Nov 20th, The Joy of Living Your Call, with Rev. Kally Elliott
A Part of the Series:
Nov 20th: The Joy of Living Your Call, with Rev. Kally Elliott.
I have a senior in high school, and no, this is not my my first rodeo. I have had one son graduate already, but to say I am a weepy, emotional, hot mess right now would be an understatement. My heart feels like it is following my boy around like a lost puppy dog. At the risk of sounding like every other mom of a senior, I swear my boy was wearing diapers and playing with Matchbox cars, like, ten minutes ago. Now he drives a real car.
He’s capable and smart and loyal and compassionate. He cares about his family and his friends with a heart so large it can hold the whole world, he’s ready. I mean, mostly it’s just I’m not the days feel too short. The moment urgent. I’ve spent almost 18 years giving him advice, trying to set an example, teaching him what little I know for sure.
And yet, in these last few months before he flies the nest, I feel the need to say it all again to make sure he knows who he is, that he is rooted in love and lives in a way that brings goodness to this world, a way that is worthy of the calling I know God has for him. Mostly, I just want to be sure he knows who he is and whose he is, that he knows that he is a child of God, named and claimed and held by God. I want him to know deep in his bones that he is beloved. Now, I know this will not be my last chance with my son. I know that parenting goes on and on and on.
I know that I will still be loving and cheering him on until I die, and probably even after. But these days, this moment, it seems urgent. The author of the scripture of Ephesians, Paul he finds himself in a similar situation. Paul helped to plant the fledgling churches in and around Ephesus. He was there when it all began, and he has watched them grow.
Now he finds himself in prison, his death a probability rather than a possibility. This may be his last chance to ensure these young churches know who they are and whose they are. This may be his last chance to ensure they know their identity as children of God, as saints in the household of God, as a dwelling place for God. This, he says to the churches at Ephesus, is who you are. You are children of God.
This, he says to the churches at Ephesus, is whose you are. You belong to God through Jesus Christ. And then Paul, he gets down on his knees in his jail cell and he begins praying for these churches. He kneels beside the cot or the straw mat on the floor. Chains probably cramping his position.
The floor cold and damp, and he begins pouring out his heart and his hope for this church to God. He prays for this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who, by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, to all generations, forever and ever.
Amen. It’s a powerful prayer, a prayer that grips my heart and one that I find myself praying in this urgent moment for my senior in high school and for you, for our church. It’s a prayer I find myself leaning on, hoping, in trusting that, my Son, that I that you will know God as all loving and that we will put roots down in that love. But then Paul transitions from prayer to these words, this invitation of sorts. He says, I therefore now, therefore.
Whenever. You see therefore in a passage, whenever a passage begins with therefore, it indicates that what has preceded it sets the stage for a very clear, exhortation or hopeful counsel that follows. The hearer is sort of invited to lean forward, to listen up, because the message is about to be delivered, and it’s going to be a life changing, jolting awake message. Paul says, I, therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Notice he said, I beg you.
He didn’t say, It’s not that big of a deal, but maybe if you could try to live in a manner that’s kind of like, worthy ish of your calling. No, he didn’t say that. He said, I beg you to live in a manner worthy of your calling. It’s desperate, it’s important, it’s urgent. Do not waste these gifts or this life you’ve been given.
This world needs you. You have something vital to share. Recognize your calling. Assess your gifts and use them for the flourishing of this world you’ve been called. And I beg you to walk in a manner worthy of that calling.
Now, Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus, but really, his urgent words are in many ways for us, for we too are a sort of fledgling church. We’ve said it before, we are not the same church we were before the Pandemic. We are changed. And yes, yes, our pews are a bit emptier. Our financial situation is not as strong as it was before the Pandemic.
The need for committed volunteers is deep. Now, all of this could be worrisome. It really could make us fear for our future, to want to dig in our heels and grit our teeth and just try to return to what we once were. But I think that would be a mistake, because I believe that we’ve been given this opportunity, this urgent moment in time, to become something new. And I believe that we are being, to use Paul’s language, begged to walk in a manner worthy of this calling.
The question we must answer is, what exactly is this calling for you, for me, for us, together? Because we do have a calling, and this is no small matter. The calling to which you have been called, it may be one of the riskiest, most challenging tasks of your life. It asks big questions. It has to do with the very meaning and purpose of your life.
