Minister’s Letter February 2014

Dear friends,

In the early weeks of this year we welcomed a new group of Mission to the World (MTW) Pre-field missionaries to St Andrew’s. By the time the February Church magazine is published they will have left us to head off to the mission projects they will serve (far flung places from Honduras, Nicaragua, to Thailand), or some will return home to raise more financial support before going off to their specific mission field.

Historically the Church of Scotland thought of its ministers serving outside of the UK as mission partners of a sort, serving English speaking expatriate communities.   Now all of the ministers who have serve in charges overseas are ‘holders of an office’ with the same status as any other minister in the Kirk. Having been an expatriate for over 9 years now, I believe that if you use term ‘back home’, most people think of British people living abroad; but we know that our congregations are international in their makeup. Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Geneva have particularly diverse congregations; not just in terms of ethnicity, but in a number of other ways as well.

Those of us in ministry of word and sacrament can have a strong resonance with those who are called to serve Christ in the mission-field. We share a compelling sense to service God, a call that can leave us surprised (why me?), disturbed (I must respond whatever the cost), enthralled (it is sovereign God doing the calling), overwhelmed (am I up to the task?) and frustrated (the people of God should never be put on any pedestal).  We are called to wear more than one ‘hat’ as we serve or lead. We don’t always get it right. In fact sometimes we get it wrong.

In the scriptures, the leaders of God’s people are always called by him. These leaders are not chosen at random by people. God doesn’t do random. He chooses people for leadership or service and often the most unlikely candidates for the job that he has mind. Think of the prophet Amos who came from a farming background and not from a guild of prophets, or remember that Moses had murdered an Egyptian some time before he heard God’s call [see Amos 7:14-15; Ex 2: 11-13]. When we read about God calling leaders in the Bible, the call is often accompanied by esoteric events. For example the call of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are accompanied by visions (Ezekiel’s vision being the most challenging to understand), while the call of Moses is linked with the burning/not burning bush [see Isa 6:1:1-13; Jer 1:1-19; Ezek 1:1-3:15 and Ex 3:-4:17]. The person being called almost always speaks a word of objection towards God. Peter when he is called by Jesus in his fishing boat is mirrored in his protest “Go away from me Lord for I am a sinful man” [Lk 5: 8b]

When God calls someone to serve him it is God in his sovereignty that does the calling. It is the person who has heard the voice of God who responds to him. There is a genuine choice to be made. Do we respond positively, we can ignore him or we can reject the call and run in the opposite direction, just like the prophet Jonah did [Jonah 1:1-3].

Yet it is not just ministers and missionaries who are called by God to leadership and service. Others are called to work for Christ and his kingdom in all sorts of ways. Perhaps he is calling you to help in some area in the life of St Andrew’s? There are plenty of tasks to be done to keep the congregation a strong and vibrant Christian community witnessing to Christ and his kingdom.  We need help everything from flowers on Sunday morning, to tea and coffee after the service and of course with the various groups and committees that report to the Kirk Session and require a wide range of expertise, support, energy and creative thinking.

So don’t wait for God to call someone else to take the initiative to serve. Perhaps he is calling you?

Your minister and friend