August 16, 2011

Who Am I?

Filed under: Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 6:44 pm

This week’s epistle and Gospel readings speak to what I think is one of the most difficult aspects of Christian stewardship: the discernment of our spiritual gifts and vocational identity. And yet, as one who has both entered into discernment and sat with others in their discernment, I would say that the naming, claiming, and proclaiming one’s gifts is quite possibly the most rewarding aspect of Christian stewardship as well.

We all know the drill when it comes to time, talent, and treasure. We give generously, pitch in where we can, and are happy to share what we know or what we’re good at. But how comfortable would you be picking up the phone and asking a member of your congregation, “Hey, I need someone to prophesy. You got a minute?” First, we would need to discern whom to call, identifying the gift in another. Then, we would have to hope that they didn’t hang up on us—imagine someone walking up to you and saying, “I believe you have the gift of prophesy.” It doesn’t come naturally, does it?

Yet that is precisely what we are called to do as stewards of our spiritual gifts. We are each members of a body, part of a whole, responsible for our collective call to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world, in the world of our communities through mission and ministry. As members of one body, we are called to accept our particular vocation, name and embrace our particular gift, live fully into the joy of being who we are.

For some, vocation is known and exercised quite naturally, almost organically. For others, it’s an emerging thing, a nudge, an awakening. For still others it’s there all along and just needs to be energized. And there are those whose gifts lie so deeply in that still small place of Christ within us that they are visible only to others.

A congregation I know of wanted to develop a lay visitation ministry to assist the priest with pastoral calls. In a rather bold, I would say inspired, move, the call for participation was made in this way, “If you were in need of visitation at home or in the hospital, who in our congregation would you like to have call on you? Whose presence would you find comforting? Whose outreach would most effectively reach you? Please share with the rector the name or names that come to mind; he will use your input to invite the first class of lay visitation ministers.”

It should come as no surprise that every single person who was put forward by the congregation was absolutely flabbergasted when the rector called—and absolutely perfect in the role. We, though many, are indeed one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Sometimes our gifts are known to us, and sometimes it bears asking, “Who do the people say that I am?”

In the Diocese of Maine we are uniquely blessed to have a discernment process available in all orders of ministry. This both mystifies and fascinates my friends and colleagues in other dioceses: Why would lay people bother with discernment? I wish my diocese offered that.

If you are reading this and have not taken the opportunity to enter into conversations with like-minded travelers, or to look into your own depths to discover new ways of being in covenant and in community, I strongly encourage you to consider discernment or spiritual direction. To ask the question, “Who do you say that I am,” whether you ask it of yourself, your neighbors, or your God, is to enter into the very heart of Christian stewardship.


1 Comment »

  1. That is one of my FAVORITE–and most reliable–means of identifying pastoral visitors. I also want to make everyone aware of a resource prepared by the Committee on Baptismal Ministry several years ago, which uses this approach in a structured way to help identify possible candidates for a variety of leadership roles. I believe Canon Vicki Wiederkehr has the official copy, but I can probably dig the digital format out of my computer archives, if necessary.

    Comment by Nancy Moore — August 16, 2011 @ 7:20 pm |Reply

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