Sunday, January 16, 2011

“Job Descriptions” Isaiah 49:1-7

When did you last try to interpret a job description? I’ve had to read through and WRITE a few in my life. Let me share a few ministry position descriptions to get us into the mind-set of a placement officer.

Pastor for Congregational Life “North” Church is seeking a P for C L. Duties will include pastoral care, ministering to youth and children, preaching regularly in coordination with the Pastor for Preaching & Worship, leading the educational ministry of the church, administering church programming and engaging in outreach. Persons applying should have at least a basic theological degree.

Here’s one you may have read in Messenger magazine.
Pastors Needed. Congregations in many of the 23 districts of Church of the Brethren are in need of strong, trained Christian leaders who are dedicated to C.o.B. beliefs and practices to serve as pastor. The placements are both full-time and part-time and include some 2nd staff positions. The congregations vary widely in size and program. Call for more information.

And so it goes

This time of year, Camps and O.M. Centers are looking for summer staff. I’ve helped with many camp job descriptions during my OM years and we always said that the last phrase of any job, which is always, “other duties as assigned” should come with a personal plunger… a plunger is always needed at camp.

Here’s a typical Youth pastor position:
The Youth Director serves as the shepherd of a small but important flock of youth
within the church. The Youth Director is the staff person principally responsible
for ministering to THESE individuals through fellowship, worship, and service

· Develop and maintain caring relationships with students in grades 8-12 and with
their parents/guardians 
· Support the spiritual development of these young people
· With the Youth Ministry Team, recruit and maintain a team of at least four adult leaders to help
minister to the youth and to represent youth interests in the church.
· Plan one Sunday evening group fellowship activity per month
· Attend at least one school function or extracurricular activity for each of the youth
(averaging one per month) if agreed to by the family 
· Coordinate planning with, and join the Youth Sunday School program on Sunday morning
· Maintain regular contact with youth through email, social networks, or other means
· Communicate regularly with Director of Children’s Ministry for overall Children
and Youth Ministry vision and plans.
· Communicate regularly to the congregation about the youth ministry
· Pray for the youth, their adult leaders, and the youth ministry program
· Work with the Pastor and adult leaders to engage youth in worship leadership and
mission activities of the church
· Any further participation will be negotiated.
This position is for (5) five hours per week.  . . . .

One of my first ‘jobs’ working with youth was helping to put out a fire in the parking lot that a youth had started and rescuing the church van from the burning pyre.
…  That fell under….            “what they don’t teach you in seminary” about your job description…

Never fear I’m not job-hunting, it’s  just that this passage in Isaiah got me thinking about Job descriptions because the author seems to be explaining a process of being called to servant ministry and lamenting where it has gotten him.

Isaiah 49:1-7 –
The author says he was called before he was born. Like the Psalmist he relates being formed in his mother’s womb under God’s direct supervision.
When he writes of being a polished arrow, we can imagine the job description of a PROPHET. These individuals usually come across as Sharp and Pointed.

And since he is lamenting that he has labored in vain, we can tell that the people to whom he was sent have not always listened. And so he suffers physically (his strength) and socially with his reputation (his Vanity).

We are not really sure whose job description this is. It is known as the 2nd Servant Song of Isaiah yet there is much scholarly debate about the identity of the Servant in this passage.[i]
Some have looked for individuals in Israel’s history to fit the description. Many have attributed the word centuries into the future to Jesus’ life, it actually sounds like it is the job description for the whole people of Israel, which may be the more  of the common understanding.[ii]

Scholar Paul Hanson says, “the Servant is both a faithful individual and the obedient community”[iii] which means the ministry description in Isaiah is OUR JOB DESCRIPTION!

Before we begin to feel like a 5-hour-a-week youth director with an enormous list of duties that would justify the title “Suffering Servant”,
 let’s look closer at what is being asked of us….AND given TO us.

The Suffering Servant acknowledges that he was created for God’s mission and he is honored to have the job. He recognizes that his strength comes from God alone and that his job is NO MINOR THING, but of utmost importance.

The phrase that we hear during this season of Epiphany is used here for the SERVANT, “I give you as a light to the nations --- that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

It sounds like the story we heard last week in ACTS when the early Christians were spreading the good news from Joppa to Caesarea, & from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. In fact, these two ARE related.

