What We’re Meant to Do

Mark 8: 27-38

We’d made plans. We planned for today to be our second Vacation Bible School Sunday. The curriculum was set, the volunteers and their responsibilities were set. Our schedule of activities for the kids was already in black and white. Then exposure to COVID changed everything. The kids and their parents can’t come to risk exposing anyone else to a new variant. Ya just never know.

We made plans. Plans could also be understood as strategies. I ran across a definition of strategy today. Strategy is when you don’t let the enemy know that you are out of ammunition, but you keep on firing anyway.

At the end of last week, I decided to do some planning for this Sunday’s sermon. I looked at the lectionary selection – Mark 8: 27-38. I read it. I prayed and read it again. I made some notes and felt confident that I was on the way to write a focused sermon. I then remembered September 12 would be our Vacation Bible School Sunday and the lesson was on David and Goliath. Well, shoot. I can’t use these notes. Funny thing. I saved the notes. 

Jesus didn’t say the followers should take up his cross. Following for a disciple, a learner of Jesus means picking up our crosses.

Jesus knew his destiny, his mission, his purpose. He knew what he was born to do. Not all of us know what we’re born to do.

I had  recent conversation with our district superintendent. She preached here recently. I laughed with her about how many times I’ve told her how I ended up turning to the church to serve as a pastor again, and how many times she and I have attended meetings, both Zoom and in-person, where I’ve told my story of turning to serve as a pastor and wanting to be reinstated as an elder in the church. I apologized for having to tell the story so many times. When it all started I was so certain  what I was meant to do.

Back in 2018, I was so certain I was meant to return to seminary to engage and complete and receive a Doctorate of Ministry degree. When I started the work and the reading and the writing of my spiritual autobiography and the theological studies necessary to proceed, I knew, I was certain I was meant to do this degree program.

I started having serious conversations with my degree mentor, and he asked all the right questions. I told him I wanted to do my research on the history of the Thin Place – where there appears to be a thin membrane between heaven and earth. This phenomenon has occurred  and been observed many places over the centuries. I asked if it could be created by a group of believers who wanted to see it happen again. My professor said that was fine, but he asked me what was my context of ministry? My context of ministry. April and I were part of a house church in Jacksonville at this point. It was floundering, and in my conversations with this professor, I was too. I was so certain what I was meant to do. This question, an truly appropriate one, left me ill prepared to proceed. I wasn’t standing on firm ground to proceed with the development of my thesis and my research in a particular context where ministry was already going on. But I was so certain I was meant to do this.

The question of a context of ministry led me to a time of prayer and conversations with April about what was beginning to bud again in me. I still had a calling on my life. A context of ministry could only be fulfilled by returning to pastoral ministry. I didn’t want to return to the United Methodist church to satisfy the requirements of a degree program, but because I was meant to return. The certainty of starting a new degree program led me to a new facet of certainty, to return to pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church. I was certain and remain certain this is what I am suppose to do. For a particular reason? That’s not the right question right now. All I’m certain of is that I’m where I suppose to be.

Jesus didn’t say anything about his followers knowing their destinies, their missions, their purposes to the absolute end. He merely said that if we follow him we’ll pick our crosses and follow. If you’re following Jesus, you’re carrying a cross upon which you will lose your life and save it. The cross is where you’ll willfully surrender your life. I will follow, and I will surrender my life and it will be lost, but I will be saved. The cross you bear is yours. Where it will lead you and where you’ll end is not the right question. Merely succumbing to a willful surrender is all that’s asked of us right now.

(Preached at Lincoln UMC in Lincoln, Alabama, September 12, 2021)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s