Sunday 17 January Second Sunday in Epiphany
Led by Jill Kayser, Chaplain at St Andrew’s Village and Elder
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 The Body of Christ
12 A person has only one body, but it has many parts. Yes, there are many parts, but all those parts are still just one body. Christ is like that too. 13 Some of us are Jews and some of us are not; some of us are slaves and some of us are free. But we were all baptized to become one body through one Spirit. And we were all given[a] the one Spirit.
14 And a person’s body has more than one part. It has many parts. 15 The foot might say, “I am not a hand, so I don’t belong to the body.” But saying this would not stop the foot from being a part of the body. 16 The ear might say, “I am not an eye, so I don’t belong to the body.” But saying this would not make the ear stop being a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, it would not be able to hear. If the whole body were an ear, it would not be able to smell anything. 18-19 If each part of the body were the same part, there would be no body. But as it is, God put the parts in the body as he wanted them. He made a place for each one. 20 So there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the foot, “I don’t need you!” 22 No, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are actually very important. 23 And the parts that we think are not worth very much are the parts we give the most care to. And we give special care to the parts of the body that we don’t want to show. 24 The more beautiful parts don’t need this special care. But God put the body together and gave more honor to the parts that need it. 25 God did this so that our body would not be divided. God wanted the different parts to care the same for each other. 26 If one part of the body suffers, then all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part is honored, then all the other parts share its honor. 27 All of you together are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of that body.
John 1:43-51 Jesus calls his disciples
43-44 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.) 45-46 Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.” But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.” 47 When Jesus saw him coming he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” 48 Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.” Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49 Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” 50-51 Jesus said, “You’ve become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet! Before this is over you’re going to see heaven open and God’s angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again.”
My early school years were spent at the Sacred Heart Convent in the coastal town of East London, South Africa. My first two years were very positive, but in my third year as a 7 year old, I had a very strict and nasty teacher called Sister Lena. Pupil misdemeanours resulted in a sharp rap on the knuckles with Sister Lena’s ruler and as I was an incorrigible chatterbox, I received my fair share of whacks. But the scariest thing about Sister Lena was the way she used to threaten us with “the call”. One day when we asked her why she became a nun, she told us she was called by God. “You too may be called” she would say with a sinister tone “and when God calls you, you HAVE to obey!”
I remember praying fervently at night: “Please God, don’t call me”. I dreaded God calling me to be a nun like Sister Lena!
And then, when I was a 35 year old mum to two beautiful daughters and a psychology student at Auckland University, I received “the call”!
Actually it was just a call from my minister Martin Baker (or so I thought!), asking if I would apply for a newly created position in children and families ministries at this church and community centre.
“Absolutely not,” was my reply. I was on a mission to become a psychologist, the last thing I wanted to do was ministry. But then there I had a “washing line” moment. There’s something about taking the washing in on a summer’s evening, to a chorus of final birdsong, that’s conducive to God “talking to me”.
The nagging thoughts in my head were echoed by Paul my husband over dinner and next thing I was starting my role as part-time child and family ministry leader at St Heliers Church and Community Centre in January 1997. I vowed and declared it would only be for two years while completing my undergrad degree. And here I am, still called to ministry 24 years later.
It was four years later as I drove to work and looked out across the bay towards Rangitoto on a beautiful clear Auckland morning that I got what I now identify as the “holy spirit shivers” and thought: “goodness I think I’m called to this!”
In hindsight I don’t think I was more called than anyone else. Yes, I heard and responded to God’s voice, but all of us – not just those who have chosen a vocation in ministry are called to serve and make a difference in the places we find ourselves.
If you look at the front page of your order of service you will see a quote from Christine Caine that says: “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” Maybe after four years I felt “qualified” in my role. And down the side of the OOS is a quote by Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Any my role working in children, families and community ministries alongside Martin Baker did indeed give me gladness and joy and it fulfilled the needs of the church and community at that time.
Research reveals that most Christians don’t feel that what they do “counts” as a calling. They typically think that only work in the church “counts” as ministry, vocation, or calling. This has been my experience over the years as many of my friends have told me how lucky I am to have a vocation while they just have jobs.
