By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
On June 29, I celebrated 30 years of ordained ministry. During those 30 years, I served seven full, parish congregations and one campus ministry. I also just celebrated my first anniversary at Spirit of Peace in May.
These anniversaries got me thinking about callings. What does it mean to “be called?” What being called as a pastor does not mean is that we are any more faithful, saintly or smarter than anybody else. What it does mean is that we have the blessing of knowing we have a specific calling recognized and celebrated by an ecclesiastical rite. A great sadness of mine is that most people don’t have a real sense of their own callings and think: “Folks who wear funny shirts and collars have a calling; the rest of us — if we’re lucky – have a job.” One of my missions in life is to try and help people recognize, validate and celebrate their own callings.
The truth is, every Christian is called in their baptism to use their God-given gifts in the world. However, the church does a terrible job of celebrating the calling of anyone but pastors. We don’t recognize the call to be parents, grandparents, teachers, lawyers, plumbers and so forth. I’m fortunate to know what my calling is and to spend most of my days around other Christians, so it’s easy to remember it. But a calling can be a lot tougher to see and remember when trying to fulfill it out in the world. I want us to recognize and honor all the jobs people do because whenever we’re using our gifts for God’s glory and are making a difference in someone’s life, it’s a calling! It’s entirely possible to have more than one calling. Throughout our lives, we might have many beginnings and endings. We may be called to work in a particular environment at one point, then called somewhere else — and that’s OK. What’s important is to always see our work as both a calling and an opportunity to use our gifts in Christ’s name. Along with our calling comes a responsibility. I’m aware that, when I wear that funky shirt on Sunday mornings, it’s my responsibility to try and speak on behalf of God. Truth is, we all bear the responsibility to try and do so – no matter what we’re wearing or where we are!
My wife Chris and I had a dear friend in our former parish named Art. He was a wonderful, sweet man with whom I enjoyed some great conversations. He’d be close to 90 now but, when we met, he was 80 and his wife had recently passed away. I learned he’d had quite an amazing career in the Secret Service and served under several former presidents. One of the many things that impressed me about Art was that, after his wife died, rather than turning inward and waiting to die himself, he found the courage to put himself back out there and find ways to serve.
In the midst of his own grief, he not only joined a new congregation but also embarked on at least two church-led missionary trips to Haiti.
Art had a keen sense of his own purpose and calling. He’s the kind of person I want to be when I grow up! Every one of us is called by God to use our gifts both inside and outside of church.
I think that’s something worth recognizing, lifting up and celebrating.
God loves you, and so do I,