He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.
God loves to send people where they least expect. Moses was shepherding when God spoke to him through the burning bush and told him to go back to Egypt in order to lead the people out of captivity. Jonah was minding his own business when the Lord told him to go to Nineveh. Paul was in the middle of his campaign against the early Christians when God told him to go see Ananias in Damascus.
In the United Methodist Church pastors are appointed (sent) to serve different churches. Rather than being interviewed and examined by every individual placement, a bishop (and cabinet) discern God’s will and send pastors accordingly. This style of appointments allows for churches to be challenged by their pastors (and pastors by their churches) because neither of them have a choice in the matter. Yet, I can’t help but imagine that some UM pastors feel like they are being sent to “a nation of rebels” whenever they are reappointed.
Yesterday marked the completion of my second year serving the needs of St. John’s UMC in Staunton, Virginia. I can still recall the first phone call I received detailing my appointment, and I will freely admit they I felt a little uncomfortable about where I was being sent. After all, I knew nothing about the town, the people, or the church.
I can also recall the feeling in the pit of my stomach two years ago when I approached the pulpit to preach for the first time (Between the nerves and the excitement we were lucky that I even made it through a sermon at all). I looked out from my vantage point and saw the people of God gathered together to hear the Word and respond accordingly. To this day I still thank God for blessing us with the Holy Spirit that morning who allowed us to listen, laugh, and love.
In the beginning of my time at St. John’s I foolishly thought I was bringing something to the church that they previously lacked. I believed that I was the one who could turn the ship around. I expected that I would grow the church, have us start paying our apportionments (in full), and preach in the midst of the rebels. For a time I thought I could be the savior.
I quickly realized that my expectations were way off. Instead of being a prophet sent to the rebels, I myself was a rebel in the midst of rebels. To believe that I could save the church meant that I was putting faith in myself, rather than the Lord. To believe that I had the power to make the church start paying its apportionments meant that I did not trust God to provide. To believe that I could be the savior meant that I forgot that only Jesus is our savior.
If we have done anything to please the Lord over the last two years, it has only come because God gave us the power to do so, and only secondarily because of us (me).
We are all called to go and be Christ’s body for the world in different ways, but it is vitally important for us to remember that we have just as much to learn as we have to teach; that no matter where God’s sends us, we will be transformed just as much as we transform others; and that in the end Jesus is Lord, and we are not.
This week, let us reflect on the places the Lord has sent us to be Christ’s body, and on the people who have been sent to be Christ’s body for us.