Saint Andrew’s Day
Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your Holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
It seems so easy in the Bible for Jesus to call people and they immediately follow him. That’s not been my experience. It took me time to believe that either a woman or a lay person could be called to a ministry. Yet in my life I have been called to live and serve various people including the Australian Aborigines, Kenyans, Southeast Asians and Native Americans among others. I’ve made peace with what a call is like for me but it is difficult to explain it to others.
“So what does it take to be one of those deacons?” asks a Native Young Adult who has just participated in the baptism of one of our youth. He is already a Lay Eucharistic Minister, a lay reader, and an acolyte. He takes our ministry to the homeless seriously.
Taking a deep breath I talk about being called by God to a ministry. As usual, I stumble around multiple words and metaphors that cannot contain the enormity of being called.
I resort to storytelling that might be able to convey the depth and width of the experience of being in the presence of God.
“Remember when we were handing out coats to the homeless and we asked one to pray for us. He prayed in his traditional language and blessed us all. The other homeless men and women looked at him in amazement. We were all grateful that we were giving each other a gift. When we got back into the van, one of the youth said, ‘That was awesome. We were on Holy Ground, weren’t we?’”
We all agreed that something profound had happened to us.
Returning to the question of being called to a ministry, I ask the youth gathered around me, “When have you experienced that God is asking something of you?”
They answer with things like being presented with choices or learning something that is not easy or even to help someone else in their pain.
“Okay,” I continue, “God, the Great Spirit calls to us all the time. We don’t go looking for holy encounters. God comes to us in profound experiences and we can respond. Sometimes we feel that we are being pulled to a particular ministry, like serving as a deacon or helping the homeless. It is something we can pray about and stay open to whatever evolves. Being open to the holiness around us is the most important thing we do.”
“So, break it down for us. What is a call?” asks a persistent youth.
I try to get my theology straight and in language that communicates. “We live in ordinary moments. Something extraordinary enters our moments and we find ourselves looking below the surface at whatever is going on. Maybe we are faced with some injustice, or something that needs to be forgiven or something that is more meaningful than the direction we are now taking. That’s God talking. We get moved by something awesome. If we listen, take time to think about it, we are responding to God calling us. God calls us for many things. We may be called to forgive someone or to let someone go. We may be called to see a person in a different light. We may be called to go in a different direction. If a ministry in the Church is something you are thinking about then a lot of praying is in order, mainly to listen and think about yourself in that role. Either quickly or over a long time, you begin to be pulled toward one decision. For me the call pushes me to live a kinder, meaningful life, filled with beauty.”
Feeling like I am going nowhere I tell them the story of Andrew. “There is a story about one of the Disciples of Christ in the Bible. His name is Andrew and we don’t hear a lot about what he does except that he hears a call to follow Jesus. But before he did that, he ran and got his brother to tell him that holiness is open to us all, that the Messiah has come. He is known for that most of all. I think a lot of you are like Andrew. You hear a call and you go tell your best friends that there is a better way. God calls. You respond. That’s about it.”
“That’s a big responsibility—all that listening and praying,” one of the Native youth responds. “Does everyone know about this?”
We laugh a little at this but I go inside and think about my journey. In this conversation, I remember the times when I am pulled in a specific direction and I do choose and am blessed by it.
Thanks Saint Andrew for adding that dimension of pulling in others as a part of that call.
Kaze Gadway has worked with the emerging leaders of the Episcopal Church within the Native American community of Northern Arizona as a volunteer for eleven years. They are youth of promise from ages twelve to twenty-four. The Spirit Journey Youth is an outreach program of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona with forty young people. She is on Facebook and blogs at infaith’s posterous