Delivered graciously by Trasie Topple for Chester because he lost his voice; On the occasion of the installation of 5 officers.
Does it come in the form of a quiet still voice, while your sitting reading by the fire? What about a loud thunder clap as lightning strikes while out on a secluded lake…you knew you should have checked that weather report, right Cat?. Maybe it comes instantly like a flash of light, blinding and disorienting, or maybe it comes through a course of a long gradual line of events. It can come in the form of a handshake, an embrace and a friendly conversation. It can come on a cool winters day out playing in the snow, or eating a nice hot bowl of butternut squash soup in good company. Some have said it was on a significant journey in a foreign, uncomfortable place. Others, in the mysterious wonder of lingering sunsets from clear mountain vistas. For Chester, it was in part a prayer and blade of grass pressed between his thumbs that, when he blew on it, made marvelously loud and obnoxious noise. He was seven years old at the time.
Regardless of how, it happens. Yes, it happens, it happens in as uniquely varied forms for each one of us here, as we are uniquely, wonderfully and varyingly Created.
Yes it happens, for somehow all of us have ended up here in this place at this point in time, be it out of curiosity, desire, or because your mom made you this morning, or she made you many years ago. We gather here while a world full of busyness and stillness, strife and peace, goes on all around us. We have come here to worship the One who calls us into being for a particular purpose, even here, even now.
Personally, when I think about God’s call in my life, I’m glad it was not like Isaiah’s. So Loud and frightening! Six winged creatures, whose name literally means burning things flying around like bats, and a loud shouting voice and a hand with hot coal comes down and scalds his unclean lips. AHH! Woe is me, Isaiah says. Woe is me, is right!
The call of Simon Peter, James and John is a little more aguantable—bearable. By this time, Jesus is their bud, their amigo in spite of his popularity around town, with all his miracles and teachings, teachings so provocative that crowds press in on him to get within earshot; they force him into the lake and up on a boat. You’ve got to love the way the story is told. Jesus, sitting down up on a boat, the breeze blowing though his hair: Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the peacemakers. If anyone among you wants to be great…. Suddenly the lesson is over. Maybe there’s a lot of yawning and stretching going on. “Push your boats out a little further and cast your nets.” Jesus says. Any objection to this suggestion is unexpectedly met by nets teeming with fish. Simon and his crew have to get others to come help drag the catch in. Veins in their thick forearms pulsate as sweat drips down their sandy brows. They heave the load onto the decks and the boats begin the sink. “Now,” says Jesus, “let’s go catch people.”
Wouldn’t that be fascinating if some of our current politicians could employ those kind of recruiting tactics. For what seems the first time, some people, Simon, James, and John are with him on his mission. At Jesus’ call, they drop everything, they free themselves of all of their other responsibilities and burdens, and enlist in this mission for the Kingdom of God.
This is a special day in the life of this church as together we participate in this mission for the Kingdom of God. This morning we will be ordaining and installing five individuals who have heard God’s call in their lives, and now will serve this church as deacons and elders.
JoAnn Padilla is a child of this church. She remembers growing up near here, back when she was the only Protestant, much less Presbyterian on her entire block. She felt odd at times for her church affiliation, but she is here still today, ready to be ordained as a deacon. Ready to serve.
Rachel Johnson grew up in a variety of church traditions, and while she knew she wanted to be part of a Christian community, she struggled to find one living out their Christian calling the way she felt called to live out hers, both in word and in action. She happened upon Westminster just after she moved to Santa Fe, and discovered a community in which people participate in God’s mission in a way that makes sense to her.
Barbara Medina has always felt a call to serve God through the church. After a long winding road with several detours and a few roadblocks, she feels that here she has a church where she can freely serve.
Harold Garcia was dragged to this church by his mother as a kid. Es cierto Terry, you used to drag him by his ear, verdad? Harold remembers a vibrant youth group of years ago where he learned the faith, and now wants to be a faithful leader for others, as he serves both here and on the school board up in Pecos.
And finally Milee Rotunno, another child of this congregation with wonderful lasting memories of life growing up in this church. Yet, even today God continues to meet her in her life through this faith community, as she greets others with a warm smile, a vigorous laugh, and a caring heart; she will lead with her contagious enthusiasm.
These are just glimpses into the ways in which God has called these five to service in the church. These five have heard the call, each in unique and wonderful ways…and they here together now, ready to serve. Saying like Isaiah, Aqui estoy yo, Here I am.
Actually, I left something out. The calls for four of them were somewhat similar. They came when Milee called them and said, “hey Tia JoAnn, will you serve as deacon?” But, Milee, God’s call was there, even before yours.
In just a few moments, friends and members of this congregation previously ordained will come forward to lay hands on you. And depending on how gentle they are will determine your experience of this. Chester has had two significant experiences of people laying hands on him. One came last week, back in Atlanta where friends and family ordained him as Minister of Word and Sacrament in the church he was baptized in and grew up in. The laying on of hands was a very pleasant experience as he kneeled and people gently placed their hands on me, as if he were delicate. There were short prayers offered, and before I knew it I was back on my feet, shaking peoples hands.
The other time of laying on of hands was a much more painful experience. It happened when he was commissioned to go to Mexico City to work in campus ministry. He kneeled alongside others who would work with him, and people gathered around. Soon the hands began to pile on, on his head, his neck, his shoulders and his back. The prayers began, the first short, but then others that were much longer. His knees grew sore, his back began to ache and his neck was stiffening. The words of the prayers were fading as the pain intensified. Please, Please, I promise I’ll do a good job, I promise I will follow Christ. All he could think was, let me up, let me up!” Suddenly the prayer was over and those lying on the hands lifted them, and one by one went back to their seats. He rose, stiff and sore, and dizzily stumbled back to his place. (appropriated from the creative description of by Barbara Brown Taylor of her ordination as described in Leaving Church)
While his experience last week was liberating, indicative of the freedom we all experience in responding to God’s call, the previous painful experience was in many ways indicative of the responsibility we all carry when we heed God’s call, and live a life of service.
It is wonderful to have heard the call of God to follow. To hear the voice, be it a quiet still voice, while you’re sitting there reading by the fire? Or in a friendly conversation over the phone. It is so liberating to feel that God is calling you and in turn you can say here I am. I will serve you, Lord. The call is liberating, yet like burning coal to the lips, like the weight of a great catch of fish, like the weight of many hands piled on your neck and back pushing you down the call to service brings tremendous burden.
But that very same call can lead to greatness, as Martin Luther King, Jr reminds us in a sermon:
“If you want to be important, wonderful, if you want to be recognized wonderful. If you want to be great wonderful, but recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s the new definition of greatness. And this morning the thing that I like about it, by giving that definition of greatness it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory in thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love, and you can be that servant.1
It is because that you five, and because all of us here who have heard Christ’s call to follow we can leave here filled with great joy and hope. Great joy and hope not only for the future of the life of this church, but because we know that you will be at your jobs, and in your communities serving others, sharing Christ love in this broken world. Amen
1 MLK, JR’ sermon. “The drum major Instinct”