Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Answer to God's Call

I often get asked by people I meet in public, "How did you know this was your calling?", or something close to this. My answer is often different from other Priests I've known, in that I received what I call "the burning bush." That is to say, I didn't just feel drawn to this vocation, I was literally called by God to be a Priest. So "the calling" wasn't subtle. But it wasn't a command either. It was an invitation at first, followed by a few years of constant reminders that the invitation had been sent. Hounding really.

I struggled for 3 years to accept this invitation. I even went to several people to try to get them to talk me out of it. It didn't work. Friends, family, other Priests, all of them said, "You really proabably ought to do this if God is still leaving messages."

Once I finally stopped fighting this call, I noticed a significant change in my life. There had been other things I'd been saying "No" or "Not me" to, and once I decided to make my life about pursuing holiness instead of hiding from it, life got a lot easier. I was happer. I made more money. I found others who enjoyed talking about the real things in life rather than the regular mundane day-to-day routine we can so easily fall into when we don't look for a balance in life that includes a pursuit of holiness.

My answer to God wasn't just a "Yes," it was an "I will," and I've said it a few times since:

"Will you be diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, and in seeking the knowledge of such things as may make you a stronger and more able minister of Christ?"
"I will."

"Will you endeavor so to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?"
"I will."

"Will you undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, laboring together with them and with your fellow ministers to build up the family of God?"
"I will."

"Will you do your best to pattern your life and that of your family in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?"
"I will."

"Will you persevere in prayer, both in public and in private, asking God’s grace, both for yourself and for others, offering all your labors to God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit?"
"I will."

These were not the only times I said "I will," but these occasions did mark a moment of change, because shortly thereafter, I was consecrated a Priest, and there is no going back. I'm not only obligated, I have been consecrated--set aside for the purposes and plans of a God that loves you and uses me to prove it.

Answering a call to holiness does not usually seem all that easy, because we always have trouble letting go of those things we should say "No" to. But I can assure you that saying "Yes" to God, saying "Yes" to the movement of the Spirit within you, and saying "Yes" to a pursuit of holiness instead of fighting it WILL make your daily life flow more naturally, because holiness IS what you were made for from the beginning. We were made for perfection. We choose brokenness.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm definitely a broken individual. I'm definitely an imperfect Priest, let alone an imperfect person, although there really isn't much difference in our rules versus anyone else's--we just have more accountability. We all have those moments when we don't feel up to the task, or up to the standard of God's call. But we're not alone. St. Paul had the same feeling when distracted by temptation and his own brokenness. And what was God's answer to him?
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."(2nd Corinthians 12:9)

God is calling. Have you answered? We have! And we invite you to know God the way we do. The God who makes miracles out of weaknesses. The God who makes saints out of sinners. The God who makes a Priest out of a young foul-mouthed bartender like myself...and this isn't anything new; the Apostles were around my age when they were called, and just as stubborn; Moses was probably younger than I am now, and he had a Church of over 1,000,000 people! Our Lord himself began his ministry at my age, and managed to secure the salvation of the whole world in under 3 years. What could you do? Answer and see!

Grace and Peace to you all!

-The Rev. Jon C. Jenkins+ SSC
Rector of Christ the King, Fort Worth

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the Apostle Paul came to the end of his life and ministry, he contemplated what lay before him personally, he reflected on the Faith he labored to proclaim, and he instructed the Church he helped to establish. And so, he began to write. Crafting two letters to his disciple, Timothy, his second one contains such words as these:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline (1:6-7).
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2:2).
As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it (3:14).
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (4:3).
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (4:5)

It is with these encouragements and admonitions in mind that Timothy labored and persevered in his apostolic and priestly ministry.

It is with these same encouragements and admonitions in mind that younger members of our clergy will be addressing the diocese, both by letter and video over the next several weeks leading up to diocesan convention. We speak with three purposes in mind:
To inform our communicants of the hope and future we see in this diocese through the proclamation of the gospel
To tell our own stories of how we came to know Jesus and how we were called into priestly service
To articulate from our own positions and perspectives why we are in support of re-alignment in the Anglican Communion.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” I Timothy 4:12-14

In Christ,

The Rev. Christopher Culpepper