Monday, March 5, 2018

When God is calling

ESR MDiv student Keelin Anderson delivered the following message during ESR worship on Friday, March 2, 2018:

Luke 9: 1-6 NRSV

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Luke 9: 57-62 NRSVAs they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In our readings today, Jesus doesn’t pitch discipleship very well. He basically tells us that if you follow him you will be barefoot, hungry, homeless, and alienated from your family and your former way of life. So, I ask you, what are you all doing here contemplating seminary?

I joke here, but Jesus is saying his call is not an easy one. There will be people in your life who will not understand. There will be habits and assumptions of your own you will have to leave behind. God is calling for an ongoing radical transformation in your way of being in the world. Not everything and everyone in your life is going to come along with you.

Three years ago I was minding my own business, walking home from a yoga class in my neighborhood in Portland, OR, when an idea popped into my head. “Go find out what it takes to become a hospital chaplain,” it said. I had been a nurse and a massage therapist, so in a way this made sense, but I had never had a religion. I was raised by divorced parents, my mother a scientist and atheist, my father, a psychiatrist who during my teen years, lived in a cult that followed the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Religion at the least was suspect, at the most, dangerous.

I had come to my own sense of God in my late twenties through meditation, a practice I mostly did by myself. It had never occurred to me to do religion with other people. My sense of religious people came from American media. Throughout the world people were fighting wars in religion’s name. At home, “Christian family values” meant homophobia and misogyny. As far as I could see, religious people wanted either to control me or kill me. Now God wanted me to get an MDiv?

And here I am three years later giving a sermon! I have not made a dime since I began school. I have abandoned my husband and two cats alone at home in Portland for this Spring Term. I have discovered I am a Quaker. I am learning to appreciate that there is something to this “gathering together in Jesus’s name.” I feel more able than ever to express my true self and allow God to move through me, and, I have to work constantly on my faith and courage.