The SERVANT in ISAIAH “has been prepared by God for nothing less than to bring the glory of God into view..[in this case] thru the restoration of Israel.”[iv]

In Jesus, the Glory of God DID come into view.

And the mission Jesus gave the church is to KEEP bringing the GLORY of GOD into view. THIS IS OUR JOB DESCRIPTION, - as individuals and as a community.

You might ask next, “How are we doing?”

In the wake of last weekend’s shootings, and the funeral this past week for a 9 year old girl who was killed, we may feel as lost as Isaiah’s Servant, saying, “WE have labored in vain and spent our strength for nothing”
            …the world is full of evil, people kill and maim with abandon. What ARE God’s people to do?                                                             (6 killed 13 wounded)

One person, with a very unique job description, answered that question this week. He wasn’t speaking from a pulpit but in front of a TV monitor.
I’m speaking of Jon Stewart, do you know him? He’s the host of the DAILY SHOW, which runs late at night (and on the internet) to poke fun at the news and bring laughter into many lives.
He can be irreverent and Disrespectful and some might even criticize me for using him as an example in this message.

But on Monday, he stopped the usual banter and spoke candidly about the tragedy the US experienced.
            He was honest and shared the feeling of many that we all were seeking comfort in light of the fear that VIOLENCE could strike any of us at any time = and it does.

And so he discussed the question, “How do you make sense of these senseless situations?” He didn’t fault anyone, even as he spoke against the toxic political environment, as he called it.
But he didn’t ignore the tragedy. He HAS a Pulpit and he spoke openly about the horror of the shooting and asked that somehow we NOT continue on with life as usual, that we use the pause that comes with extreme sorrow to change the way we act and speak to each other. He took the moment he had, and spoke from his heart.
Can WE do any less?

When we look at OUR job description, to bring God’s Glory into the world, and feel overwhelmed and hopeless, we can follow EVEN Jon Stewart’s example and “REFUSE TO GIVE INTO GLOOM OF DESPAIR”[v].
We know better, we have been born for this mission and we have God’s strength behind us and Christ’s spirit in us.
We can take advantage of the moments presented to US to speak and show the example of God’s love and light. When we take each opportunity as a small piece of the job, and do what we can, what we have been born for, & what we know Christ would have us do, then
We are GIVEN the words we need and we are PRESENTED with a place and time to make a difference.
You and I can do this as individuals and WE can do it as a family of faith.
Even when we are faced with overwhelming odds, WE can Make a Difference.

Let me remind us of the story of one suffering servant.

Almost 50 years ago, “during the Montgomery bus boycott, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr faced many death threats.
One morning he was ready to call it quits and wondered how he might bow out graciously without being labeled a coward.
He prayed, “I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”
From the depth a voice assured him: “Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.”

King said, “Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”[vi]

We know what he eventually faced and we honor his ministry again tomorrow. Many of you have worked to insure that the changes he began, continue.

It is to his kind of work we are called.
We won’t all be called to be martyrs,
we all have to die and yet
 we do die to a life that IGNORES opportunities.
We die to self. And when we FULFILL THIS JOB DESCRIPTION

This is really is OUR job. To bring the Glory of God to everyplace around us, and on to the ends of the earth.

[i] Stephanie a. Paulsell – Pastoral Feasting on the Word, Yr. A Barlett & Taylor, eds. (Louisville, WJK, 2010) p. 246
[ii] Note above author comments that scholars believe the designation of Israel as the servant was an addition to the original text.
[iii] Paul Hanson, Isaiah 40-66 Interpretation series (Louisville: WJK, 1989) 128 quoted in Feasting as listed above.
[iv] Paulsell, Feasting p. 244
[v] Jon Stewart, Daily Show Jan. 10, 2011,
[vi] Martin Luther King Jr., The Wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr., ed. By Alex Ayres, New York: Meridian Book, 1993, p. 184 printed in Clergy Journal May/June 2010 Vol. 87, No. 3 (Inver Grove Heights, MN: Logos Productions) Page 86

1 comment:

madhu said...

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