Tick Riders and Other Calls from God

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by other, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Labor Day, 2014

Help Wanted: Patrol the banks of the Rio Grande on horseback six hours a day. Speak Spanish and carry a pistol. Beware of smugglers. Spend 80 percent of your time alone, looking for ticks. Starting salary: $22,500 a year plus a horse.

Fred Garza chuckles when asked why he became a tick rider, one of 61 cowboys employed by the Department of Agriculture to combat the spread of the fever tick, a parasite that can wipe out 90 percent of a cattle herd in days.”Why the (heck) would anyone want to do anything else?” said Mr. Garza, a 48-year-old Tejano with leathery skin who has been a tick rider, for the last 13 years.A recent study by Texas A&M University estimates the tick patrol saves the beef industry more than $1.3 billion annually! The Dept of Agriculture finds it exceedingly difficult to recruit tick hunters. (surprise, surprise!)“Cowboys are a scarce commodity” these days. And people who think they want to be cowboys change their minds when they get to the border and see the living conditions. Says one of them, “This is where the rear-end really hits the leather.” The majority of the Tick Patrol, however, die in the saddle, and with their boots on.”[1]

Mr Garza’s statement is inspiring- “Why the heck would anyone want to do anything else?” Well, I can tell you a hundred reasons and I bet you can too! But then again, most of us are not called to be tick riders. But clearly Fred Garza was… and we can thank God… he was…

What about you? If someone were to interview you would you say, “Why the heck would anyone want to do anything else?”

I think of the teachers in our midst who are not paid what they are worth or not feeling the respect they deserve… and yet, this is their calling.

I love what Kathy Wells posted on facebook a few weeks ago:“I am a teacher: I refer to my past and present students as “My Kids”. I am a teacher: I am not in it for the income, I am in it for the outcome.”Sounds like a calling to me.

When the Apostle Paul was writing to his friends in Corinth, he urges them to consider their own call as disciples of Jesus Christ. They have been called as we all have been called as baptized and confirmed Christians to share the gospel of the love of Jesus Christ with the world. They have been called as we are called to be share the good news of God’s intentions for the world – not only in our church life… but in all of our lives… including our work and our vocations…

Consider your own call…

If Paul were here, Paul might ask us “Where is God calling you? How is God using you?” He didn’t say… Consider if you have a call… because everyone has a call… but consider the call God has given you.

Truth is, the first step to considering your call is realizing God has called you in the first place. What you do from Monday-Saturday is more than a job in the eyes of God… it is part of your calling… “Call” comes from a Latin word that means vocation.

Our culture would have you believe that your vocation is what you do to earn money and make a living. Out of college the biggest mistake people make is to simply go for a job with the money… then they burnout and at midlife they wonder why they hate what they do. Perhaps they have been following the money, not their call. In the Christian perspective, your vocation is a calling… not just a career… or a way to earn an income.

My friend Todd understands this. Todd was a member of our group that travelled to Turkey with the interfaith trip.  Every time we ate in a home we introduced ourselves. I can tell you what every person did by the end of the trip. We had a dean of education at Catawba college, A head of the department of Math and Physics at Wake Tech (Sharon), two retired educators—one had worked with Autistic students, we had a professor of Sociology from UNC Charlotte… there was me the only non-educator in the group (though the group graciously pointed out that I was an educator as well)… Then there was Todd… our art teacher and photographer. I always enjoyed hearing Todd introduce himself. He would always say something like,

“I am a human rights photographer. I take pictures in order to tell the story of the suffering people in the world… in order to help tell their story… so the world will know.”

It was clear that for Todd, photography was not about taking nice pictures… it served a larger purpose… telling the story of those who were suffering. (Like James Foley who lost his life doing this work in Syria.) Todd’s art shows are all about telling those stories of Palestinians, immigrants, Syrians… Todd, does not just have a job or a career… but a calling.

What about you? How would you introduce yourself? What might you say? Have you considered your calling? Can you connect your Monday-Friday life with a call from God?

Maybe you wonder if God can use someone like you… especially if you feel average or ordinary as many of us do.