It has to do with recognizing that your life is not your own, that God has given you gifts. And your calling is to use these gifts for the flourishing of this community of faith and for the flourishing of all. Now, you, like my senior in high school, may be rolling your eyes or perhaps nodding your head, but inwardly groaning or even shutting down. You may be thinking, really, I mean, I work in insurance or at the grocery store or the bank, or I’m a stay at home parent or I’m old and I’ve lived my life, or I don’t have time, or I’m just a normal human, I do some good in this world. But it’s certainly nothing that is going to change the course of history.
And if you find yourself feeling this way, parker Palmer, a Quaker writer, has some advice for you about calling or vocation. He says, the insight hidden in the word vocation itself is rooted in the Latin for voice. Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. And before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.
I must listen for the truths and the values at the heart of my own identity. Frederick Buechner said it this way there are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work. And the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego or self interest. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. And yet, no matter who you are or what you have done or left undone, as one of our confessions says, the day is urgent.
The hour is upon us. Or as Paul says in another letter to another church, he says, companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life. God has given us, now is the right time. Don’t put it off. Don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late.
It may still feel daunting. This is why Paul reminds the Ephesians, we should not, probably cannot walk in a manner worthy of our calling alone. Instead, we use our gifts to build up one another, he says, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Four. As Paul reminds us, there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling.
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Basically, he’s saying, you know, we’re on this journey together, and we are on this journey for one another. We walk as one. It made me think of the classic song One by the Band you Two. Some of the lyrics are one love, one blood, one life you got to do what you should one life with each other sisters, brothers, one life, but we’re not the same we get to carry each other, carry each other so my daughter and I have become enamored with the Enola Homes movies on Netflix.
Enola is a girl detective, always in the shadow of her older brother Sherlock. You may recognize the name. Raised to be independent and then left to be independent by her mother, enola tries to open a detective agency, but is passed over again and again because of her age and her gender. Now being strong and witty and excelling in martial arts and mechanical physics, enola is determined to be independent, unwilling to admit that she might need help from time to time, you may have figured out by now that her name points to her independent streak. Enola her name, spelled backwards, is the word alone.
Clever. Facing a particularly sticky and downright dangerous situation, Enola’s eccentric mother turns up to provide some assistance, some explosives, as Moms do, and some revision of her earlier advice to Enola to rely only on herself. She says to her, you know you will always do very well on your own Enola, but with others, you could be magnificent. Find your allies, work with them, and you will become more of who you are. You all speak with one voice, and you will make more noise than you ever could have imagined.
And that is what happened, because Enola Holmes was based on the true story of the Matchstick Girls strike when, on July 5 1888. 1400 women and girls raised their voice as one voice, protesting against unhealthy and unfair factory conditions, sparking conversation across England and contributing to the growth of the workers rights and union movement. The book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament says it this way, Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. But this is counterculture to our culture that thrives on a pull yourself up by your bootstraps and grab as much as you can get mentality.
We don’t want to walk or live in a manner worthy of our calling so that we can get ahead of our neighbor. We walk in a manner worthy of our calling so that our neighbor can flourish. We are community or calm. Unity with unity. We are bound up in Christ together for each other.
Christ is our cornerstone, Paul says, and it is Christ who holds us together. Or in another metaphor used by Paul, we are together. The body of Christ. So two months ago, I tore my meniscus. It’s a tiny little pad of cartilage in my knee.
I mean truly tiny in comparison to the rest of my body. And yet when it tore away from the joint, it was so painful, I could not walk. People were literally having to put me on their backs or in a wheelchair and pushed me around because my leg hurts so badly in the body. Everything works together for the good of the whole. And if one thing isn’t working, nothing feels right.
Today the swelling has diminished, and my knee is feeling much better, so I’m walking pretty well. But when I go for a longer walk, I wear a brace on my knee, and my right hip hurts because it is taking the weight my left leg cannot. It’s like when Paul says, you know, Church, when one part of us suffers, the whole body suffers. But when each part is healthy, the whole body is strong. We together are one body.
Our gifts that we bring help the whole body to flourish. Our mission at First Presbyterian is to live the spacious and radical love of Jesus so that all may flourish. You might say that this is our calling. So my question to you is, what gifts have you discovered in yourself that you might use to help us walk in a manner worthy of this calling? Where does your deep gladness meet the world’s deep need?
Paul’s prayer for the church. My prayer for you is that you will be rooted and grounded in love, that Christ will dwell in your hearts, and that God, who is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we could ask or imagine, will go with before and after us as we step into a life worthy of our calling. The time is urgent. This is the moment. And we walk together, one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling.
One Lord, one faith, one baptism. When God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all, or as you, too, sang it so well, they said we get to carry each other. Carry each other. Amen.