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Archive for the ‘Called’ Category

Recently I was speaking to a minister friend who was feeling exceptionally low, and questioning why he was still in the ministry.   He felt he had no support from his congregation; that all the things he did, both seen and unseen, were taken for granted.  Nobody seemed to be encouraging him or looking after him and his family.   But I think the thing that was making it almost intolerable was the fact that the only time people wanted “a quick word” was to say something negative.  It reminded me of a story I used at the ordination of one of my friends …  

A new minister preached a sermon on the parable of the talents … He urged his people to place at God’s disposal the gifts and abilities given to them by God.  After the service a man came up to him and said “Minister, I’m not a particularly gifted man.  I don’t really feel capable of teaching in the Sunday School, or visiting the sick, or any of the other things you talked about this morning.  But I do have one talent that might be of use to the church.”

 “And what is that?” asked the minister.

“Well” said the man … “I have the talent of criticism.  I can criticise your sermons.  I can criticise the organist.   I can criticise the choir.   I can criticise the work people do for the church.   What should I do with my talent?”

The minister remained silent long enough to pray for wisdom then he replied … “Do you remember the man with one talent in the parable?   He buried his talent … I suggest you do the same.”

Part of me wanted to go to my friend’s church and (as they say) “give them a good talking to”.   To remind them they called this man and his family to be part of their church; that at his induction they promised him their “encouragement and support”, just as they promised to work alongside their “minister in Christian witness and Christian service”.

So if you are reading this and wondering what you can do to support your minster, why not ask this simple question – “What is the best way I can support you?”  Why not invite them and their family to your home for a meal? (Don’t assume everyone else is doing this).   Or why don’t you write them a letter telling them that you appreciate them and all they do?   

And here are a few things you can do that there should be no question about: Pray for them –  Ministry is a big job with big expectations and big stresses. Whatever strength your minister has, it will be unequal to the task.  They will need power from beyond themself.  Love them – The call of a minister is a covenant, not a contract.  A contact is when we hire someone. A covenant is – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.  Remember the concept of team ministry – the minister can’t do it all on their own.

Baillieston: St Andrews

Me, I’m off to write to the minister* who was leading the church I used to belong to as I was growing up, to thank him for his contribution to my journey of faith.  It’s never too late to say thank you.

*Rev Tom Houston (now retired) came to Baillieston: St Andrew’s in 1980.  His teaching, example, encouragement and quiet faithfulness influenced me greatly, and it was during his ministry, and through his Bible Studies that my understanding and faith began to grow.  

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Over these past couple of weeks there have been several documentaries to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Evacuation of Dunkirk.  This was an event that took place long before I was born, but one of which I have always known, as my Grandmother often told the story of the “ragtag armada of little ships” sailing down the estuaries of England and round the coast of Britain, all responding to the call to help those facing certain death.  And as they met up with others they not only became part of something bigger than any of them imagined, they were also able to achieve more than if they sailed alone.

Troops on the beaches at Dunkirk

The spring of 1940 saw Hitler’s army moving through France and the retreating British and Allied troops found themselves trapped on the coast of France in the channel port of Dunkirk; bottled up in a corridor to the sea, about 60 miles deep and 15–25 miles wide, flanked by two massive German Armies.   Almost a quarter million young British soldiers and over 120,000 allied troops faced certain capture or death.

Vice Admiral Ramsay – who was in charge of Operation Dynamo – had sent destroyers and transport ships to try and evacuate the troops, but they only expected to have time to lift off about 30,000 troops, and the House of Commons was told to brace itself for “hard and heavy tidings.”

Due to war-time censorship and the desire to keep up the morale of the nation, the full extent of the unfolding “disaster” around Dunkirk was not publicised.  However, the grave plight of the troops led King George VI to call for an unprecedented week of prayer.  Throughout the country, people began praying on 26 May for a miraculous delivery.  Then, just as all hope was fading for those on the beaches of Dunkirk, a bizarre fleet of ships appeared on the horizon of the English Channel.  

Open topped fishing boat "Tamzine"

This strange armada was made up of trawlers, tugs, fishing boats including the 18 ft open topped “Tamzine”, lifeboats – the smallest only 15 ft, sailboats, pleasure craft, an island ferry named Gracie Fields, Tom Sopwith’s America’s Cup challenger “Endeavor” , and even the London fire brigade’s fire-float “Massey Shaw”; 861 boats of all shapes and sizes, including a number from as far away as the Isle of Man and Glasgow.   Although a large number of these ships were taken across the channel by navy personnel, many were also taken over by their owners and other civilians.   They sped to the rescue; all eager to help in the unfolding catastrophe.   And because they did, in the nine days from 27 May to 4 June 1940, this ragtag little armada eventually helped rescue more than 338,226 troops, including 139,997 French, Polish and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch soldiers, and took them to the shores of England.   All this unfolded as pilots of the Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe fought in the skies above the channel; thousands died but many more thousands lived.    It was one of the most amazing naval operations in history, and at the time the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said it was “a miracle of deliverance”.

The church, likewise, is God’s ragtag armada; a group of flawed individuals of all ages, stages and abilities, on a rescue operation commissioned by God to bring people back to him.  Sometimes it’s good for us to remember not only that we too are being asked to be part of “a miracle of deliverance”, but also if we respond that we become part of something bigger than we ever imagined. 

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Louis, was a rather awkward and sad boy. This was made worse by the fact that his parents did little to encourage his self-esteem. In fact, they all but came out and told their Rabbi that Louis was too stupid to learn the traditional Hebrew passages a boy recites for his bar mitzvah.The Rabbi was determined to bring out the best in this boy. He spent extra time teaching him the songs and prayers, and in so doing, he discovered that Louis was quite intelligent and also had a fantastic singing voice. On the day of his bar mitzvah, Louis performed beautifully. At the end of the ceremony, the Rabbi stood and spoke directly to Louis. He said, “Louis, this morning you met your real self… This is who you are. You are good, graceful, talented, and smart. Whatever people told you yesterday, and Louis, whatever happens tomorrow, promise me one thing. Remember . . . this is you. Remember, and don’t ever lose it.”A few years later, Louis wrote to the Rabbi. The boy whose parents predicted that he was too stupid to perform a traditional bar mitzvah was studying for his medical degree … Louis ended his letter by saying, “I kept my promise – I always remembered my bar mitzvah morning when you said that this is who I am. For this, I thank you.”   Having someone believe in him made a huge difference in Louis’ life.

You are unique: be who you are called to be

We have someone who believes in us and that someone is God. God has chosen us for great things. God has forgiven us all of our sins, faults and failings and declares us to be holy. God tells us we are his dearly loved. He also shows us that his love for us has no limits, and if we can just keep these simple truths in mind it will help us to accomplish the goals that Paul puts before us in Colossians 3:12-17:

Put on then, or clothe yourselves, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, with compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Be who you are called to be, but also do the things you are called to do.    And just in case you think that it is beyond you, I leave you with this declaration and promise from 2 Peter 1:3 to remind you that we don’t do it in our own strength:   ‘God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.’

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