when God asks, “Whom shall I send, who will go for us?” we are all invited to speak up with her, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”