This probably stems from the centuries of Church teaching that ministry was a higher calling and vocation became inextricably linked with church work. A key element of Luther’s Reformation was to rescue “calling” from the exclusive domain of the clergy with his promotion of the concept of the priesthood of all believers. His attempts were somewhat successful in the sixteenth century, but still have a long way to in the twenty first.
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare – “to call” – and anything that contributes to the wellbeing of the people and world that God created and loves so much is a calling.
We may think Jesus handpicked his disciples but theologian and motivational speaker Rob Bell suggests that Jesus’ calling of the 12 was as unorthodox as his ministry and message.
In Bell’s Nooma video “Dust” Bell explains that all boys from the age of 5 would attend synagogue for tuition in reading, maths and the Torah. The boys were expected to learn the first five books of the bible known as the Pentateuch by heart. At the age of 10 the boys’ synagogue education would invariably end and they would start to learn the trade of their fathers. However the brightest of the bunch would be chosen to continue their synagogue studies including learning the next 41 books – from Joshua to Malachi – “off by heart”. At the end of this period when the boys were around 14 or 15 years they could apply to become a disciple of a rabbi. This was a huge honour reserved for the crème de la crème of students. The chosen disciples gave their life to living with and learning from their rabbi. They strived to become like their rabbi. There was a saying that captured this goal: “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.”
So when Jesus, the rabbi, walks along the beach and invites simple fishermen James and John to follow him they can’t quite believe their luck. How could Jesus be choosing them, mere fishermen, who obviously hadn’t made the disciple grade?
No wonder Nathanael is sceptical about Jesus in our scripture reading today: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Jesus unconventional calling of his disciples is an apt introduction to the upside down kingdom Jesus promotes during his three year ministry on earth. An upside down kingdom that favours the “nobodies” then and today.
Just as Jesus chose those ‘nobody’ disciples and entrusted them to do his work, Jesus chooses you and me. Jesus believed in those nobodies and look what they did and Jesus believes in you and me.
In my role as children and families ministry leader I ran a weekly Kids Club. Each Thursday at 5 pm up to 60 young kids club enthusiasts would arrive at the old Johnstone Hall for two hours of games, crafts, songs, stories and dinner. One Thursday evening after a flurry of arrivals, there was a bit of a lull, when all of a sudden an exuberant 5 year old came charging in the door. “Hello,” I said, “what’s your name?” “I’m Matthew.” he said, “and I don’t believe in God.” “Hello Matthew,” I said. “that’s okay because God believes in you!”
Jesus believes in you and me and he intends us to be more like him. Jesus believes we are capable of being more like him, but do we?
An interviewer asked Rob Bell : “If a 20 year old told you she was entering full-time ministry because she wanted to serve God and make a difference in the world, what questions would you have for her? How would you respond?”
Rob Bell: “I would ask her if she’s a Christian. If she said “yes,” I would say “Too late! You’re already in full-time ministry! The real question is: what are you going to do with your God-given passions and energies? Who are you going to help? What are you going to make? Where are you going to serve? Go do that, and release yourself from the need to give it labels.”
If we, God’s church, don’t reclaim a vibrant sense that all of us – all Christians – are called and needed to serve God by making a difference in the world wherever we find ourselves, the Church doesn’t have much of a future.
This is particularly pertinent for us right now as the Presbyterian church of St Heliers. Each of us is called and at a time like this, we are urged to respond to this calling.
Together we are the body of Christ in this community and each of us must work together if we are not only to survive, but to thrive. This is not a time for us to sit, licking our wounds and lamenting our losses. Neither is this a time for us to passively wait for a minister to come and save us. This is a time for us to respond to our mandate to “reach out and welcome in”. This is a time for each of us to seriously consider what part we are going to play in fulfilling our church’s mission in this community.
We cannot say “I don’t need you” because we all need each other and our church needs us all. We are all called to work together like a healthy body to serve this community. Now more than ever we need to show that we are indeed a beloved community reflecting the spirit of Christ in all we do.
Being a beloved community takes work!
Being a beloved community means all of us working together to rebuild this community of faith and belonging we call St Heliers church and community centre. Being a beloved community means living as disciples of Jesus every day sharing his love, compassion, truth, forgiveness, grace, peace and joy in this place we find ourselves.
Because then in the words of Jesus written in John 13: “The world will know that you are my followers because of the way that you love each other.”
May we be covered in the dust of our rabbi.