Many years ago Catherine and William Booth in London, as a young couple, they kept asking, “what should we do with our lives? What is God calling us to do?”
Late one night they walked through the slums of London’s East End. They were stunned with the living conditions of the people in that area. That night it seemed that God was calling them to do something for these young parents and their little children. Later that year, 1865, this young couple opened the Christian Mission in London’s poorer districts which grew into what we know as the Salvation Army.
There are many stories about people who hear God’s call; we have two in our readings today.
From the Old Testament we have the story of the young boy Samuel. Remember that his mother Hannah had prayed in the temple that if God would give her a child she would dedicate that child to God.
That’s how Samuel came to be attending the aging temple Eli. Samuel heard a voice calling his name three times, then four times when he realized this voice came from God. God would later use him to choose the right kings for Israel, Saul and David.
In the Gospel Jesus said to Philip, “Come with me.” Philip races out and found his brother Nathaniel and told him the Messiah had called him to follow him. Nathaniel is skeptical. The Messiah was not coming from Nazareth, a small town not even mentioned in the OT prophecies. Philip invited him—come and see. Jesus explained that he knew Nathaniel even before they met, so his skepticism turned to faith. Nathaniel confessed, “You are the Son of God, king of Israel.”
We know this call from Jesus led to these two men becoming messengers of the Gospel, telling people about our Savior sent by God.
God is a calling God. Through time we find God calling people to carry out his mission. Abraham was called to leave everything and go to a land God would show him. A reluctant Moses was called to lead the people of Israel to freedom. The shepherd by David, not old enough to even shave, was called to be king. The thief Matthew was called to be a disciple. The Christian persecutor Paul was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles. The brilliant musician and theologian Albert Schweitzer was called to serve lepers in Africa.
You wonder why God chose the ones he did, which might not have our first choice. God calls Jeremiah to speak to the people, he lacked confidence and the eloquence required to stand against God’s enemies, but God called him anyway. When God called young Mary she was too young, too poor, unmarried, ordinary, but God called her anyway.
When Doris Taylor was seven she was helping her father build a brick garden edge, she fell, causing serious injury to her back. In and out of hospitals for years, what an unlikely person to organize one of the communities most valuable services, the beginning of Meals on Wheels. Doris was severely disabled, needing constant care, yet God called her anyway.
In all these examples they are ordinary people like you and me, each with concerns of our own, in some way serving God as we are able. God knows what he is doing.
At the burning bush God said to Moses, “I will be with you. Ex. 3.12. “Do not be afraid”, he said to Jeremiah. “I will be with you. I am giving you the words you must speak.”
Jesus final words to his disciples were, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt 28:20
God hasn’t changed a bit. He still does crazy things, calls ordinary people like you and me, calls ordinary folks to do his work in the world. Yet He promises to guide us and give us the skills we need to carry out his will.
Newcomers to St. Mark’s often notice that we do church differently than many other Episcopal churches. Traditionally a seminary trained priest is in charge of the congregation and holds a position of authority with some assistance from others of course. But usually the members of the church expect the priest to know everything and do everything that needs to be done.
St. Mark’s is a small rural church and in the past struggled to meet its obligations, could not employ a priest full time, could barely support a half time priest with salary and benefits, with no opportunity to assist the food bank, persons in need, or any other charitable needs within our community.
So, how could we continue? How could we be a church without a priest to offer the sacraments, especially the essential sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist?
Under the National canons of the church, Title III, Canon 9, allowance was made for modification of the requirements for ordination as a Local Priest. Something we were not aware of at the time.
With permission from Bishop Vincent Warner, each congregation in Elma, Montesano, South Bend, and Westport were offered a new way of doing church. We were to prayerfully consider which persons from our congregations might be seen as one to lead the worship service in their church.
In 1988 Skip Reeves came from Texas, employed by the Diocese of Olympia, to mentor us through the required study curriculum. We gathered each Monday evening with Skip to support and instruct us through the study of the story of the Old and New Testaments, Ways we hear the Bible, Church History, the Diaconate, Christian Theology, Ethics, Liturgies, and Homiletics. A daunting task!
Five years later—in a marathon of several services in a weekend the first Local Priests were ordained by Bishop Warner in March 1993. This completed the first wave of local priests as Skip returned to Texas.
Robin Moore was hired by the Diocese to be the next mentor, expanding the idea of ordination to Deacons and commissioning of lay persons so that more gifts of ministry might be added to our congregations. Thus began the use of terms like Total Ministry, Circle Ministry, Ministry of the Baptized, Mutual Ministry, and finally Total Common Ministry (TCM). At this time Dorothy McMeekin and Joyce Avery were ordained as Deacons, others were commissioned to ministries of their choosing—teaching, preaching, and leading worship, accounting, building maintenance, and preparing the altar for worship. Bonnie Campbell was ordained a Priest in 2008.
Because no one is salaried, St. Mark’s was able in just this past year to give about $20,000 to outreach needs.
Scripture was always the base of this inclusive way of serving.
--1 Peter 4:10 Whatever gift each of you may have received, use it in service to one another like good stewards, dispensing the grace of God in its varied forms.
--1 Corinthians 12:4 There are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit. There are varieties of service but the same Lord. There are varieties but in all of them and everyone the same God is active. In each of us the Spirit is seen to be at work for the same useful purpose.
God is a calling God, now and through all time. AMEN.