March 12, 2017
Genesis 12:1-4a; John 3.1-7
+ It seems like a long time go already—and that’s a good thing, to some extent—but I have been back from vacation for almost two weeks. And this is the first Sunday morning sermon I’ve preached since early February. Which seems insane to me!
This last vacation was a little different than most vacations I’ve had in the past. I have never taken three weeks in a row before (usually I spread my vacation out over the year) And, for the most part, I really let myself be on vacation this time. I prayed for you all, I thought of you all fondly, but I didn’t worry about you. I knew you all could take care of yourselves. And that you were in good hands with our Senior and Junior Wardens.
But…the last few days of vacation, I have to admit, I was beginning to bite at the bit somewhat. I was started to actually get anxious about getting back to work. (Maybe three week vacations are a good thing).
I was mentioning this anxiousness to a friend of mine before I went back to work, who replied by saying, “Well, I’m sure it’ll be good to be getting back to ministry again.”
That response was meant to mean, I think, work at the church. But I have to say that the response stopped me in my tracks for a moment. The fact is, I actually didn’t stop “doing ministry” while I was on vacation. I don’t get a vacation from “doing ministry.” Nor do any of us. I know. I’m sorry to break that news to all of you. None of us get a break from doing ministry. There’s no end to it.
Because, as most of us know, we are all ministers. We are all doing ministry together here. I am just the priest doing ministry in my own way. And to be real clear, I also don’t get a vacation from being a priest. Yes, I was still a priest on vacation. Being a priest, like any other ministry, is not something that can be turned on and off whenever I might feel like (though, let me tell you, there are days in which I wish I could…) Each of you are doing ministry in your own ways as well.
Now, I should be clearer about that. Our ministry together is not just in what we do. It is in who we are. Our ministry is often a ministry of who we are. Of our personalities. Of the person that God has created, even in our very brokenness. It’s all bound up very tightly together. And if each of us listens, if each of strains our spiritual ears and hearts toward God, we can hear that calling, deep in our hearts. We can find that God is calling us to the ministry of our day-to-day lives, the ministry of the person God has formed us to be, the ministry to serve others in the way God sees fit.
In our reading from the Hebrew Bible this morning, we find a clear call from God to Abram.
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”
Essentially this is the call to all of us who are in ministry. God calls to us wherever we may be and when that happens, we must heed it. We must step out from our comfortable places, and we must step out into our service to others even if that means going to those people in strange and alien places. And sometimes when we step into those uncomfortable places, we are made all the more aware of our own brokenness—we become even more vulnerable. But that’s just a simple fact in ministry: when God calls, God calls heedless of our brokenness.
In fact, God calls us knowing full well our brokenness. And—and I hope this isn’t news to anyone here this morning—God uses our brokenness. God can truly work through our brokenness and use our fractured selves in reaching out to other fractured people.
For too many people our brokenness divides us. It separates us. It isolates us. It prevents us from moving forward in our lives and in ministries. I see this all the time in the world and in the Church. And when it does, our brokenness becomes a kind of condemnation. It becomes the open wound we must carry with us—allowed by us to stink and fester.
But when we can use our brokenness to reach out in love, when we allow God to use our brokenness, it is no longer a curse and a condemnation. Our brokenness becomes a fruitful means for ministry. It becomes a means for renewal and rebirth. It becomes the basis for ministry—for reaching out and helping those who are broken and in need around us.
In our Gospel reading for today we get that all-too-familiar bit of scripture.
“For God so loved the world that [God] gave [the] only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”
We have heard that scripture so often in our lives, we almost don’t realize what it’s really saying. It is saying to us that God truly does love us. And that those of us who are heeding our call—who following after Jesus, who are loving Jesus and loving the Jesus we find in others—we will be made whole one day. We will be given eternal life Each of us is called. Each of us has been issued a call from God to serve. It might not have been a dramatic calling—an overwhelming sense of the Presence of God in our lives that motivates us to go and follow Jesus.
But each Sunday we receive the invitation. Each time we gather at this altar to celebrate the Eucharist, we are, essentially, called to then go out, refreshed and renewed in our broken selves by this broken Body of Jesus, to serve the broken people of God. We are called to go out and minister, not only by preaching and proclaiming with words, but by who we are, by our very lives and examples.
So, let us heed the call of God. Let us do as Abram did in our reading from Genesis did today.
“Abram went, as the Lord told him…”
Let us, as well, go as God has told us. Let us go knowing full well that heeding God’s call and doing what God calls us to do may mean leaving our country and our kindred and our house—in essence, everything we find comfortable and safe—and going to a foreign place—a place that may be frightening. And going will be doubly frightening when we know we go as imperfect human beings—as people broken and vulnerable.
But let us also go, sure in our calling from God. Let us go sure that God has blessed each of us, even in our brokenness. Let us go knowing that God loves us, because we too love. Let us go knowing that God will use the cracks and fractures within us, as always, for good. And let us go knowing God will make us whole again in our eternal life.
God will make us a blessing to others and God will “bless those who bless us.” What more can we possibly ask of the ministry God has called us to carry out?