Sunday, I preached on Matthew 4 where Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee and calls his first disciples. I hope that the message of finding hope and joy in following Christ in our lives has helped to renew your desire to answer Christ’s call. Personally, reflecting on call has led me down memory lane and considering how my own call to ministry unfolded. The full story of my calling would take much longer than the Tidbits allows and perhaps longer than anyone would really want to read. So I thought I would share one of the key aspects of my call story.
An essential part of my call story centers around my home Church, Wayne Presbyterian Church, in Wayne, New Jersey. This is the church where I was baptized and attended elementary Sunday school. After a few internal issues, the church found itself in a conflict and my family removed itself from the congregation.
Some may find it hard to believe, but growing up I was a very different person than you encounter each week from the pulpit. I was actually a very insecure, underachieving child. School and sports were something I did but never really fully embraced or cared for. Part of this was due to the fact that I didn’t really believe that I was very talented or worthy of success. I embraced a life of “flying below the radar” and if no one knew me, that would be fine.
Even though my family stopped attending church when I was in late elementary school, I felt connected to Wayne Presbyterian. Perhaps the connection was as simple as the picture of my baptism that was in a frame in our living room. In High School I was drawn to return to the church and see what it was all about. This was unusual to say the least. High school students don’t often wake up one day and decide to go to church. I had no other reason to go other than a deep sense within me that I needed to. I called Ken Griffin, a family friend, who still attended the church and asked him to pick me up for church. I r
emember returning to worship and not really knowing what to do or say. I don’t think I even really remembered the Lord’s Prayer, Gloria Patri or Doxology.
Here is where the importance of Wayne Presbyterian and it’s members comes into play. I remember feeling a sense of acceptance from the people around me. Even though this group of church folks were serious, and at times stern, I always had a sense of support from the church. This began the first day I went back and was affirmed each step of the way. Stew Manthey, one of the “serious” members, organized a Confirmation class of which I was the only member. Various members took special interest in me and encouraged me to seek higher achievement. One person called me out for not applying myself in school, and it was okay because I knew they were doing it with love and concern. I soon took on roles in the church including lay leader on Sunday mornings. In a short time, I went from someone who would rather not be seen, to a person who sought opportunities to lead public worship. This happened because the people of Wayne Presbyterian Church not only took an interest in my life but also developed a Spiritual connection with me. When I was ordained an Elder at 16, it was a supreme affirmation from the congregation and in many ways from God, that I was more than I ever thought I was.
Each of us has the ability to help others find the Spiritual value of their lives. Churches throughout the world are communities that can transform people and help them discern their calling. They are also places where communion happens. Not the bread and juice Communion, but the communion that is a deep spiritual connection with God and others. As I reflect on the important gift that Wayne Presbyterian Church gave me, I wonder if other churches, Christ Presbyterian included, realize their importance. As the Body of Christ, we need to recognize that we have a responsibility to be calling upon people to use their gifts for the glory of God. Are there people around you who you need to affirm? Is there an opportunity to, “speak the truth in love”? The Church often downplays the impact it can have on lives. The truth of the matter is that we have great power to work wonders. Look around, is someone fishing for the wrong thing? Is someone lost and seeking a new sense of meaning in their life? I pray that the Church might build community that is deep, meaningful and which allows for spiritual communion.