Wednesday, January 28th

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.  Luke 6:12-16


“Disciple” means “student” or “learner” – “apostle” means “sent one” or “messenger.”  Out of all of his disciples (here Luke implies there were many more than twelve people following Jesus), Jesus chooses twelve to be the “sent out ones.”


Jesus didn’t choose them by random, drawing straws or tapping toes to silly rhymes.  He spent a significant period of time in prayer, in spiritual discernment.  Only then did he choose the twelve.  (And even at that, Judas Iscariot still made the cut.)


From the very beginning, in each of the gospels, Jesus immediately seeks to multiply his ministry.  From the very beginning, Jesus is preparing for the great hand-off that happens after Easter Sunday.  From the very beginning, Jesus selects some and sets them aside – not to honor them or give them some kind of special prestige – but sets them aside so that they would assume positions of leadership within the Christian movement.


All Christians, by virtue of their baptism into Christ, are “ministers,” are “ambassadors of Jesus” in the world.  No question about it.  The common shared ministry of the people of God, both lay and ordained, professional and amateur, paid and volunteer, is for the sake of the world.  But from the very beginning, some are set aside for the sake of the others.


Ask a pastor to tell you his or her story and you will hear as many different stories as people you ask.  None of us, at least none that I know, thinks of being a pastor as merely having a job that delivers a paycheck.  There is more to it than that to all of us.  A few of us can’t remember ever wanting to be anything else when they grew up other than a pastor.  But more of us would tell stories of grappling and wrestling and struggling with the calling – from the very first and perhaps all the way through.


Ordination required earning a four year college degree followed by an additional four years of study at a Lutheran seminary, one of those years spent working as an intern in full-time ministry for very little salary under the supervision of a pastor.  Continued service means continuing our education each year and all the along the way.  Ask any pastor – better yet, ask their spouses or their children – and you would discover that it is a demanding, complex, often frustrating and deeply rewarding calling.


And maybe that is the problem. Maybe all of the preparation, all of the education, all of the trappings of the office actually, at some level at least, gets in the way.  Maybe stepping into the traditional roles assigned to us in congregational life becomes the problem.  Because it has the potential to blind us to the purpose.


It is easy to lose sight of the simple idea that maybe God wants us to be doing what we do. That it is God’s idea that some are called and set aside and prepared to be sent to equip the rest. That maybe our life callings are as much about God as about us.


So it is that the 400 of us here gathered might say we are pastors of local congregations but the deeper reality is that we work for the Creator of the Universe, in partnership with those in our congregations, in carrying out God’s plan for restoring the broken, feeding the hungry, setting the oppressed free and making whole the fabric of the kingdom.


The problem isn’t that we think too large but that we think too small.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, expand our vision.  Help us see our calling as your people in all of its depth and power and possibilities.  Help us see ourselves as sent into the world, literally bearing your presence and love.  Help us see our hands and legs and arms and voices as yours, incarnated for the good and the restoration of the world.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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