Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 26 – Thursday after 4th Sunday of Lent From the Scriptures:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
Most churches find that there is always more work to be done than pairs of hands volunteering to do said work. When vacancies arise and the vicar has ‘another’ great idea there may well be much racking of brains and mopping of brows amongst clergy and their churchwardens working out who to get to do the work. I offer the cartoon above for those who find this task especially challenging
It is not easy to find people to volunteer for unpaid work, and even more difficult to get the ‘right’ people to volunteer; sadly not all volunteers have the skills (or call) for every task. Some have too many tasks: the phrase ‘ask a busy person to get a job done’ eventually wears people out. Some are doing the wrong tasks: ‘Somebody had to do it’ is a poor way to answer a call to service. Some are doing no work at all: saying ‘it’s not my place’ can become pride masquerading as a false humility.
So what is the best way of encouraging people to volunteer so that we get the correct people in the correct jobs?
If our way of working is solely ‘ambushing’ people with the correct skills we run the risk of inducing ‘vocation guilt’ – something with which many clergy are familiar Besides which doing something because we ‘ought to’ will not always bring the joy which should come with following our Beloved ‘Whose service is perfect freedom’ (Book of Common Prayer).
On the other hand we too often allow willing volunteers, who are only seeking to serve, to be in positions for which they are not suited. Because no one else wants to take the job we end up abusing fellow members of the Body of Christ.
In the Anglican Church there an ancient maxim on determining who needs to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation – All may, some should, none must’. This may be a useful guide to helping church leaders and potential volunteers help, find Sunday school teacher, home group leaders, fill rotas, and so further the work of the Gospel. Which, after all, should be our only motive for any action.
All May: Sometimes people don’t volunteer because they don’t think they are allowed, or that their offering would be unwelcome, or event that they are unworthy of the task. This puts them in the very good company of the prophet Isaiah (see above) and so none of us should feel afraid to offer service to God and God’s people.
Some Should: I was sitting in a holiday home on the side of the Hottentots-Holland mountains overlooking False Bay in the Cape Province when the words of Isaiah 6 grabbed my heart and turned my life upside down. From that moment I knew that I needed to give God ‘my soul, my life, my all’ and until I had said ‘Here am I; send me!’ I would be wasting the gift of life given to me by The One Who Loves us Best. Just as all can answer a call to help some can do no other. The church has fallen out of the habit of naming vocations. Just as we would have an ‘altar call’ for salvation there should also be ‘altar calls’ for service. Some reading these words will be in that place in-between salvation and service, perhaps intentional prayer about God’s call on your life from now until Easter may be how the rest of this Lent should be spent? If you are serious about listening, and if you are able, try and attend the Chrism Eucharist in your Diocese this Holy Week.
None Must: ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9.7). But some of our sisters and brothers do far too many acts of service because they feel they ‘ought to’ rather than out of a sense of call or competence. It is difficult to ‘give cheerfully’ if you feel squeezed by the work the church has bullied or embarrassed you to perform.
Just as there comes in time in our lives when there are tasks we know we ‘should’ accept and perform joyfully there are also times when we ‘must not’ do what we have always done. There are many reasons for this. We are worn out and deserve rest, others need to learn the tasks we have cherished for so long (perhaps even too long?), we are no longer the best person to do what we once did, or our service is now needed elsewhere. Just as some will spend time between now and Easter praying as to whether they should be answering a deeper call to service others of us may well need to be praying about which tasks to lay down at the foot of the Cross and hear our Beloved whisper, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25.21)
Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.
Richard of Chichester
- List all the tasks that need to be done in your church:
- Of the tasks that are not yours which ones could you, or should you, be doing?
- Of the tasks which you already do which ones should you hand over to someone else?
- Serving God is not always easy and often brings difficult with it. Read the rest of Isaiah 6 to hear the message God’s ‘willing’ servant was called to proclaim. Next time serving God’s people feels a little like offering a helping hand only to have it bitten off remember that God works with those who answer the call even in the darkest times.
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017