Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Bishop Eric Menees

"Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Do you remember how you first received the call to ministry? When I say ministry here, I am referring to the ministry of all believers and not just those who are ordained. You'll recall from Sunday School or your Catechism class that all baptized Christians, by virtue of their baptism, are ministers in the church. 

I remember, from my own baptismal preparation, how Miss Marge - one of the saints of the church - taught us that in our baptism we would receive the Holy Spirit, who would empower us for ministry. I remember being very excited and thinking that God would somehow speak to me personally, saying something like, "Eric, I want you to be a professional baseball player - in fact, you'll be the third baseman for the California Angels." (Remember, I was just 14.) Unfortunately, God didn't call me to my childhood dream. Rather, he spoke to me in quiet ways through the brothers and sisters of the church, my friends, and ultimately my own desires and talents.

Fr. David, our curate and youth minister, began to notice that I was particularly drawn to the sacraments of the church. Soon after my baptism, I would get up early on Sunday morning and ride my bike to church in order to attend the 8:00 o'clock service, and then I would stay for the 10:00 o'clock service to see my friends. Before long, he was inviting me to become an acolyte. I loved the liturgy and serving at the altar. I learned that I could work with the adults and the teens, and began to take on leadership in training new acolytes. One thing lead to another, and people began to notice that my interest was in serving at the altar and serving people, so I was invited to assist with our service projects and leadership in the youth group.  The summer before my senior year in High School, Fr. David invited me to shadow him on hospital visits where I learned that I had a natural ability to minister to those who were sick, and before I knew it, I was trained and volunteering as a hospital visitor. That summer, as we would debrief after visits, Fr. David shared with me, "Eric, I suspect you've thought about it, but I believe you are called to be a priest in the church." When Fr. David said that, two things rushed over me: a sense of fear and foreboding that I wasn't worthy to be a priest, and the sure and certain knowledge that he was right - I was called to be a priest.

This week's Collect asks the Lord to give us the Grace to answer Jesus' call. Ultimately, that is the only way we can answer the call of God upon our lives - by submitting to the Holy Spirit and His prompting. Too often, we cut His Spirit off in that call. We tell ourselves: Ministry is for other people; I'm not good enough - ministers are the holy rollers; I'll get around to that after I finish school, get married, get settled in my work, the kids get older, the kids move fill in the blank.

Thankfully, the disciples didn't rationalize or question Jesus' call upon their lives - they simply followed. My prayer is that this week you will pray this Collect in preparation for Sunday's worship, asking the Lord to open your heart and mind to hear and understand what ministry he's placing upon your heart. If you rise to this challenge, I promise that the Lord will speak to you. It may be through the scriptures, the sermon, the priest or deacon, or a friend; but he will surely speak if you listen, pray, and then listen some more!

Note: The "Notes to the church" articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+  

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