Sermon – May17, 2015
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” Acts 1:24-25
Please be seated.
“I need to make a confession,” the caller said. I waited patiently to hear what was next. The caller proceeded,
“For years, I’ve felt like God wants me to do something. I was really sick many years ago and it’s a miracle I’m alive. I knew God wanted me to do something more. I prayed and prayed, but just couldn’t figure it out. Now I’ve had another bout of illness and once again, I hear God asking me to do something. This morning I was praying and reading scripture and it came to me. God wants me to help spread the word and raise money for a ministry I love. With whatever time I have left on this earth, I’ll do all I can to help out.”
The caller clearly heard what God had in mind…clearly heard God’s call for their life right now.
In today’s Gospel, we hear the remaining eleven apostles wrestle with how to discern who God wants to be the 12th apostle…the one to replace Judas. They had some criteria: someone who had been with Jesus from his baptism by John through the resurrection, and of course, in their worldview, it had to be a man. Barsabbas and Mathias were the two who met those criteria. They prayed and asked God for guidance. They then trusted the Holy Spirit to work through the casting of lots. Matthias was chosen.
It’s important that at least once a year, we examine our call. What is God calling each of us to do? What does God have in mind for us to do? What is God asking our community of St. John’s to do?
As part of my discernment process for the priesthood, I was fortunate to be in a weekend workshop with Marjory Zoet Bankson. She has written an entire book about God’s call, The Call to the Soul: Six stages of Spiritual Development.
One of the things she stresses is that our call shifts and changes over time. We experience life; things happen to us. It’s not like we figure it out once and we’re done. That’s why taking some time each year to pay attention to our call is important.
Marjory Bankson says there are six stages to the call cycle. Often as we begin to feel God’s pull in our life, that “God wants me to do something,” we resist. We question what we’re being called to. We see this over and over again in our Bible. Most of the prophets and Moses resisted their calls initially. Our response is often, “Not me; I can’t do that!” Sometimes we’re afraid.
Now the thing is, God keeps calling us, so often we move to the next stage – Reclaim. Sometimes we ask God for a sign. I know for me, often the signs come in the form of hearing or seeing something over and over again. In my call to priesthood, early on, I kept hearing a particular passage of Mark. It was in the Forward Day by Day and then was preached about in a Sunday sermon and then was preached on when in a fluke, I was able to attend a noontime weekday service. It was a passage about being called to spread the Gospel. I heard it three times within a week. Yes, I woke up and listened.
In the reclaim stage, we begin to open up to the possibility of what God is calling us to.
Stage three according to Bankson is Revelation. We see a glimpse of what it looks like when we respond and embrace our call. After hearing the Mark passage over and over, I woke up one morning and said, “I’m going to seminary.” I got on the computer before going to work and started looking at seminaries! This was 2006 and I didn’t get to seminary until four years later. But I had the assurance, although at the time I wasn’t necessarily happy about it, that that’s what was next.
The fourth stage is Risk. Our call is becoming clearer and now we must take action. We can’t keep the call to ourselves any longer. My caller contacting me was a sign of taking a risk to truly embody God’s call. When we take the risk to share our call with others, we also risk getting their support and encouragement, which are absolutely necessary any time we are doing God’s work.
The fifth stage is Relate. Bankson describes it as this, “Our task in Stage Five is to connect with a larger community who can share in our sense of purpose, find a common language, common symbols, and a common story.” (p. 131) We must begin to live out our call in a community that supports us, celebrates with us, corrects us, and provides a place for the impact of our call.
This is the stage where we truly live out our call…embody our call. We have answered God and are doing what God has asked of us. And we must have that community surrounding us. It’s not something we do in a vacuum.
But you see, God’s not done. Answering God’s call changes us and changes the world we live in. The sixth stage is Release. We step back, just like I’m asking you to do today, and take a look. We listen for God’s leading again. Things are changed, both with us and with our community. We may be called to let go and to move on to a new call. We start the cycle all over again.
So, pay attention to that resistance you feel sometimes, especially when you’re asked to take on the same task over and over. You may be experiencing stage one – Resistance. Pay attention to your revelations and glimpses of a life that truly feeds your soul. You may be experiencing stage three – Revelation. Pay attention to the signs that what you’re doing is weighing you down and not feeding your soul. Maybe it’s time to step back. You may be in the sixth stage of Release.
And make sure you are grounded in a community always, just like the Apostles were. Matthias did not discern as an individual that he should be the next Apostle. That discernment was done through community prayer for God’s guidance.
And always know that we as the community of St. John’s are praying for each other, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us….”