"A Sending Story: Pride Edition" by Vicar A.J. Houseman
Updated: Aug 4
So when you become a pastor, everyone along the way wants to know your “call story”. How you got from being a plain ole girl from the midwest to the path of ordination in the church. Some people have these super elaborate stories that start out when they are born. Mine used to be something like that, and then over time, I just got tired of telling it so it boiled down to “God called, I’m here, the end.”
But I’ll share with you a tiny chunk. When I was 9, my Mom found information through our church for a camp that was run out of a Lutheran church out of a city near by my home of Muscatine, Iowa. It sounded amazing, 300 acres of woods, canoeing, crafts, games, swimming, music, campfires, what could be better? The thing is, that first year I went to camp, I didn’t love it. I was home sick. I cried every single night I was away.
Towards the end of the week, a counselor came and sat with me while I was pouting during some activity. He told me something very important that day that I will never forget an have carried with me for over 20 years. He said, “A.J., sometimes you have to be uncomfortable to be in the right place.” That when God calls us into our journeys it isn’t always cupcakes and rainbows, it isn’t always easy. God calls us into the uncomfortable places to grow. To change. To spread the good news of God.
See not just in our faith denomination, but in many, when a person is asked their faith witness, its about that story. The calling of God. Calling us to follow. Calling us to serve. Calling us into our faith.
But what we don’t hear as often is the sending story. Because God calls us then sends us out right?
After I graduated from college I did this program that the Lutheran church has called, Young Adults in Global Mission, and I was being sent out to serve for a year. And listen, I thought that i was pretty cool, I was being sent to do great things. To follow this call of God. I was to serve in Mexico and needed Spanish language training so first, I was off to Guatemala for the summer to learn.
I was excited, I was confident. I was doing exactly what God was calling me to right? How could I not be.
When I get to the airport I find out my second flight into Guatemala has been delayed by 6 hours. And in a time before smart phones, I was in the Atlanta airport talking with people at the global mission desk in chicago who were emailing people in Guatemala hoping it would all work out. No problem. I trusted them, all would work out. Someone was going to get me at the airport that night. Cool.
When I land in Guatemala at 10pm, I sail through customs like a breeze, no one said anything to me other than Buenas Noches. Until I got outside. I walked out the doors of the airport into mass chaos. There were people everywhere Yelling in a language I couldn't understand. Shouting at me, trying to sell me taxis and hotels. It is in this instant, I froze. I stood there and realized, I have no idea what I’m doing. In that moment I knew just enough to know that I could basically only ask for a bathroom and a library in spanish. I didn’t know anyone, my cell phone didn’t work in Guatemala. I didn’t have any clue who was supposed to pick me up. Its 10pm. I’m in a foreign country, at night. Alone.
Don’t worry. It all worked out. I was not abandoned.
This morning in our Gospel text, we hear the disciples being sent out. It doesn’t sound easy. It sounds like one of those uncomfortable places that Zach told me about all those many years ago. “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out the demons.” Uh that sounds uncomfortable. “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of the wolves.” Ok, Jesus, calm down. And then he says, “They will flog you because of me.” “You will be hated by all because of my name.”
Yeah, that sounds like a real uncomfortable mission they are being sent out to. I wonder in the disciples' sending story, how did they feel?
Were they as scared as I was? Or worse? No one told me I would probably be flogged.
I think sometimes we hear call stories and it's beautiful and faith-filled, but we don’t hear enough of the sending stories. The ones where following Jesus is not comfortable. The ones where following Jesus to love our neighbors, to stand up to authorities acting unjustly, to care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan.
June is pride month, its a celebration and acknowledgement of the achievements of civil rights for Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual, Transgender, and more of the Queer Community. Someone along that path to these rights that you may or may not remember is Matthew Shepard. Matthew Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming in 1998. He was gay.
One night, because of his gayness, he was beaten, tortured, and left on a fence post to die. God called his mother into action and his mother answered the call and was sent out.
Judy Sheperd traveled for years around the country on a very uncomfortable mission to speak truth, advocate for LGBT rights, the mercy for our common humanity, and teach understanding and mutual respect rather than bias and bigotry.
Responding to this sending out for Judy was very uncomfortable, she had to relive her son's death over and over again. To teach. TO share. To advocate for mercy, and love, and peace.
Doing the work of being sent out isn’t easy. It’s not always comfortable. But it is necessary.
Here’s the thing friends, no matter how scary it is. No matter how uncomfortable it is. You are not alone. You are never alone. Christ promises to be with us every step of the way. Every uncomfortable place. Every scary speech. Every time.
As Christ gives the great commission he says something very very important at the end, he says “go and do, AND I will be with you always, til the very end of the age.”
As you go on your journeys remember that it isn’t always easy, but that Christ is with you through it all. Amen.