Kefalas Calling

A Sermon Preached on The Tenth Sunday after Trinity
The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
August 25, 2019,  11:00 am

Readings: Jeremiah 25: 4-10, Psalm 71: 1-6, Luke 13: 10-17

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What are you called to? What are we called to?

When I was young I often wondered about what I would be when we grew up.

I thought that I was going to be a physicist and a science fiction author, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics for work I would do in my mid-twenties, as well as Hugo and Nebula prizes for my writing. I sustained this delusion through high school, but it fell apart in my first year at the University of Toronto. There were two reasons for this. First, I discovered beer, and I was far more interested in it than PHY 150 and CHM 150. Second, I realized that I was only above average in scientific smarts, and that there were lots of students who were much brighter than me. As a result I failed two courses, lost two scholarships, and was on academic probation for my second year.

That second year I started taking courses in philosophy, knowing that I would probably never become a professional philosopher. In due course my interests shifted to The Meaning of Life and God and Other Big Things, and some people suggested I could be ordained. And here I am, some thirty-eight years later, thirty of them as an ordained minister in the Anglican Church of Canada and one as a priest in the Church of England. It thought I had a call to be a priest, pastor, and preacher, and this call was affirmed by various committees and individuals before and after my ordinations.

Institutions talk about their calling, often in the language of vision and mission. What is the mission statement of this company? What is the vision of this leader for this corporation?

This congregation – the Anglican Church of St Thomas, Kefalas – has a mission statement, but it is now some nine years old. While it was undoubtedly accurate when it was written, I believe it is time to consider our vision and mission as a church now. To that end the Church Council has agreed to begin working on that with a season of prayer and reflection.

For four Sundays in late October and through November we will consider four  statements or questions that will lead us into prayerfully thinking about what it is God is asking us to do. The first two will be October 27 and November 3. We will take a break from this for the observance of Remembrance Sunday on November 10 down at the Souda Bay Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, and then start up again for November 17 and 24. Then, on December 1 – the First Sunday of Advent – we will have a day of reflection in the context of the day’s liturgy. It will make for a different experience – we will be seated around tables and we will consider questions about what we like about church, why we are a part of it, what we are passionate about, and what God might be saying to us about being a church in Crete – but we will get important information about who we think we are and how the Holy Spirit is working through us. After we have some clarity about our vision and mission, we can set some measurable goals and objectives, and settle down to implement them.

We are, of course, a small church community. We can probably only do two or three things really well. One of them is probably worship, I hope. Another might be restarting home groups (church growth gurus says that if a church does nothing else other than starting home groups or small group ministries, you will grow). however, we cannot just sleepwalk our way into growth, but intentionally direct ourselves, so that when God chooses to surprise us with new opportunities, we are ready for them.

We are all called by God in our baptism, and confirmed in the promises and actions we take.

Prophetic Calling

In scripture there is a a pattern to the call to prophets.

  • The call is made.
  • The person being called tries to get out of it.
  • God affirms it.
  • Sometimes there is a purifying act.

HestonMoses is the paradigm. In Exodus 3-4 we hear Moses’s objections and God’s response:

  1. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
  2. “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”
  3. “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, “The Lord did not appear to you.”” Staff that becomes a snake, and the hand that becomes leprous but is then healed.
  4. “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” “Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.”
  5. Send someone else! “Your brother Aaron will speak for you.”

The call of Samuel is a little different: As a young boy he hears a voice calling for him in the night. “Samuel, Samuel” He thinks it is Eli the priest calling him. After three times of Samuel hearing the voice calling him, and then waking Eli, the old priest tells Samuel to say. “Here I am!” (Hineh” in Hebrew.) ”Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

The call of Isaiah is as an adult in chapter six of the Book of Isaiah: He is a priest, serving in the Temple in Jerusalem, and he has a vision of the Almighty, with Seraphs flying around and singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy”. He says, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’” An angel takes one of the coals that is burning incence, and touches it to Isaiah’s lips, and says, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then he hears the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And he says, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Then, a few generations after Isaiah, comes Jeremiah, a few years before the conquest of Jerusalem and Judea by the Babylonians, and who lived and prophesied through the destruction of the Temple and the deportation of the elite of Judea into exile. He is called by God, and he objects, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” God basically tells him to be quiet, and somehow puts out his “hand” and somehow touches Jeremiah’s mouth, and says to him

Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.

How are we called?

Fundamentally our call is the same, only we hear it mostly through scripture, through the voices of others, and through the traditions and liturgies of the church.

First and foremost, we receive our calling in our baptism. If you were baptised according to the rite in the Book of Common Prayer 1662 we are commanded to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and to fight against sin, the world, and the devil. In Common Worship we have what is sometimes called the Baptismal Covenant:

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
                  With the help of God, I will.
Will you persevere in resisting evil,
and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
                  With the help of God, I will.
Will you proclaim by word and example
the good news of God in Christ?
                  With the help of God, I will.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all people,
loving your neighbour as yourself?
                  With the help of God, I will.
Will you acknowledge Christ’s authority over human society,
by prayer for the world and its leaders,
by defending the weak, and by seeking peace and justice?
                  With the help of God, I will.

No matter what rite we are baptised with, we have the opportunity of affirming it and being empowered allover again  every time we gather around this table and partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Our callings may also be made in other ceremonies. We make it by particular by the vows we make. So, in marriage we promise to to love and to live with a particular person, in these impossible vows:

I, N, take you, N,
to be my wife/husband,
to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part . . .

I say these are impossible vows because who knows what they are getting themselves into in marriage. And yet we as Christians have these high standards to which we aspire.

Some of us are called to be ordained, in which we carry out servant ministries to empower all the baptised in their work. Some take vows in Religious Orders, in which men and women are set aside for particular types of prayer and ministry in the context of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

Sometimes our callings do not have any special religious rites or secular rituals. Instead, we just take them on. For some of us that is the having children, a vocation which, by the time we have it figured out, we are out of a job. For others it is taking on animals as pets, which has its own blessings and a few curses.And then, of course, for many of us, our jobs are not just a means to earn money, but something which gives our lives meaning. This, I find, is especially true of professions such as teachers, doctors, nurses, counselors, other helping professions, and lawyers and politicians (yes, really), but also carpenters, artists, builders, cooks, gardeners, those in the armed forces, and so many others. For many of us our profession is our identity, and it becomes a real challenge when we retire! We then find new vocations.

So . . .

I believe that all of this is the action of the Holy Spirit, whether explicitly identified as such or not. We have many callings, sometimes obviously so, and sometimes more subtle.

And so I return to the questions at the beginning of this talk:

  • What is God calling you to do?
  • What is God calling us to do?

May God in Christ lead us into some understanding of this. Amen!

 

About Bruce Bryant-Scott

Canadian. Husband. Father. Christian. Recovering Settler. A priest of the Church of England, Diocese in Europe, on the island of Crete in Greece.
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