Epiphany 3A – Called for a Purpose
January 21, 2017
Jesus sees a couple of fishermen mending their nets,
calls them, and they follow him.
Last month I went on a ride along
with Alexandria Police Officer Lisa Kutz.
For the evening shift one Thursday night,
I sat in the passenger seat of her police car
as we responded to calls for domestic violence,
and individuals in distress…
In between times, we made traffic stops.
There are a lot of things that struck me that night,
But relevant to this morning was her story
About how she came to this job and what makes her stay.
She talked about the danger she experiences,
and the precautions she takes to protect herself and her fellow officers.
Then she said, “Despite the risk,
I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
It really is a calling.”
There are a number of ways to talk about calling…
Officer Kutz sees her calling in her work.
In her work she finds meaning and purpose and satisfaction.
But that’s not where most people find their calling.
In a Lily Endowment survey,
although many people have moments in their jobs
where they feel deep satisfaction,
the primary place in which they feel meaning and purpose
Is in relationships.[i]
Even those who said they had a sense of calling in their work
often said it was the relationships within their work
which gave them that sense of meaning.
I’ve mentioned before that for 3 years I worked at McDonald’s.
I didn’t get a lot of sense of meaning or purpose out of doing that job;
I wouldn’t have said it was a “calling” at the time.
But as I look back, perhaps it was.
Through that work I met people I never would have otherwise.
I got to know Rosie, the manager who opened the store every morning…
She had worked at that McDonald’s for over 20 years…
She was a single mother trying to raise a daughter on little over minimum wage.
Whenever I hear conversation about living wages for service workers,
I remember Rosie – perhaps it was my calling to meet her.
And then there were the customers.
There was the elderly man who came into the store who was remarkable to me
because he was wearing a three-piece suit.
He very precisely ordered “one hamburger,
one “senior” coffee,
…and a side of peas.”
After I gently let him down,
And told him we didn’t serve peas,
He reluctantly accepted my suggestion of a small order of French fries,
And took his tray to a corner table for dinner.
After that day, I’ve often wondered about that man and his story
He comes to mind when I hear about seniors living alone
and of the retirees from my hometown
trying to encourage the major employer – General Electric — to raise their pensions.
Perhaps the ‘meaning’ – the ‘calling’ part of the job
wasn’t in taking orders and working the cash register,
and it certainly wasn’t in cleaning out the fry vat….
the calling was in the people I encountered – the relationships.
In Dick, the store manager who sang tenor in the church choir on the weekends,
and Bert the custodian who never spoke
but somehow heard I was having car trouble and surprised me
by fixing it during my shift.
Not all those McDonald’s relationships were great.
It was while working there that I experienced sexual harassment for the first time;
where I heard racist jokes and demeaning comments about women that shocked me.
The job itself did not feel all that fulfilling or significant in the grand scope of things..
But the people I met – the relationships –
were significant in forming who I am today as a pastor.
It was a calling.
It’s significant that when Jesus calls the disciples,
he says, “Follow me, and I will make you ‘fish for people.’”
He calls them into relationship – relationship with him,
with each other,
and with the people they will meet over the years.
He calls them into community…
And it is that community which will sustain them in their calling.
Every week in our basement and in thousands of church basements across the country
12 step groups meet.
They usually gather in a circle around bad coffee
to do the work of recovery.
It’s not the coffee that sustains them…it’s not the coffee that makes AA work.
It’s the circle – the community.
When we are called to do something extraordinary—
Whether it’s to become a disciple or a police officer,
to stop a lifetime of drinking,
or to be part of a Confirmation class,
it takes community.
We aren’t called alone.
Today 14 of our youth will make a commitment
To begin a time of preparation for Confirmation.
They aren’t called to this alone…
Their families and this congregation are called together.
The youth will receive study Bibles as they begin.
Their leaders and I highlighted a verse in these Bibles.
This year I highlighted Esther 4:14…
Esther is Jewish and her husband the king does not know it.
The king has been convinced to kill the Jews,
And Esther’s uncle Mordecai says the words in this verse to encourage her
to ‘out herself’ as a Jew and thereby save her people.
Mordecai says, “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.’
“Who knows? Perhaps you are here for just such a time as this.”
This is Esther’s call.
Perhaps this is our call too.
Perhaps our Confirmands are learning more about their faith for just such a time as this.
Perhaps our congregation is here outside of our national’s capital for just such a time as this.
Perhaps you are sitting in this pew listening to God’s word about ‘call’ for just such a time as this.
Each one of us is called.
You are called.
May you find God’s call for meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in your work and relationships.
May you be sustained in that call by this community.
And may you exercise that call in such a time as this.