Balancing Call and Duty (Sermon) January 26, 2014

Sermon – January 26, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin
3rd Sunday after the Epiphany

As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Matthew 4:21

Please be Seated

I moved to Washington DC in the spring of 2006, as a result of a new job.  And all I wanted to do was to be in church!  One day in June, I happened to be at a meeting near St. John’s Lafayette Square.  You’ve heard of that church.  It’s the one that Presidents attend.  As it happened, my meeting ended and I was able to make their 12:10 Eucharist.  The priest at the service was a woman I’d see at the National Cathedral.  She worked for the Diocese of Washington and often assisted at the Cathedral. 

St. John’s Lafayette Square is an old church with box pews that are fairly high.  When the Eucharist came, we knelt and I could barely see over the front of the pew.  As the priest was breaking the bread, I heard a voice say, “You can do that.”  The next morning, one of the first things I did was to go online and look up Episcopal Seminaries.  “You’re going to seminary,” I heard.

Then I started to cry.  For about a week, I wrestled with God.  I had a list of reasons a mile long.  I loved my job and the life I had in DC.  I knew being a priest was hard work.  I read the news reports about the lack of jobs.  I knew that while social work is a low paid profession, so is the clergy.  I didn’t want the expense of another degree.

But finally, I knew that if God wanted me to be a priest, God would keep asking me to take those steps.  I experience God’s voice as quiet and persistent.  “Come this way,” it says.  I knew I’d keep hearing that voice.  That God would not let me go.  I also knew that maybe the path and what I did would lead in all sorts of directions and places.  That maybe there were people I was supposed to meet or things I was supposed to do and going this route was the only way to do that.  That maybe I wouldn’t even be ordained, but there was something God needed me to experience or to do and I didn’t know what it would end up looking like.  I had faith and trust that God would give me the next step and I had the commitment to do that next step to my utmost ability.

But it sure wasn’t like the Disciples’ call we hear today.  They heard Jesus say one or two lines and left everything to follow.  What does your call from God look like?

Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

And that was certainly true in my becoming a priest.  While I wasn’t so sure about it, once I got to seminary, I LOVED it.  I hadn’t realized how much my soul, the deepest part of me needed seminary and the training.  I hadn’t realized how deeply being a priest was held in my being.

This past week I picked up a book called “Managing Polarities in a Congregation.” (by Roy M. Oswald and Barry Johnson)  The premise is that some things are not problems to be solved or arguments to win, but rather polarities to keep in balance.  There is no right and wrong.  My friend Esther Moir calls this living in paradox and points out that a functional arch has just that right amount of balance and tension to make it work. 

One of the polarities is that between Call and Duty.  We must heed our call, understanding that it will change over time and at the same time take on duties or responsibilities that align with “what we want our life to be about.” 

When we have Call in balance, the book says, we will

  1.  Feel a sense of fulfillment in serving as an instrument of God
  2. Identify our motivated gifts – this may be where we wonder about whether we should try something or not.  Maybe others suggest we’d be good at something or that we try something or maybe we just feel that tug and wanting to try something out.
  3. Be positive witnesses to others
  4. Serve members and nonmembers in new ways.  Think about what you could offer to the church that would be in keeping with our mission.
  5. Grow spiritually as we respond to God’s call.  

AND we can also become so locked into Call that we neglect duty.  There are responsibilities that must be carried out.  I believe these tie into our call, but may not be what excites us most about our call.

When we have duty in balance, we will

  1.  Experience the rewards of contributing to the community.  This was true for me in participating in faith-based community organizing in Washington, DC.  The issues weren’t always #1 for me, but the community was important, so I made every effort to show up and do what was asked.
  2. Experience growth because everyone is doing their fair share.  You know how it is in your personal life, as well as at church, if you feel like you are doing more than your fair share.  You burn out and start to feel resentful.
  3. Offer a positive witness to life with Jesus, just as we do when we are acting out of a sense of call.  Jesus certainly was dutiful in going to the cross.
  4. Carry out the necessary responsibilities that being a Christian involves.  Remember a couple of weeks ago, we spoke about our baptismal covenant?  Respecting the dignity of every human being, seeking to love and serve Christ in every person.  We have Christian duties.
  5. Grow spiritually as we are part of a community and contribute to that community.

Duty may not be the things we love and yet we love them, because we are called to be part of the community or the team.  

So what is God calling you to do?  Are you living out your call or has it changed?  What duties are you performing?  Are you being dutiful to the neglect of your call or are you attending to your call at the neglect of your duty?

There are things in this world that only you can do…things that God has created you to do.  God uses everyone.  God desires every one of us to heed our call and to perform the duties that go along with it. 

Then, we too, will be like the fishermen, Peter and Simon and James and John who dropped what they were doing to follow Jesus because they heeded the call.  




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