The lectionary loves to take biblical texts that share some things in common and then watch as worlds collide once differences come to light. This week’s comparison-contrast of call stories is a perfect case in point. The story in 1 Kings 19 comes directly from God’s lips to Elijah’s ears and from there to Elisha’s shoulders.
Mainline denominations have only begun to recognize the alarmingly low numbers of clergy under the age of 35. In my denomination, the United Church of Christ, I am one of only 207 clergy in that age bracket—about 4 percent of total clergy.
In his book Open Secrets, Richard Lischer describes his response to the challenges of his first congregational call. “My congregants were expected to welcome an inexperienced 28-year-old stranger into a community as tightly sealed as a jar of canned pickles.
It’s the day after the election, and I am clicking around on one of the many interactive maps of the nation available on the Internet. I’ve found one that shows, in reds and blues, how every single county in the nation voted. You click on a state and the data for each county appear, down to the very last vote.
One day we woke up and saw that they were everywhere. Looking back, we realized that they had been there all along, growing in the soil under our feet, watered by the same water we drank, preparing to pop up their heads and bask in the sun.
One of my laments over the years has been over the dreadful image of clergy in popular media. With some notable exceptions, ministers are portrayed as inept, shallow, out of touch with the world and basically irrelevant—like Chaplain Mulcahy in the old M*A*S*H television series.
When fairy tales begin with the familiar phrase “Once upon a time,” they signal a mythical point of departure: the beginning of a great adventure. If Matthew had known this phrase, he might have employed it to introduce the calling of the first disciples, since his version of this story begins with the breathless anticipation of a fairy tale.
Names are sacred words by which we are individualized. Jesus, in baptism, received a new name. So do his followers. Baptism also sets each of us apart as a particular kind of person—one owned by God. Those who have been baptized are called to live out the meaning of this remarkable reality.