Tomorrow night, the people of Christ Episcopal Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky will gather with our Bishop and other clergy from the Diocese of Kentucky at a service called The Celebration of New Ministry. Our preacher will be none other than my former Rector, TKT, who will bring a word that the service itself really struggles to convey. As glad as I am that the service has changed from the Institution of a Rector in 1928 to the Celebration of New Ministry in the 1979 Prayer Book, the service itself really lacks that reality. It is, by and large, still all about me, the 25th Rector of Christ Episcopal Church (Yes, I know there is a service in EOW, but like most everything else EOW attempts, the SCLM tried to fix too many things and as a result, created far too many problems).
I’ve not read TKT’s sermon, mostly because it probably won’t actually be written on a piece of paper, but I can still be sure that it will not be about Steve Pankey, the guy who’s work it is to be in the tent of meeting. Instead, he will tell the story of Eldad and Medad from Numbers 11. Depending on how you read the story, Eldad and Medad were either two of the 70 who didn’t go to the tent, or two in addition to the 70 who were gifted with the Spirit by God to do the work of ministry. No matter how they ended up back in the village, the reality is that God chose to pour out the Spirit upon them and not just those who made their way to the tent of meeting. It is a story about how God does the work of the Kingdom through all God’s servants, not just those who wear fancy collars, have calligraphic certificates on their walls, and draw stipends from the gifts of the faithful.
While the sermon will be important, what is more important to me is the effort TKT and his wife are going through to be here. Not that I thought it would be any other way, but the process of leaving one church and taking a call at another is always a difficult one. After 9.5 years of working together, there came an end, and rather than being bitter or frustrated, TKT has been affirming and supportive every step of the way. That’s because we both took seriously the reality that God doesn’t just call people to a place, but there comes a time that God also calls people to Go. As we both listened for the Spirit last year, it became clear to both of us that our work together was coming to an end, that I was being called to Go, and that both of our ministries would be fruitful if we were faithful to that call.
In our Old Testament lesson for Sunday, we will hear Abraham’s call to go. While the promise of God to Abraham is more than I could ever hope for, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” the hard truth is that God often calls his servant’s to go in order to bless others. Sometimes, like in my case, it was the call of a professional minister to serve a new congregation, but more often, it is the call of a regular disciple to go out into the world in service. Whether it is local work with the homeless, the outcast, or those in prison; or international service to bring clean water, education, or healthcare to those in need, God has a call to go for every disciple. God has a plan to bless the world one person at a time through each of us who call Jesus Christ Lord. If we are willing to listen, and more so, willing to take the risk and GO, we can all experience the blessing of Abraham; the blessing of following God’s call to go and be a blessing to someone else.