“In behalf of the Superior, and in the absence of the Prior, I welcome you to this meeting of our religious Order.” That was how I opened my supply sermon yesterday – but, let me back up and share how I got to that beginning.
I wrote last about my thoughts on the lectionary. When I wrote I also shared something of the direction of my reflections. I also said that those were my thoughts “unless the Spirit compels me to something else.” Well, inspired by the Spirit, and with the suggestion from Milton, I found myself preaching about something else – all about an hour and a half before the service began.
Milton was, of course, correct: the lessons were about vocation. The Old Testament lesson was the call of Samuel. The Gospel lesson was Philip’s call that brought Nathanael to Jesus. Even Paul’s lesson on moral living could be seen as reflecting vocation, and the commitment of the professing Christian to demonstrate faith in all of life.
Now, in my home that has some specific applications. I am an Episcopal priest, and so have that vocation. In addition, I am an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross (OHC) a Benedictine order for men in the Episcopal Church. That, too, is a part of my vocation. My wife is a Novice with the Worker Sisters of the Holy Spirit, an Episcopal community for women, and so is finding her vocation. (There is a brother organization, the Worker Brothers. I have added links for both the Order of the Holy Cross and the Worker Sisters/Worker Brothers in the sidebar to your left.)
What came to me was that being a Christian is to be a member of a religious order. We take vows, or vows are taken for us, in baptism. In the Episcopal Church we speak of those vows as the Baptismal Covenant. (You can find them in the Book of Common Prayer on page 304 or on the web at http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/baptism.pdf.) We claim those vows as our own in Confirmation or Reception or Reaffirmation. We reaffirm them at every subsequent baptism, and at the Easter Vigil, when we repeat the Covenant once again. Indeed, we reaffirm them in some sense every time we recite either the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, reclaiming the faith on which the Covenant is based.
It seems to me there are two consequences to this vocation when we live into it, with God’s help. First, we will indeed see “angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” After all, as we are the Body of Christ we become that vehicle, that context within which God’s message can be conveyed. At the same time, as we proclaim the faith that is in us in word or deed (remember blessed Francis of Assisi: “Proclaim the Gospel always. When you have to, use words.”) we indeed become those angels, those messengers relaying God’s grace to the world, and raising prayer for the world to God.
The second consequence is that sometimes we have to say things we don’t necessarily want to say. Samuel didn’t want to tell Eli what God had said, even though Eli was faithful enough to hear, even in the face of such dreadful news. And sometimes we confuse what we want with the message of God. We proclaim in the name of Christ words and deeds that are frighteningly un-Christian. It is, after all, folks who call themselves Christian who cause the world to ask, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
But if we are to live into our vows, our Baptismal Covenant, we can make two responses to our vocation. When God calls, we can say, “Here I am. Speak, Lord; your servant is listening.” When we call others, and they ask, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” we can respond, “Come and see!” Those are the responses required of us; and if we and those we worship with are living into our vocations, we can trust Christ to take it from there.