But Paul is clear that this is not the case. You don’t have to be wise or educated or powerful or well positioned to have a calling. You might be… but God has this persistent habit of choosing what is weak and foolish in the world to shame the wise… what is weak to shame the strong… so that no one might boast about themselves… but ground our lives in the goodness and graciousness of Christ.

We offer our lives and our jobs to the one who takes the most commonplace things and can use them for his glory and for the work of the kingdom.

Sometimes people have a hard time seeing their jobs as a calling…some jobs just don’t feel that holy. Some people are just trying to make ends meet. As a friend of mine pointed out:

“It is hard to feel called to deliver a daily newspaper at 4am. It’s hard to feel called to work a minimum wage job at McDonalds’ or in the child care center at the local gym. It’s hard to mow lawns and feel “called” when in reality you’re doing what you must do to take care of your own.

But there’s a different sort of nobility in this work. Perhaps it doesn’t feed your soul the way a vocationally (or professionally) -related job might, but in doing what must be done for the sake of your “other” vocations (spouse, parent, child, household member, baptized Christian), you are following another calling.”

So it may be that what you do to make a living allows you to pursue your calling… You may be more like Paul.You might take comfort that Paul in addition to being an Apostle and preacher and teacher for Jesus Christ… made his living making tents. He was a tent-maker. Think about that: It was a tent maker who changed the world as he pursued his calling from Christ.

And if you are a newspaper person, a childcare worker, a wait staff person,  a person who works in factories consider this: Your calling is essential to help others pursue their call. We are all connected.

This week the church received a new copier. Think about how hard the work of the church would be were it not for copier companies and sales people… the people who made the copier.

Our lives depend on those who do such jobs… And those of us who are Christians in professions with high status in our culture would do well to pay them with our honor and treat them with the respect they deserve. We should treat them as the neighbors they are to us… as the brothers and sisters they are to us. God has called them as well. And we all depend on them and each other…

Tim Keller knows this. He said, “Imagine how much time it would take to make a chair all by yourself. You would not only have to cut and shape the wood yourself, but you’d also have to make the tools. To make the tools, you’d have to mine the ore to make metal. It would take months, perhaps years, to do all the things necessary to create the chair. When you share in the work of others, however, you can buy a chair with money equivalent to some number of hours’ worth of your time, not months or years of effort. Even if you want to make the chair yourself, you buy tools made by someone else. All work, according to God’s design, is service. Through work we enrich one another and become more interwoven. When Christians do “secular” work, they function as salt and light in the world. (Matthew 5:13-16) Farming and business, childcare and law, medicine and music- all these forms of work, cultivate, care for, and sustain the created world God made and loves. We are all ministers (priests) to the human community on God’s behalf.   Work is taking the raw material of creation and developing it for the sake of others. Musicians take the raw material of sound and bring the meaning of art into our lives. Farmers take the raw material of soil and seed and bring food into our lives. This means we are ministers in our work not only when we are witnessing or talking directly about Jesus, but when we are simply doing our work. A musician is serving God when she makes great music, not solely when she is singing about coming to Jesus” [2]

This Labor Day weekend, I would have you consider your own call. Take some time to think about how what you do everyday is more than a job and a way to earn a paycheck. Think about how it contributes to the work of God in the world.

May I also invite those of you who are retired to consider what God is calling you to be and do in retirement…? I can’t tell you how many retired people I know  enjoy retirement because they finally get to pursue work that feels like a calling.

Presbyterians say that the “chief end of humans is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.” Think about this: How does your work and life glorify God? Bring honor to God. Please God. Think about that and you may begin to understand how your job, your vocation is a calling.

Martin Luther King Jr. tried to help people find meaning in their work. Some very menial jobs. There is a famous quote attributed to him:

 

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should seep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did is job well.”

Today, I would invite consider your call once again… not as a way to make a living… but a way to make a life… a life that brings honor, glory and pleasure to God… and knowing that, brings life, meaning  and joy to you as well. Amen.

 

 

[1] Combination of resources: Sermon by Roland Perdue at FPC Charlotte, May 2011; San Antonia Express and New York Times articles

[2] Vocation: Discerning Your Calling

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