I’ve had many jobs in my life. Since I was about 15 years old I’ve cooked fast food chicken; stocked health and beauty aids in a big box retail store; pumped gas; was a security guard at a former mental institution being turned into a community college; I also did security at a hospital; performed janitorial tasks at my college; was a case worker for a foster care agency; a computer helpdesk technician at yet another college; a shift supervisor at an acute residential mental health facility for children and youth and, am currently, your pastor and teacher.
I’m sure that many of you have a similar list of jobs in your life. And, like me, you most likely had to interview for each and every one of those positions.
One of the common questions asked on job interviews is “What are your strengths? What gifts do you bring to this job?” When we first start out in the job market or in a new field, we may find it difficult to articulate our gifts. As a teenager interviewing at a fast food restaurant or gas station, I wasn’t entirely sure what I brought to the table.
As we grow older and (hopefully) find a career path we begin to discover how our training and temperament lends credence to our claims that we are the right person for the job. And as we go on more and more job interviews we become more familiar with our gifts and we become more comfortable speaking about them. Think for a moment about the gifts that you bring or have brought to a job.
As we apply for new jobs and meet with new hiring managers and human resource people, we get in the habit of naming the same gifts over and over again. But I wonder. I wonder if we end up getting too comfortable speaking of our talents. Perhaps, after a while, we find ourselves simply reciting the list by rote and no longer connecting with our true abilities. We are so used to selling ourselves that we no longer even hear what we are saying.
On top of that, we probably have even more gifts; talents that we have that we’ve yet to discover, that we don’t yet realize we even possess. Whether in our careers or elsewhere in our lives, are there ideas that we have or things that we do well that we haven’t ever really taken the time to notice? Maybe the daily grind at work has us focused on a small list of the abilities that we use and not enough of the list we’ve yet to articulate.
Or maybe we even doubt that we have any more to give.
Take a moment to consider the gifts that are buried deep inside you. Listen for the still, small voice of God name the ways that you are special?
Deep in my heart, I do believe, when we take the time to listen for God’s call we can overcome our doubts and our selective ignorance and we can discover gifts that we never knew we had.
Sometimes, even when we think we know exactly how and where we’re supposed to use our gifts we suddenly find ourselves being led in a different direction.
Every Sunday as a little boy, Fred Rogers would get to visit with people he referred to as his heroes – his pastors. He would sit in church and listen to them speak and he was inspired. “They said such wonderful things,” he once told a reporter. As he grew up, he planned to eventually attend seminary and to become an ordained minister himself.
But one day, his carefully planned out career path changed. On a visit home from college he saw something new in his parents’ house – a television. He found it to be a fascinating new medium that had the potential to bring wonderful things to many people. But that day, he witnessed a television program that he described as “perfectly horrible” – there was no real substance to the show, it was basically just people throwing pies at each other. He heard that still, small voice from somewhere deep inside telling him that he had a different gift to give the world. After graduating college in 1951 he decided to go into television instead of going to seminary. Many years later, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood would find its way into homes across North America and generations of children would learn about love, friendship and how to be a good neighbor to one another.
Eventually, Mr. Rogers did attend Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. And as he walked through the discernment process, he walked alongside members of the Presbyterian church who helped him find his call. In 1962 they ordained him to a special ministry of serving children and families through television. He heard the voice that called to him and had the benefit of a community to affirm him and let him know that he was, in fact, following God’s mission in his ministry.
Sometimes we need a little help discovering our gifts. Sometimes we need a little push to get going. Even Jesus had his mother giving him a little nudge and saying “you know what, now is the time for you to do what you are supposed to do.”
Deep in my heart I do believe that we will each help one another discover our gifts as we go hand in hand following the path to God’s Kingdom.
As Mister Rogers was finding his way into television in Pittsburgh, another young man spent his childhood in Atlanta expecting a career in the ministry. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Martin Luther King, Jr. was on a path to lead the church they both served.
His family traditions may have led him to the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist church but chance or fate or God’s hand would lead him into history.
King’s church was picked to host a meeting to support an African-American woman named Rosa Parks after she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. The church was not chosen for the young pastor’s words or deeds, but simply because it was located closest to downtown.
It may not have been the path that King was planning to follow but as a leader of that church at that time, he found himself as one of the voices of the civil rights movement and he realized that it was where God has placed him.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had heard the good news of Jesus and he believed its truth in his heart. He knew that he was called to live out the gospel and his life changing words speak to us even today as we realize we still have a long way to go to make his dream a reality.
Deep in my heart, I believe that we will all hear God’s truth and that truth will set us free.
I’ve had many jobs since I was 15 but none has been as satisfying and challenging and frustrating and life-affirming as ministry. There are times when I have no idea where God is calling me and there are times when I know exactly where God wants me but I stubbornly refuse to go. Through this call I have learned to articulate some of the gifts I have that help me do this job and as I learn to push myself harder I’m also discovering new talents and new ways that God can use me.
One of the best parts of this vocation is working with others in the church. Together as a community we help each other hear God’s voice; together we affirm one another’s gifts and push each other a little bit harder. Together we seek out God’s truth for Memorial Congregational Church and we are discovering how God is calling us to bring the Holy Kingdom to reality. As we continue to work together following Christ’s lead, deep in my heart I do believe that we shall overcome all of our doubts and fears and we will all live in peace someday.