The Rev. Jane R. Dunning, Priest Associate
As Jesus begins his ministry, he asks certain people to follow him. Some of these disciples have known him for years and have been part of his community.
Some may have already felt the power of his teachings and felt deeply drawn to what Jesus has to say, to his presence, to his vision. There was a strong certainty in their hearts that this was the call for them, above any other. They get up, leave what they are doing, and follow him. This decision will change their lives.
At the time of our baptism we make certain promises, When we abide by these promises we set the structure of our lives. These will become the guideposts and the trail markers for our future.
As a part of this Baptismal Covenant, we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. We promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. When we live out these promises, they shape who we become and where our lives will lead us.
Over the years, the focus on worship in this parish has been to reach out beyond the comfortable walls of the church and find ways to serve the surrounding community. The question then becomes “How do we decide as a community where and how to serve.”
This is a question we must also answer in our personal lives. What am I called to do? What is my vocation? What is my passion? Where can I focus my personal life in such a way that it brings me joy and fulfillment and still serves the community around me.
Some choose to be stay at home parents, building a loving family that will be a blessing to the community, Some serve as storekeepers, hairdressers, grocers, serving their community with thoughtfulness and courtesy. Some choose to be fishermen as perhaps their fathers were, some choose to teachers, educating our young people. Some choose to be doctors or nurses serving the health of their towns and villages.
Some choose to be artists or musicians adding to the beauty that surrounds our lives, some choose to be carpenters, or plumbers, or electricians adding their skills to our buildings and our homes.
Some choose to serve in the military, wanting to serve and protect our nation.
Each of these represents an individual vocation, a response to serve others unique to each individual. Hopefully it will be a fulfilling and life-giving choice and we will find joy in the life that we choose, and hopefully we will fulfill the promises made so many years ago to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, striving for justice and peace, and respecting the dignity of every human being.
And some choose to be firefighters, or EMTs, paramedics, or police, responding to the emergencies that arise in our communities, responding to a crisis situation with all the training behind them, facing danger to protect our buildings and above all, our lives.
From January of 2016 to January of 2017 Franklin County suffered four fatal fires. The first one was in Orange where two little girls were killed. The second was here in Greenfield where two adults and child were killed. The third fire was in Erving where firefighters were unable to save the baby in the next room. The fourth fire was in Warwick where a mother and four of her five children were killed. Those responding to each of these fires were neighbors who were first responders, fire fighters, ambulance personnel, police, and representatives of the state fire marshall. These tragedies took a huge emotional toll on those who responded. Debriefings were held for those who were present to help ease the stress caused by each tragedy. We celebrate our first responders today, and offer our thanks and God’s blessing.
As Jesus is preparing to leave the disciples, he sends them out to spread his message of love and forgiveness in his name. He tells them to stay until they receive Holy Spirit, and he blesses them. In the years that they had been together these disciples had been changed and with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they would be able to go out into the world and change the world with the message of God’s great love for all people.
The disciples have heard the call and followed that call on a journey unlike any other.
When we follow the call in our lives, that nudge from the Holy Spirit, (sometimes more like a shove) pushes us to become more fully ourselves and when we use that passion to serve the community around us, we will be changed, and the path that our life takes will be a journey unlike any other.
You each have the gifts that are uniquely yours. Now, like the disciples, go out into the world and share them. Reach out to others with Love. Go out into the world to serve.
You are unique, you are loved, and you are blessed. Whatever your age, your condition, whatever you think your limits might be, there is a calling for you to be kind, to be caring, and to reach out to others... Go out into the world in love, and may God go with you.
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