Tuesday, January 19, 2016

We Are All Called - a sermon for an installation of a pastor

Joshua 1:6-9
"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Colossians 1:3-14
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Today Central Florida Presbytery installs David Jones as the pastor of the Orlando Presbyterian Church – what a great day!

The ministry of the pastor is a great life! I wouldn’t want to do anything else, and suspect other pastors here feel the same way – well, most of the time.

Not everyone thinks the ministry is a great job.

My own pastor, for example. When I was 16 years old, I went to my pastor and told him, “Rev. Keith, I’ve decided to enter the ministry.”

I expected him to look at me with joy, and perhaps a tear in his eye, and embrace me saying, “Praise the Lord, my son.”

Instead, my pastor looked at me with a puzzled expression and asked, “What do you want to do a stupid thing like that for? All day long people come in here and all they do is fuss, fuss, fuss.”

I was shocked!  For one thing he didn’t use the word “fuss” and I didn’t think pastors were supposed to use that kind of language.

I left my pastor’s office disappointed and confused. But over the years, I’ve been have come to understand that some people have a negative view of ministers – even people who are ministers have this negative view.

I love a story that another pastor once told me.  He said he and a buddy were in town and were talking with some strangers. Just a friendly conversation you strike up with people you know you will never see again. Sometime during the conversation, the people Joe was talking with asked that inevitable question, “So tell me, what do you do for a living?”

Joe and his buddy admitted being students preparing for the ministry, to which the others responded, “Oh – but you seem like fun people.”

I don’t understand it, but some people think that ministers aren’t allowed to be fun or funny or to have a good time.

I was on a cruise one time sitting at a group table with some people we didn’t know and when they asked me what I did for a living, I actually hesitated.  I thought about telling them that I was a motivational speaker, or a life insurance salesman – but I told them the truth, that I was a pastor.  And one of them immediately responded, “Oh, I’m sorry.”  It was like I told them I had athletes foot or something.

But I don’t think this is unique to pastoral ministry. There is something uncomfortable with the prospect that God might give someone a specific job to do. And God has given pastors a specific task. We talk about being a minister as being CALLED by God.

But – everyone in this church is called by God to serve God and to serve God’s people. In other words – each and every person here has a ministry. God has called each person to serve.

In I Corinthians 12, St Paul tells the church, “You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. In the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers…people who help others, people who have gifts of administration…”

Everyone of us a ministry. We have all been called by God to serve Him and His children in special ways.

How many people here are elders – either currently serving on the Session, or as I like to say of those who are off Session, “elders in reserve?”

How about Deacons?

How many people here are now, or have been in the past, Sunday School teachers?

How many people here are now, or in the past, work with youth or children?

How many people here are now, or in the past, been involved in music ministry or lay reading for worship.

For some people there is something negative about those poor, poor people who are called to a ministry, to be called to serve God in a special way, and for us to think – that poor, poor person! He got stuck working in the nursery. She got stuck teaching Sunday School. He got stuck having to serve on the Session. 

The church has somehow done a good job teaching the world – and teaching ourselves – that serving the Lord is a burden.

So people look at someone entering the pastoral ministry and say, “That poor, poor person. David seemed normal. He looked like he could have been a lot of fun.”

I grieve when I see elders who serve on the Session and can’t wait to rotate off. Why would anyone want to serve on a governing body and argue about everything and go home tired and mad after a 4 hour meeting? Not me. Session meetings are times to pray together, learn together, and seek together what God wants us to do – We should enjoy it. 

When I talk with youth advisors, they tell me what a great joy it is to serve – and they often claim to get more out of it than the kids. I love seeing Sunday School teachers who look forward to Sunday morning. When we listen to the musicians, it is wonderful to hear the passion for Christ in their voices.

We should never look at someone who goes into ministry and say, “Poor David. Poor, poor David. They’ve installed him. He won’t ever be any fun any more.”

We should never look at an elder and say, “They snookered that poor sap into three years of misery.”

Nor should we say, “I got stuck doing some project for the Community Food and Outreach. Poor me. Poor, poor me.”

When I was a child, I was an acolyte. I loved being an acolyte. In my church we all put our robes on in the choir room. So one day the minister, the choir members, the organist and the acolytes – we were all putting our robes on in the choir room, and the other acolyte said something about “I gotta be an acolyte this week AND next week.”

The minister told him he didn’t “gotta” be an acolyte at all. He GETS to be an acolyte. And the minister made it clear that if we felt stuck doing a job in church, or that we felt obligated, that we were to resign.

And he was right.

We should serve out of a sense of joy.

It’s never, “Poor Joe, poor, poor Joe. He’s gotta be an acolyte.”

But rather, “Good for Joe. He gets to be an acolyte. He gets to teach the youth. He gets to be an elder. He gets to be a minister.

St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians says this, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God … and joyfully giving thanks to the Father.”

Our service to God – in whatever way we serve the Lord, should be a joyful service.

I think most of us who are not joyful in our service to God because we feel alone.

In the Scripture passage from Joshua, God calls Joshua to take the place of Moses and to lead the people of Israel.

God promises this to Joshua, and he promise this to David. To every elder. To every youth worker. To every musician. To every person in this church – because we are all called to be ministers. We are all called to serve the Lord. This is what is promised to us.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

And it is not just that God is with us – we are in this together.  The Sunday School teacher is not alone.  He has the Session behind him.  The elder is not alone, she has the other session members behind her.  The pastor is not alone, because the pastor and elders are colleagues working together in ministry.

It is like Paul said in his New Testament letters, the church is like the body of Christ – we each are a part.  We each have a function.

We succeed as churches when we work together.  When we support each other.  We succeed when we know we are not alone, but are called to a JOYFUL service of God – whether that is to serve as an elder, teacher, worship leader, pastor. 

        And so we install David Jones as your pastor.
        It is wonderful for David.  Wonderful, wonderful news for David and for Orlando Presbyterian Church.

Copyright 2007, Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved.
For copies of other sermons, visit www.Pittendreigh.com