Epiphany 2A’20
19 January 2020
I Cor. 1.1-9;jn.1.29-42
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

Loving God, maker and revealer of mysteries: Stir our hearts, and open our up our ears, that we might seek after you and find you, and in finding you, find ourselves, hear your call, and fulfill our parts in your plan, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

One of the hobbies I enjoyed as a child was solving connect the dots puzzles. It was a lot of fun to look at a page filled with numbers and dots that didn’t seem to add up to anything, suddenly reveal an image after drawing lines between the numbers to connect the dots.

Connecting the dots, as it turns out, is a pretty good metaphor for how we need to live out our lives. At any given time, life presents us with a series of random dots and numbers and we must draw the lines, and make the right connections in order to see the plan we are a part of.

Scripture readings for Sunday services don’t always have such a strong connection as today’s readings. When you connect all of them, they each add up to something that is essential to living a life of faith, and that is finding our calling. This is much more than just deciding what job or career path we want to follow but goes much deeper to who we are as people, what are we about, and what we intend to do about it. All throughout scripture we hear stories about individuals who receive a call from God. The Latin root for this is “vocare’” which means to call, name, or invoke[1] Abraham and Sarah were called to leave the place they were living and go to an unknown country to live. Moses was called to lead the people of God out from Egyptian slavery and so on.  Through signs and voices, through burning bushes these faith filled followers found their paths. The dots are being connected.

Isaiah’s prophecy today reveals a mysterious plan and a specific calling: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the end of the earth.” This master plan is set in motion, creating a ripple effect that led to one Saul of Tarsus who would follow Christ in a life-changing turnaround that would lead to him being made an Apostle, and with a transformation so dramatic that his name was changed from Saul to Paul. Saul in Hebrew means “one asked for”.[2] Paul, on the other hand is comes from the Latin root that means “small” and “humble.”[3] Saul whose ego was as big as Texas would find his true path through his being  humbled on the road to Damascus,  and receiving a new name and a new call to lift up the faith he once tried to destroy: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God…” The dots were being connected.

The ripple effect of prophecies continues, stirring the hearts of ordinary fisherman, first Andrew who in turn, goes to find his brother Simon, and tells him: “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).  When Jesus lays eyes on Simon he changes his name: “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). Peter went from being a fisherman to being a disciple, the dots were being connected.

My work on the Commission on Ministry has taught me a lot. This group works with those in our diocese who believe they may be called to be a deacon, or priest. One of our tasks as we interview these individuals is to see if they know the difference between lay ministry and ordained ministry. In the Episcopal Church it’s fairly common to get someone seeking ordination simply because they are very “involved in the church” or people around tell them “how dedicated they are.”  This is where it becomes important for us to understand that we have all been called to be Christ’s disciple, and as disciples we are called to be dedicated to the God and involved in the church.  We can do many things as a baptized Christian.  Lay ministry is not second- or third-class ministry somewhere below the ordained ministry. In fact, all of us at our baptisms were anointed and given gifts for ministry. We are to shine our lights wherever God has planted us. To follow the baptismal covenant and to live out our faith. To be good news, and share good news.

 In our catechism it tells us what the ministry of the laity is:

“The ministry of laypersons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.”

As we put away 2019 in our life together, let us give thanks for the many dots that have been connected, let us ask God for 2020 vision as we recommit ourselves to Christ’s mission, and as we look to follow as Christ’s disciples in this New Year. Amen.

[1] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/vocare

[2] https://www.sheknows.com/baby-names/name/saul/

[3] https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Paul.html#.XiOAey2ZOuU