This afternoon I’m reflecting on ordination. This is because a friend of many years is being ordained priest today, and this brings a smile to my face. So I’m thinking back to my own ordination, and have re-read a note sent to me by dear one at that time. He said, in part: “It is God’s Church, and it is God who has called you to this moment. It is God who has given you gifts which you still haven’t discovered, but they will become evident as you continue to respond to his calling. The life of the Christian priest is truly an adventure full of challenges which will bring out the previously unrecognized gifts you possess. Be prepared to be surprised.”
While the note then, and my sentiment today, was a response to that moment of ordination, I think they also apply to the moment when any of us acknowledge and respond in faith to God’s call for our lives. Ordained ministry is just one calling. We are all moulded and formed by our experiences, the challenges we face and the gifts that we develop over time. We are influenced by the world around us, the people who make our community, the joy that permeates.
Responding to God’s call isn’t easy, and it’s not a done deal once articulated. My friend being ordained today will continue to discover and develop gifts as she continues her journey, just as I continue to discover and develop gifts. An example: when I was ordained priest, my writing skills were primarily used on reports and research papers and academic articles. Now, my writing energy goes into poetry and prayer and (bless you for reading this!) blogs. Who knows what it will be focused on in the years to come! But the skills from one focus combined with changes in experience (moving from inner city to small town, changing ministry positions, etc.) have influenced and nurtured my writing, and will continue to do so. It can be surprising when other people see these gifts before we do – I was perhaps the only person that was surprised by accepting that I am a liturgist. I had been writing and compiling liturgies for numerous occasions before it dawned on me.
Writing is certainly not the only thing that has changed and grown and developed – likewise there have been things that have changed and diminished. That which we do should be done carefully and faithfully, and there’s a limit to how much we can do. So letting go of some gifts after they have served their purpose becomes a necessity. Yet we can do so with the trust that even when we’re not wanting that to happen, God is making us ready for something new and exciting that we’re meant to do.
As the aspects of our lives shift and flow and change, so to does our response to God’s call in our lives. Responding to that changing call requires both ongoing discernment and flexibility. But when it is work that responds to God’s will, it will always be right, and surprising, and worth celebrating. When we keep our focus on God, we are living in a moment that we have been called to – whether the moment lasts a week, a year, or a lifetime. When we focus on God our ministry will be blessed and our lives will be fulfilling. I pray that all of us recognise our calling to God’s church at this moment, and that all of us are open and willing to be surprised.
How is God calling you to ministry today?