Reflections to start the week
Monday, November 11, 2013
For Jonah, it was a great fish. For Balaam, it was a donkey. For St. Martin, it was a goose. Read on.
I began ordained ministry at St. Martin’s in Providence, Rhode Island, a church filled with talented artists and graphic designers and mad men (advertising types), graduates of Rhode Island School of Design who never left that interesting city. One of these graduates offered his ministry to the church, providing the parish with distinctive branding, rendering images of a goose, the symbol of St. Martin. Why a goose?
Martin, a saint from the 4th century was first a soldier, then a priest, then elected bishop. Like many wise folks who get elected bishop, when Martin heard the news of the vote, he ran away as fast as possible. Legend has it he hid in a barn, hoping the electorate would not find him. His presence was given away by the honking of the geese. Their noise trumped Martin’s reticence, and he was called, if not compelled, to distinctive service in the church, remembered over the centuries.
Those honking geese represent the truth about God’s call to us. When people hear the call of God, throughout the Bible, throughout church history, in their lives today, the reaction often sounds something like this: “The call is a wrong number.” “I’m not the person for the job.” “God’s recruiting skills have finally faltered.” “May I suggest someone else?” Has that ever been your reaction? Come on, fess up.
Martin is not the only bishop who took the job reluctantly. The history of the church is marked by people who wished someone else had been called, who do not feel up to the task. However, when it comes to call, the truth of the matter seems to be that it is not about how qualified we are. God does not call the qualified. God qualifies those who are called. God gives the gifts and resources to do holy work in the world. About all we have to do is echo the words of countless characters in the Bible who, when they hear God’s call, answer with some version of these three words: Here am I. And then, of course, be ready to be of service.
Speaking of service, it’s fitting that St. Martin’s feast day coincides with Veteran’s Day. (I invite you to pray the prayer for heroic service which you’ll find in the left hand column.) Martin is remembered for a story that took place while he was a soldier in the Roman army, deployed in Gaul. One day, as Martin approached the city of Amiens, he met a scantily clad beggar. Martin sliced his military cloak in half to share with the man. That night, Martin had a dream in which he saw Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me.” For that reason, the gospel read on Martin’s feast day (again, take a gander at the side column) speaks about how we meet Christ, about how we grow in faith.
Today, this Monday in November, observe the feast of St. Martin, by keeping your eyes open for where you will meet Christ. Answer the call to do Christ’s work in the world. Maybe there’s an act of service you can do for our veterans, maybe nothing more or less than a prayer. God’s call comes to each one of us, whether we feel up to the task or not. The task may be daunting. You may want to run and hide. But in the divine sense of humor, there may well be a goose waiting in that hiding place to bring you back to the work God has for you to do. Or a great fish. Or a donkey. Or a beggar. Or a bishop. Or a brother or sister in Christ. Answer the call today.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.