October 21, 2022
Dear Disciple of Christ,
Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence 1 Peter 3:15
My remembrances of my vicarage (the 3rd year of my seminary training) continue. With any vicarage, much of what the “pastor in training” did was dependent on the pastor/supervisor. That vicar’s supervisor was also the pastor of the church, often there for many years before the vicar came, and we vicars were there for one year. Though we were gaining real life experiences, we also were there to benefit the congregation. The one who knew what was needed and best (at least in theory) for the vicar, was the supervisor, the pastor of the church in which we served. So he was like an adjunct professor to the seminary and, in fact, was responsible for giving the vicars a “pass/fail” mark at the end of the year.
In my case, Pastor had specific ideas about what he thought would prepare me for ministry. I thought of the verse above as representative of what he would do. Many Sundays (as I assisted with the liturgy), as we were moving from the sacristy (where communion preparations were done and where our vestments were that we put on for the service) into the chancel (up front in church where the altar and pulpit are), he would be half into the sacristy, pause, turn to me and then tell me what part of the liturgy I was to take. So he would turn and say, “You take the readings” (lay people were not reading the lessons in those days – the early seventies), or, “You take the liturgy.” He never said, “You preach,” but, to be honest, I felt like I would have been ready for that as well as the other things he gave me to do.
I’m not saying that because I had prepared the lessons and had a sermon “in my pocket.” It was because I was not nervous nor did I feel unprepared to share the good news in the Word. I had been prepared in those six years of study. Even before I knew what I was going to do (become a pastor), God knew and was preparing me. Back in high school I had joined the debate club and the speaking club. I had no idea why I did that (really – my sister was 3 years older than I and I was following in many ways her footsteps, but she never did those things). After getting over some initial nervousness, I felt comfortable speaking extemporaneously. To this day I preach from an outline (rather than writing out word for word, I write an outline of what I’d like to talk about as the sermon progresses). To join the speaking club, a candidate walked up front of the group, took a folded scrap of paper off the desk, read the words, turned around and spoke for five minutes. My talk was related to the words on the paper; “My life as a ping pong ball.”
So that preparation had been completed before I ever turned to become a pastor but it readied me for my vicarage Pastor and the fun he tried to have with me, trying weekly to put me in an awkward and unprepared position. By the time I got to vicarage, I wasn’t just “not nervous.” I was also a believer. I had had enough experiences to be ready to proclaim the Word if he had asked (or allowed) it. I had belief in what Jesus said:
And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11-12
Pastor was bringing me “before the synagogue” and I was not anxious for I knew the Spirit and the Spirit’s power to provide the words. Do you remember the story I told about my first days in college with the young lady who needed to hear about God’s grace and the last minute change to the pastor’s sermon who said, “I didn’t have time to prepare the sermon on ‘Russia today’ so I’m going to talk about God’s “grace”? Yep. God provides! He really wants to get that good news out to people and He will use each of us to do it.
So, do you believe any of that applies to you? Do you think God has been training you for your ministry (maybe not pastoral ministry, but “servanthood”)? I don’t know if it happens at your church, but at ours, we send out materials for people to offer their time, talents and treasure. We believe what St. Paul said long ago to the Corinthians about how God accomplishes His work through His Son’s disciples. “There are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:6-7). What a joy it is to see people serving in the church and outside the church, using the gifts God has given them for the common good of the members and neighbors and strangers and all. For those who have been blessed with financial resources (and who of us hasn’t been?), they know now why. They (we) have been blessed to be a blessing. Thanks be to God as we use those blessings in the cause of Christ!!!
May the Lord bless and direct you as you use the gifts He’s given you to His glory.
Peace in His service,
Scripture Readings for Friday, October 21, 2022
Psalm 65; Joel 2:1-11; 2 Timothy 3:10-15