On the third Sunday after the Charleston Massacre, on the day after the 4th of July, we read Ezekiel’s call story and the story of Christ returning home, where he is rejected by his own people and can do no deeds of power among them. And this was the first Sunday after Bree Newsome, an African-American woman, shimmied up a flagpole in Charleston, South Carolina, and took down the Confederate flag, quoting the 27th Psalm and the Lord’s prayer on her way down, where James Tyson, a white man, waited to help her get over the fence.
We read from Bree Newsome’s statement, Our Time Has Come (Bree Newsome’s complete statement), asking what God is calling us see and do through her prophetic words and her prophetic act. We emphasize our belief that responding to God’s call to us as individuals and a church is a choice; and we remember that call is ineffective absent community.
The Gospel of Mark folds the long process of answering call into the word immediately. How long, after all, have Peter and Andrew been talking about how things ought to be when Jesus calls them and they immediately leave everything behind? It appears James and John have been preparing–there are workers ready to take their place in the boat their father. Also folded into Mark’s immediately is something we don’t talk much about when we talk about answering call–to follow Christ means to leave much behind; it involves loss; it involves grief. And the more we have to leave behind–the older we are, the more possessions we have, the more grief we experience as we answer call. And yet, we believe what we have been told and what we have experience–to answer all is to discover our true selves and find meaning and purpose in our lives.
This was a special Sunday for us. Moderator Wes Lewellyn announced that the church has called me to serve as Designated Pastor, a three-year call to serve as Senior Pastor of First Congregational UCC Moline with the option to talk together about whether we are called for a longer term. It seemed fitting that I share my own call story with the congregation.