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1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 12-14, 26-27
Monastery writer and philanthropist Glennon Doyle Melton tells this story about her son, Chase:
When Chase was eight, a woman approached us at the grocery store and said, “What a handsome boy! What do you plan to be when you grow up, young man?” Chase looked at her and said, “I plan to be kind and brave, ma’am.”
“That was just one of the best moments of my life. … I’ve always told my kids that your job isn’t who you are. Your character is who you are. So when folks ask my kids what they ‘want to be,’ they think character, not career.” 1
The New York Times columnist David Brooks is on the same track when he talks about the “the moral bucket list” and two sets of virtues:
The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?
We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character. 2
I mention these things because as we bring our focus on calling to a close today, I realize that many of us have focused more on our callings to do certain kinds of things than our callings to be certain kinds of people. And because we have tried to connect our callings to a renewed awareness of and commitment to every-member ministry, I’m guessing that most of the words we’ve written on our “calling cards” are job titles or tasks.
That’s okay (really; mine are, too!)—and I can’t wait to see and hear your calling words in a few minutes. But I couldn’t resist putting in a little call for the gift of being, for the healing of our hearts and the transformation of our minds, for things like love and joy and freedom.
Of course, there’s a potential pitfall in focusing on any kind of calling, character, virtue or achievement: the false perception that it’s all up to us, that becoming who we were created to be is something we make happen.
Well, thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit! Thanks be to God for the gift of the church! Because we cannot do it on our own! First, we need the life of Jesus, God’s Love Revealed, to show us the path to our own divinity and the creation of God’s realm of love here on earth. But it’s not an easy road. If we truly desire to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, if we want to really love ourselves and love our neighbors as ourselves, we’re going to need the transforming, more-than-you-could-ask-or-imagine power of the Spirit. And we’re going to need the safe, holding, forgiving space and support of a community of faith, hope, and love.
Thanks be to God for the gift of Pentecost!
It was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit power transformed human weakness, a lot of fear and a little faith into a bold gospel love that everyone could speak, hear, understand, and receive. It was on Pentecost that the Spirit blew a ragtag group of Jesus followers who had huddled behind closed doors out into the world to turn it upside-down with love. It was on Pentecost that the Spirit empowered open-hearted, trusting people to both be more than they’d ever imagined and do what once seemed impossible. It was on Pentecost that the church—the body of Christ—was born.
Before Pentecost, there were some 120 “believers”; on the day of Pentecost, no fewer than 3,000 people repented, were baptized, and received the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us those first days of the church were an awesome time: the apostles worked wonders, the believers gathered every day to worship God and eat together, and the people shared everything with each other, even their money. (Huh. Imagine that!) Enlivened by an other-worldly Spirit and fueled by divine love, the church kept right on growing, day by day by day.
And the world was never the same.
As the church grew and spread, as the church started to become a thing (which is to say, as human beings lived into the fullness of their human weaknesses and wounds), Christians needed some instruction on how this holy thing was to work.
Like a body, the apostle Paul told them. A body with many parts, each one of them indispensable. A body where every part is honored and empowered by the other parts. A body whose many interdependent parts maintain their separate identities and purposes but serve the common good—not only their good but also that of the world, that of the least and the lost.
Not just any body, but the body of Christ. Led not by human skill and good intentions, but by the always-surprising, unpredictable power of the Spirit.
At its best, the church is less an institution than an organic, ever-growing and -changing collection of Spirit-filled, human-bodied agents of God loving and healing the world—always trying to understand the needs and longings of the people beyond its doors, ever working to adapt to new cultures, different languages, and changing times.
As such, part of the church’s call is to help each of its members become the person God created them to be, to find the place where their deep passion meets the world’s great need, to make room for Spirit to move and joy to grow. Part of the church’s call is to watch closely and listen intently for Spirit, for she may move in social media circles, or speak through our children or our homeless guests or the students who walk by this building every day—or even through that person sitting next to you in the pew. Part of the church’s call is to cooperate with God in doing a new thing, things we might not yet be able to imagine. And part of the church’s call is cooperate with the Spirit in naming gifts, blessing ministries, and sending bold and welcoming love out into the world.
Here at First Church, we call that every-member ministry. That means we want to support you in living out God’s call on your life. And that means we need you to share it with us. That means we need to hang together and celebrate and support each other.
May this Pentecost Sunday be a time to celebrate the Spirit omnipresent and the church universal. But may it also be an occasion to fully claim the power we’ve been given, and to recognize and embrace our holy commission to be the Body of Christ in the world.
And may joy, hope, love, and even awe come upon us all because of the many wonders and works being done by the Spirit through the faithful people of First Church.