Two Kinds of Callings

I grew up in that “Leave it to Beaver” era of the late 1950s. It seems so long ago now, but kids are kids, and they will do things in the summer to have fun, beat the heat and expand their resourcefulness. Since we lived on a corner, one thing I tried for a few summers was the corner lemonade stand. My friends a few blocks away tried to convince me of making lemonade from this powdery stuff. If you added it to cold water, not everything would dissolve, and you would end up with this cool, weak, gritty concoction that tasted like you opened your mouth in a sandstorm. I ended up using frozen concentrate in a blender.

My competition told me that was too expensive and the way to make a killing in the lemonade market was to use this cheap, powdery stuff. I don’t even recall what it was. But I refused to sell people something that I wouldn’t enjoy drinking as well. I have never been much of a salesman even with lemonade. My approach was to present what I liked to drink. Some would appreciate the care that went into making it while others would give me a quarter, smile condescendingly and drive away. Life is like that too.

As I look back at my calling to bring others to Christ, the lessons of the lemonade stand are perfectly clear. Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation by telling the Roman Catholic Church that only things that can be proved “by the clear write (authority) of scripture” should be accepted and taught. Ironically today, you cannot find anywhere in the bible that the bible itself is without error. You cannot find any reference to the authority to interpret scripture belonging exclusively to the local pastor. There is nothing in there telling you that getting saved and going to heaven is the reason Jesus was executed on a cross. Yet today, these are the bedrock beliefs of most American Christians. What the Protestant Reformers objected to in the 1500s is what they have become five hundred years later.

If you want to make a killing in the lemonade market, find a good corner, mix up some quick, cheap, powdery, sweet stuff and smile when you take their quarter. Back then, you could probably save up enough for a car doing that. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. Not when I knew better. I knew that you could make better lemonade with more expensive ingredients. It would taste better if you mixed it thoroughly in a blender. Better still if you cooled it in a refrigerator overnight without adding ice cubes. I did these things, and I did all right. I saved enough for a bicycle.

What does this have to do with my calling to ordained ministry? Let me explain. When I ran a lemonade stand, at closing, I would pour myself a nice glass of lemonade. I knew for a fact that my friends two blocks away would pour theirs out because they didn’t value it and they didn’t like to drink their own product. One kid showed me that his lemonade killed the grass. When it comes to the life of the spirit, I don’t sell anything. I am not in it to make a killing. I am simply sharing what I have learned and who I am with others.

The bible calls this approach a “witness” as in a court of law. The Greek word for it is “martyrion” from which we get the word martyr. I am a witness to the truth of God in Jesus Christ and God in every person. Some people will understand this and others will smile condescendingly and go their own way. That is up to God. Many of my friends went on to become very successful in their fields. One of them is a billionaire. I paid for my bicycle.

Life in the Spirit has never been for sale. In fact, the bible does condemn that. I never use fear of hell or punishment as a way of making you feel guilty or changing your life. I don’t induce people to believe in anything or donate money so that they can go to heaven and live for eternity with Jesus and angels. For one thing, that is not in the bible. For another thing, that is not what Jesus meant when he said, “follow me.”

I am a witness to the truth that there is a God who loves and forgives you now, the truth that you are put on this earth so you can be a blessing to others, and the truth that if you fall off your bicycle, God will help you get back up and ride again. I was never a very good salesman. My lemonade never killed the grass. There were a few people who could tell the difference. They stopped every day. They were the regulars.

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