Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
-I Thessalonians 5:16-18
When I was growing up, I got told a lot of stories about how to become a Christian and how to live one’s life fully committed to God.
There was the former mafia member who ended up becoming a Christian and shared his story all over Christian radio; there were the two men who used to drink and do drugs who had a dramatic conversion and became pastors; to say nothing of the 19th-century Methodist preacher Peter Cartwright.
Cartwright was raised by a Methodist mother, but prior to his conversion at age 16, he engaged in such horrible, sinful practices as horse racing, card playing, and, possibly worst of all, dancing. Then he became a Methodist circuit rider.
In light of these stories, I had a difficult time understanding my story as a young Christian. My family didn’t have playing cards or horses, and I didn’t learn to dance until I joined an unofficial dancing class in college.
Besides the wickedness (or at least self-understood wickedness) prior to conversion, which I never quite lived up to, almost all the men in my world who were held up as shining examples of godly Christian men were pastors or missionaries, or evangelists, or Christian counselors. To live a life fully committed to God meant being a pastor or a missionary or an evangelist.
Ironically, it wasn’t until after I had realized God calls faithful followers of Jesus to love God and our neighbors through all different kinds of careers, that I began to discern a sense that maybe I was called to be a pastor.
So many of us know what it is to be a faithful follower of Jesus and church member because of those stories we’ve heard, and often because of stories we lived: You attend church weekly, you go to Sunday School if it’s offered, or teach it; you serve in soup kitchen, you get coffee ready, maybe you serve as a deacon or on session or as a liturgist; you work in the food pantry, or volunteer at Cycle Recycle, or any of a thousand things that “being a faithful follower of Jesus” has come to mean over the course of your life.
But then so many of us encountered things that knocked us off that path. When the pandemic hit, we were unable to attend Sunday worship or Sunday School in person. When we faced health issues, we had to stay home even when worship was in-person again, and weren’t able to volunteer in the way we had been volunteering before. Caretaking – for ourselves, or loved ones young or old, swallowed all our energy that we otherwise would use in service of the church.
That doesn’t mean we don’t love God anymore, in the same way that my conspicuous failure to do any horse-racing whatsoever before I came to faith doesn’t mean God has not been at work in my life. It just means that God’s calling on our lives right now looks different from the stories we’re used to hearing.
If that’s you, and if you want to and have the emotional energy for it, I invite you to pray and ask God how God may be calling you to love and serve God and your neighbors as a member of Fairplain Presbyterian Church. You may have gifts you don’t know about, or hadn’t thought of using, or God may be calling you to pray for folks when you think of them, or send them cards or notes or messages of care and support, or countless other things I haven’t even begun to imagine. Even simply resting and caring for yourself and/or your loved one(s) is an act of ministry, because you too are a beloved member of Christ’s body.
The past few nights, Ryan has asked me to read him a book about a little excavator who sees big construction vehicles doing impressive things and tries to join in, but he’s not able to do any of those things. The book ends with “Little E” finding a job that none of the other vehicles can do, and this sentence:
“There’s work to do, just for you, here and now.”
Rev. David M. Schell, pastor
P.S. To avoid any confusion, I don’t think horse racing or dancing is sinful, and I’ve played Euchre recently. With another pastor.