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We are Called to Serve in the World

May 12, 2018

During our recent mini-Sabbatical I took some time to reflect on all of the various places where God has called me to serve. Between the Air Force and the Presbyterian Church, there have been a lot of places. Serving calls in Minnesota, Texas, England, Nevada, North Dakota, Florida, and now Colorado has given me much to reflect upon. We are incredibly thankful to be serving the Lord with our PCCR and Estes Park family in such a beautiful part of God’s creation!

The Gospel Reading for the Seventh Sunday in Easter comes from Jesus’ prayer for his Disciples just prior to his arrest. It is, from John’s perspective a holy and sacred moment. Even though Jesus was about to face the kangaroo court and be condemned to a horrific death, he is praying for his disciples. At the end of his earthly journey he is concerned. He has walked with them, taught them, protected them, and now he prays…

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” (John 17:14)

It is when I reflect on the not belonging to the world that I get concerned. There is a saying that I learned many years ago in the Air Force Chaplaincy. “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use.” So many people who say they are Christians seem to have this abnormal focus on heaven. Instead of being about God’s work today in the here and now, all they focus on is getting to heaven.

There is so much to be done here on earth that we can hardly ignore our call to, in the words of the Psalmist — “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

And what is the Law of the Lord? Well, Jesus in excellent Rabbinical form, taught his disciples (and teaches us today) what the pure essence of the Law is… Love the Lord your God with all of your heart mind, soul, and strength. The second part is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus took that a step further when he said we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us!

This love calls us to be in the world. Even though as Paul says in Romans 12:2, that we are not to be conformed to this world, we are still called to be present in the world as Jesus teaches — “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one… As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:14-15, 18)

Over the years I have studied a number of religious orders in the Catholic tradition. They serve the Lord in a variety of ways. Some are more contemplative. They are found in monastic communities which are often set apart from the world. Yet even in such cloistered settings, their writings and their prayers reach outside of the walls of the monastery. Thomas Merton is one such example of that.

Others live in community and are blind together by their vows and their disciplines. Yet they are also squarely in the world. I think of the Jesuits and the Franciscans. Even thought they have a deep and often contemplative foundation, they are called to be the hands and feet of Christ in the messiness of the world.

So what about us today? How are we to live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) as the Communion Liturgy says? How are we to be fully engaged in this world and yet not of this world? In John 17:18 Jesus gives us the answer. “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Even though we do not belong to the world, we are called to be witnesses to the love, mercy, compassion, and justice of our Lord in this world. We are called to share the light and the love of Christ in this world of darkness.

In today’s bitterly divided world… in a place where fear seems to be the common currency in politics and in the world… in a time when cooperation is treated as a dirty word… in such a time as this, we are called to be witnesses to the love of Christ. I am often tempted to remove myself from this world. Yet I know that running away to some sort of monastery or holy community is not the answer for me. I am called to share the light and the love of Christ in the midst of the messiness. Will you join with me, dear reader, in answering this call?

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