Good morning! It is good to be back with you all on this wonderful day when you welcome your new rector, Miller Hunter. You all should be feeling very good: your leadership has completed its work in seeking your new rector with prayer, integrity, and alacrity. You had time to reflect properly on all that had gone before, most particularly the long and faithful tenure of Jenks Hobson, and to begin to imagine what the future might hold with your interim, the Rev. Bill Queen. And now you are here, and the wait is over…
…and we could not have asked for a more appropriate gospel reading for today.
We begin where we ended up last week, with the reminder of the proper role of that which we have – our money, our goods, our skills – in God’s economy. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Hold on to that thought, because I’ll be coming back to it.
We move from the guidance about disposing of what holds us back to guidance about how we should be ready at all times. This is not necessarily about being ready for the end times, as some evangelical commentators have suggested. It is, at its heart, about vocation, about the way we should look at our place in the world. Be ready, just as the staff in the ER at the hospital in Fauquier or Winchester is prepared for not just the broken bones or cut thumbs, but also for mass traumas. Be ready, just as a teacher is ready to explain a new concept in more than one way so that the student who is having difficulty understanding will be able to grasp the idea of it.
Be ready, because you never know what’s coming your way and you had better be prepared to step up and do what is required in that moment.
I focus on this notion of “be ready” because, as you know, it is at the heart of the priestly vocation. We never know when we will get a call in the middle of the night telling us a parishioner is taken ill and is near death. We never know when someone walks through the door and says “I’ve discovered my spouse is having an affair. What do I do?” We never know when we will be faced with two weddings and three funerals in the same week, and the copier gives out. And yet our vocation requires not that we handle it all perfectly and with great aplomb, but with as much grace as we can muster even when we are feeling overwhelmed, as much attention to detail even when we feel we’ve run out of energy, as much care for those involved as we can offer, even or perhaps especially when they are not the nicest of people. That’s what vocation means for us folks with the collar.
But you folks without the collar have a vocation in this faith community as well. You are called to be ready just as your priest is called to be ready.
What does being ready look like? It means saying “yes” when your priest asks you to help out with something. Church is not the Inn across the street, where the professionals hand you up a delicious product on a silver platter. You are not only a diner at the table. Church is more like the Thanksgiving dinner where one person cooks the turkey, others bring vegetables and other side dishes, and still others bring the pies. You dine, but you serve others at the same time. And if there is an unexpected guest, you welcome them as if they were another member of the family, with joy and generosity.
I know it’s a little odd to be talking about Thanksgiving dinner in mid-August, but I think it is worth staying with for another minute or two. Here’s the one thing I know about the 63 Thanksgiving dinners I’ve participated in: there is always enough for everyone. IN fact, there is usually more than enough – who hasn’t had that turkey sandwich the Monday after the big day, or had containers of soup made from the turkey carcass in the freezer. Who hasn’t had pie for breakfast, one of the greatest of guilty pleasures?
If you remember only a few of my words this morning remember this: God gives us what we need to do what needs to be done. God is abundant, and expects us to use that abundance to bring a little heaven to earth, especially to those who don’t have as much as we do. And when we have abundance, whether it is in pies or money or talent, our response must be to always be on the lookout for ways that we can use that which we have – God’s abundant gifts to us – to make the church, the community and the world a better place. That is OUR vocation. It is not the job of the priest, although gifted priests are the best of coaches in this work. It is not the work of the government, although there are times when the government has resources we do not have, especially in times of crisis. It is our work, our vocation, our calling to always be awake and aware that we may be called upon by God at any time to help change the world – each and every one of us.
And Miller’s vocation? To help us discover within ourselves the resources that God has already given us to do this.
So don’t be surprised if your priest pushes you a little into uncomfortable places, into doing things you didn’t expect. Don’t be surprised if you discover you can do more than you ever did before.
That’s when you know what is truly a treasure, and where your heart truly lies: in your vocation, in his vocation, and in God’s abundance. You can change the world, if you’re paying attention when God calls.
Answer the call, challenged by God and your new rector, and you will be a blessing and you will be blessed.