WEEK SIX: RESPONSE
1 Corinthians 16:13 (NRSV)
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.
Luke 9:59-62 (NRSV)
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
There are several stories in the Bible that warn us to be ready! One of the harshest ones is this passage from Luke. Jesus invites a few people to follow him, but he won’t excuse them to first bury a father or even to say goodbye to those at home! We learn that his call, “Follow me,” is immediate and urgent. Jesus needs them- now. Perhaps he knows he will not be passing by this way again; this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for them. There is no time to wait!
In thinking more about these two unfortunate folks, I wonder if they would have reacted differently had they heard that Jesus was on his way and had planned to invite them. “If I had known you were coming, I would have been ready.” They probably would have been ready to go- hurrying to bury the deceased, saying goodbye to loved ones, preparing themselves to leave home. How sad that they may have simply just been caught off guard.
Therein lies the difference for us. We know that Jesus is here. We know that his calls to new ventures will come, even if we are unsure exactly when or how or where. Now is the time to be ready, to prepare for Jesus’ call to follow him.
How do we ready ourselves? First, we need to be ready for immediate response when we are called to serve or follow. When Jim served as an on-call nighttime chaplain, he had to be ready to go- right when he was needed. He stayed in the vicinity of the hospital. He kept his pager on. He had his overnight bag packed and prepared. He anticipated being called, so he was alert, attentive, and prepared for action.
We can be ready to respond immediately if we stay connected to God, “in the vicinity of God,” through prayer and presence. We will be able to respond with our lives in order because we have anticipated the call. If we know we will be called at some time, we are alert, attentive and prepared for action. We ready ourselves by turning to God for our equipping- asking for courage, insight, strength, words to say- anything we may need to serve well in large or small ways.
But we also ready ourselves by taking inventory of what we have to offer, how we are equipped to serve, and in what ways God has been preparing us uniquely for service. Jim had prepared in advance for this ministry. He studied at seminary, he completed five units of Clinical Pastoral Education, and was ordained as a Lutheran pastor. He had years of experience in ministry. His background, education, experience and faith all helped him to serve well as a chaplain. He loves caring for, praying with, listening to and helping people. Jim was being prepared to serve even before taking this position.
We will be able to discern God’s call more clearly when we know ourselves well. We prepare by creating a “profile” of our gifts and talents, where our personalities best shine and serve, what our interests and passions are, or how our experiences have formed and shaped us for service. We do a spiritual review of our lives and our natures, discerning the ways God has equipped and directed us. To be ready for our moment of call, we take stock of all the things that were leading up to this moment of call. Then, when we hear Jesus calling, we can answer with certainty, “Now THIS is what I was created to do!”
“I’ll be ready. I’m not sure for what exactly. But maybe that’s what being ready really means.” ~Holly Goldberg Sloan (film producer, novelist)
Finally, we ready ourselves by being open. I love this quote. We prepare and are ready with no expectations- except that God will use us. We ready ourselves by being flexible, ready for anything. We ready ourselves by viewing each new moment as a possible opportunity to serve God. Today might just be the day we hear Jesus say, “Follow me- I have something new for you to do!”
We await your calls with eager anticipation. Keep us alert, show us how to best prepare ourselves, and direct us to the path you are walking, so that we do not let you pass by without us. Help us to be ready. Help us to be ready for anything! Amen.