It is week five of the Good Book Club, and we are more than halfway through Luke’s Gospel, with an eye toward Acts during the Great 50 Days of Easter. Next week, Lent’s penultimate week, will be Holy Week in the GBC, but before we get there, we have some famous parables, including the one commonly called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” from which this week’s Acts 8 BLOGFORCE question comes.
Prodigal (n) – a person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way – is often used to describe the younger son in the well known parable, but what if the point of this parable is the prodigality of the father? Tell of a time you were aware of God’s recklessly extravagant grace.
Recently, I have found myself in several different conversations about call. It is a hazard of the job, I suppose. For some, it is the early inklings of a call to ordained ministry. For others, it is the frustrations of the innumerable midway points in the process that make progress impossible according to physics. For a few, these conversations have revolved around the second way we discuss call in the Episcopal Church: finding a job. See, once you have, with God’s [significant] help navigated the process of discerning a call to ordained ministry and been trained for that vocation, is discerning a call to a position, or more colloquially, a job.
In the past, that process hasn’t really been about call. The Bishop, to whom you are beholden throughout the process, would often simply place seminary graduates in congregations that needed holes filled. Certainly, there was some discernment involved, but three people to fill three holes means everybody gets placed, whether they are all a good fit or not. In this system, the job was usually for at time-certain, often two years, and then the next call process would commence. Except, when you know your paychecks will cease on a certain date, you don’t have time really let the Spirit work, and so discernment can quickly dissipate while the search for a job takes over. In many cases, it wasn’t until the third call that someone really had the chance to experience the fullness of discernment and the joyful nature of call.
When I think about the prodigality of God, I’m often reminded of my own difficulty with call. It was the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday of my senior year of seminary when I found out that I would not be placed. What felt like an earth shaking moment in which the rug fell out from under me, has, in hindsight, been a moment wherein I relish in God’s recklessly extravagant grace. It didn’t fell good at the time, not unlike, I’m sure, the younger son returning home to his father’ house, but I quickly realized the gift that was waiting for me. As I moved from discerning a vocational call to discerning a call to a position, I became aware of how joyous that process can be. As I’ve said many times in the last ten+ years, riding the wave of the Spirit is a whole lot of fun.
I am grateful, everyday, to know what call feels like. To have experienced it in TKT’s living room in Foley in April of 2007 and in a rental car in Bowling Green in October of 2016 is a gift of God’s recklessly extravagant grace. It is my prayer for all in discernment, whether they will graduate from a seminary with an MDiv or a diocesan school for ministry with a certificate, that they will, sooner rather than later, get to experience the same gift and blessing.
And, lest this post be another point in the accusation of my penchant for clericalism, I would note that I think this type of discernment isn’t exclusive to those of us in the professional class of ministry. When God’s call is followed, in our work and in our churches, the experience of God’s grace can be overwhelming, in a good way. May God bless you with the reckless extravagance as you take your place in the building up of the Kingdom of God.