Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sorry, Wrong Number

The texts for this week (Epiphany 2B) are all about call. As someone who professes to be 'called' to her profession, I find these texts both wonderful and difficult to deal with. I was recently helping a sister church through their long-range visioning process so that they could come up with a new vision statement. But it turns out that the leaders of that church had a problem seeing beyond the "now". The vision statement they churned out was a description of the way they are now, not what they hope to be in the future (or at least I assume they don't hope to be stagnant and unchanged in the next ten or fifteen year) especially in light of the fact that their pastor of 33 years is retiring in a few months. So as much as I pushed them to consider "What is God calling us to be and do?" it still seemed like their own agenda (that is, "we like us now and don't try to change us") ended up as the vision. But of course, that's only my take on it. So how DO we know what is God's call and what is our agenda? My denomination has a long process for those who want to enter the ministry. We have a committee that helps to guide candidates, and we expect their home churches to help as well. As the newly appointed chair of my presbytery's Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM), I feel particularly drawn to that question right now. How do we help these candidates know what is God's call and what is, say, their mother's dream pushed onto them? Well, for one, that is why we do this sort of thing in groups. We pray, we discern, we pray some more and we work through this process because, well, it does work. I have seen people who eventually discerned that their 'call' was really something that someone else had dreamed for them, not God. Then again, I've seen plenty of people do the exact opposite. "No, no, that's not God, that's coincidence," they'll say. Who says God can't work through coincidences? It was the same for Samuel; he needed Eli to guide him through the call process. "If you hear God's voice again, Samuel, this is what you need to say," goes the instruction. And so with that guidance, Samuel becomes a prophet for the people of Israel. What might God be calling us to be and do, that we could discern with just a little guidance from colleagues, friends, an intentional prayer group, etc.? Who is your Eli?

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