The Irresistible Call
Sept 16, 2018
Mark 8:27-38; James 3: 1-12; Is 50:4-9; Proverbs1: 20-33
“The Lord has given me the tongue of the teacher/preacher
that I might sustain the weary with a Word.” Is.50:4
I have taught in the
Course of Study
school for twenty years. I first taught at the Saint Paul School of Theology, and lately at the Garrett Extension School at Morningside College. Usually I teach the first course on Bible or Wesleyan Theology. On the first day I read this text from Isaiah,
“The Lord has given me the tongue of the teacher that I might sustain the weary with a word.
” I also heed the word of Brother James, who warns us who teach to be careful with the Word. (James 3:1)
I like the COS students. They are second career folks, and dead-eyed serious about their work. They are part time local pastors, serving tiny churches in places where small towns are dying. And wonder of wonder, in many of these places they find new members and those little churches begin to show signs of life.
One year, my oldest student was a 72-year-old woman named Grace. She lived in a tiny place out west, a retired librarian. I asked her why she was beginning this journey? She said, “Well, the D.S. came and told us we probably would have to close the church. There were too many miles between towns and a shared ministry seemed impossible. When she left, I told the people if we could keep the church open, I would talk and teach. We sent a letter to the D.S. and she agreed to the arrangement.”
So Grace taught and preached and one Sunday a new family came, and then others and they soon needed a Sunday school. Grace continued, “The children had not been baptized and I figured if I did it we would not be legal. I was not able to provide communion either, but we had a weekly love feast of bread and water.” Grace had read that Wesley allowed laity to lead this service. She wrote to the D.S. and asked how she might qualify to baptize the children, and was invited to enroll in the COS.
As we spoke about all of this, Grace looked at me with a mischievous grin and said, “So I am here to get my union card punched—the children are waiting.” Then she asked me, “Why at your age are you over here teaching?” I said, after a pause, “I guess it’s to help you get your union card punched.” I should add that this student had a Masters in Library Science, and knew Latin, Greek, and some Hebrew. The
Call is irresistible.
Soon I will be going over to Morningside to meet a new class of COS students. They come from Iowa and three other states. I will feel honored to be in their presence. I know them well. They feel the irresistible call. Some thought about joining the journey—or taking the step into ministry—at about age 16. Perhaps the call happened while lighting candles on the lake at summer camp. But life got in the way—things were postponed—now at “fortyish-something” they are finally getting around to it. Others thought about joining the journey—taking the step into ministry after some crisis in their lives. Most have spent their lives as laity in the church—did all the stuff, made the sandwiches and jell-o, and one day decided to take this step: the kids are gone, the day job is about finished, let’s give it a shot!
During our last Annual Conference session, it was so good to see our new Bishop welcoming graduates from the COS. She obviously knows how valuable these pastors are, and she washed their feet too!
Each of us who are Elders in the Church need to be reminded that in our beginnings we were a lay movement. This week, why not look around the congregation—be the voice to encourage. If we teach as well as preach, others will hear and some will answer the call. These are weary times—the tongue of the teacher/preacher is needed. What joy, to see your ministry as being a sustainer of the weary with a word of hope, and to invite others to follow in the footsteps of Grace!
Dear God, we give thanks to you for allowing us to speak the Word that sustains the weary, calls others into your service, and empowers us to remove the stains from weary lives. We give you the glory in Jesus’ name. Amen