Saying Yes

This past weekend, I had the honor and delight of speaking at the graduation ceremonies at United Theological Seminary.

One of the things I mentioned to the graduates is that I don’t take their yes for granted.

If we’re being honest, it’s a hard time to be a pastor. While at the same time we are asking pastors to incur large debts to get a degree, we can’t promise them income on the other side of their graduation. It is getting harder and harder to find an open pulpit. We know it, and so do they.

Here’s the thing, though: they said yes.

One of my favorite things to do is ask pastors their call stories. They are among the most inspiring, spiritually rich narratives you could ever hope to hear. No two are alike – and yet they all have two things in common,

First, a  call  was heard. A call is an unmistakable, and yet utterly unknowable to any but the recipient, invitation to come and serve. It often requires a mentor or a guide or a spiritual director to make sense of it, and to fully interpret it.

Second, once the call was heard, a yes followed. Not every call story is a tale of immediate acceptance. Some wander for years, pursuing other interests or jobs or responsibilities – until the nagging won’t go away and the reluctant and much delayed yes emerges.

Yes, every call story is different; but every story reveals both an invitation and an acceptance.
As I stood in front of the graduates this past weekend, I wondered to myself when it was they heard their call, how it was they received it, what stood in the way of their

‘yes,’ and what had to be negotiated between them and the one calling in order to overcome those obstacles.

Dancing with the sacred is a beautiful thing. Our faith journeys expose us in a myriad of ways to the presence of the divine. In my own faith family, we talk about the ongoing presence of the Still-speaking God – whose voice can be heard in a variety of ways: the whispers of the wind, the solitude of a meditative silence, the boisterous and blustery bombast of a charismatic preacher, the whistle of a song-bird, the off-hand comment of a companion who knows little about what they are revealing but whose words bring insight, epiphany, or new perspectives.

Unexpected delights and challenges await us when we expose ourselves to the movement of God’s Holy Spirit. Standing in front of the assembled graduates was testimony enough for me not only that God is still speaking, but that her children are still listening – and that at least some are willing to risk a lot to follow the nudges that call us to service on Her behalf.

I find that so hopeful, so utterly delightful.

Pay attention. You don’t know what new delight awaits you or what bold invitation stands ready to receive your unique gifts in service to a greater good. Be open to your call; be free with your yes. You possess something the world is in need of; and your own dance with the sacred may soon reveal what that is. Until then, delight simply in knowing you are beloved, you are needed, and surprises await you on your journey Into the Mystic.