Psalm 145: 1-5, 17-21
Haggai 1:15 - 2:9
2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5, 13-17
Luke 20: 27–38
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself
and God our Father, Who loved us
and through grace gave us eternal comfort
and good hope,
comfort your hearts and strengthen them
in every good work and word.
-2 Thessalonians 2: 16 – 17
Last Tuesday evening, I was privileged to join with some other chaplains to offer blessings to workers around our local hospital. We walked with a cart which held a pitcher of water and a basin, some oil in a dish, and some pretty pebbles marked with words such as “peace,” “strength,” “rest,” and “hope.” It was a night shift, and there was no way of knowing who we might meet, or who would want to take the time to meet with us. In the course of two hours, we poured water on the hands of nurses, custodians, lab workers, and physicians as a symbol of cleansing and refreshing. We also anointed their wrists with oil, representing grace, and let them take one of the pebbles. And we gave them some words of blessing, to cheer and encourage them in their vocation as people of healing. The workers responded to these blessings with words of gratitude, expressions of pleasant surprise, and in some cases tears of joy and release.
When we find ourselves in medical settings, it isn’t unusual for us to find workers with kind and caring attitudes, not to mention skills and knowledge for healing bodies. In fact, we expect that such workers will be not only professionally competent but also good-natured, positive people. But then when we are in our role as “consumers” of “medical services,” we may be tempted to exercise our critical impulses on the workers when we find the proverbial ‘fly in the ointment.’
Some of you are old enough to remember times when one or two local physicians were people’s main medical resource, and a trip to the hospital in Harrisonburg or Charlottesville was a pilgrimage to a temple of mysteries beyond the comprehension of lay-folk.
Now, we are told that we must watch each dollar of our health-care spending, checking in advance what each service and item and worker-hour is going to cost— knowing that severe financial penalties will hit us if we go ‘out of network’ or accept a prescription for a drug not covered by our policy. The health-care industry would reduce us to crass consumers in a money machine.
Still, we expect those workers to be angels of mercy bearing miracles of healing for our failing flesh.
When someone puts themself in front of the public knowing that expectations will be high even when things get bad, it’s a “vocation,” a “calling.” The idea is that God gives people gifts to use in His service and in the service of humanity, and God then calls us to use our gifts rightly, whether we are paid or appreciated or not.
We expect nurses and doctors to feel a sense of their higher calling, not just the businesslike drive to make a dollar any old way they can. Likewise with some other lines of work: florists and decorators, artists of many types, counselors, and teachers: if they’re only in it for the money, we feel there’s something missing.
And then there’s religion.
The old song said,
Well, the preacher he’s a dodger,
yes, a well known dodger,
well, the preacher he’s a dodger, yes,
and I’m a dodger, too.
He’ll preach you the gospel
and tell you of your crimes,
but Look out, boys! he’s a-dodgin’ for your dimes !
Well, we’re all dodgin,’ dodgin’ - dodgin’ - dodgin’
on the way through the world.
Yes, you pay me. And Yes, I believe God has called me to the work I do. Both. By the grace of God, it will come out right somehow. At best, we will both know that it’s right.
I want to call you attention to your own holy vocation, your own sense of God’s call on your life. Do you know what it is that God means for you to do in this world ?
The classic answer of Christianity is found in last week’s lesson from
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12:
Our God will make you worthy of His call and will fulfill by His power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s make God glad He called us.