A calling to fulfill


by Kelly Pontsler, Major –

“It’s a dying industry, but there’s work to do.” San Francisco Chronicle, May 31, 2009, “Insight,” page H2

How’s that for a headline? I will confess that I enjoy sitting down with a Sunday newspaper and a cup of coffee. A slow meander through its pages and multiple sections is a great way to catch up on what’s going on in the world, beyond the splash of broadcast reporting and the frenzy of “breaking news.”

I find the newspaper a wonderful source of sermon illustrations, Bible study discussion starters and things to just ponder as I’m going about my day. Articles get torn out and read repeatedly until they are used or end up in the “to use someday” pile. (I’ve noticed that pile is getting big…maybe I need to preach more sermons?!)

With that said, you won’t be surprised to learn that the article that followed the headline above has been tacked to my refrigerator door since May 31. Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich delivered the commencement address to the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in May; the article was the text of her speech.

These are not good days for newspapers or journalists! The current state of the economy has subscribers canceling at alarming rates, as they save their pennies for other necessities. The cost of materials, printing and delivery continues to rise, and the increasing popularity of electronic formats of news reporting means the pressure is on for those who know they are born to be journalists!

As Ehrenreich points out in her address, this is not a time for whining or crying or wringing of hands. It’s a time to do what they are called to do.

“As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won’t stop us. A dying industry won’t stop us. Even poverty won’t stop us because we are all on a mission here. That’s the meaning of your journalism degree. Do not consider it a certificate promising some sort of entitlement. Consider it a license to fight.”

Listening to the news these days, I get the impression that the world would like us to believe that the Church is also a dying (or perhaps already dead) industry. Critics are trying hard to convince us that Christ-followers no longer have the capacity or the right to influence the course of world affairs. But this is not a time for whining or crying or wringing of hands. It’s the time to do and be what God has raised up The Salvation Army to do and to be—more than ever before!

Replace the words “journalism degree” with Soldier’s Covenant or Officer’s Commission and Ehrenreich’s words are a powerful reminder that we, too, have a mission. We Salvationists are people of purpose. We have God-ordained work to do. It’s not a job. It’s not a casual commitment. It’s a calling!

I loved Commissioner Israel Gaither’s charge to the newly commissioned lieutenants a few weeks ago: show up! Those two words are a license to fight, to work hard, to stand tall, to be present and engaged because The Salvation Army is not a dying industry! To which I can only respond Amen!

As I sat down to write this morning, a line from our songbook Salvation Army Songbook #472 crossed my mind. Words by Charles Wesley, written nearly 300 years ago:

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill,
O may it all my powers engage,
To do my Master’s will!

That’s my pledge! There’s still work to do!

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