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"First Steps First"

February 2016

Greetings, Columbia Seminary alumni/ae, friends, and co-workers in Christ!

My colleague recently confessed, “I know it comes with the job; however, it is nonetheless disheartening.”

The job mentioned is that of Christian vocation, be it professional ministry or personal discipleship. The it about which she spoke is that particularly nasty reply which occasionally is received following a faith initiative that is taken. It is to be expected. It also is able to hijack hope, evaporate enthusiasm, lessen confidence, and confiscate courage. It looks bad, sounds bad, feels bad, smells bad, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth that can linger indefinitely. Taking any first steps in seeking to follow Christ faithfully into the world, be it at home, at play, or on the job, is likely to encounter an unsavory push back of sorts. It is to be expected, and yet a resulting loss of morale and depletion of spirit can often follow.

Beginning with Wednesday’s ashes and ending at Saturday’s holy vigil, this Lenten season once again invites each and all of us to journey with Jesus all the way to Calvary’s cross. Philippians 2 declares that it was there that Jesus emptied himself, took on the form of a servant, and became obedient even unto death.(vs. 5) It is indeed a season of loss and grief that will necessarily end with Jesus’ exaltation and a great celebration of Easter!

But before Jesus ever took any first steps of earthly ministry, this season’s first gospel lesson, Luke 4: 1-13, reminds us that our Lord was called, as we are, to participate in some pre-emptive, preparatory work. Prior to any vocational initiatives on his part, Jesus spent forty days in a desert place being equipped for what comes with the job and what at times would become very disheartening for him. Rising up and out of baptismal waters, Jesus, filled with the Spirit, is led by the same Spirit into the wilderness where he experienced the particularly nasty reply of the Evil One. You know the story, and indeed the demonic push back looked bad, sounded bad, felt bad, smelled bad, and tasted real bad! Just like us, Jesus was tempted to throw in the proverbial towel of what might be called Christian faith initiative. But He didn’t, and neither must we, even when what assuredly comes with the job sometimes becomes very disheartening.

With you I am grateful to be reminded in God’s Word that like Jesus we, too, have emerged from baptismal waters filled with Spirit, led by Spirit, and indeed sustained in Spirit. Therefore, we do not lose heart. Hope, enthusiasm, confidence, and courage embolden you as you take new faith initiatives in Christian ministry.

Grace and peace to you now and always,

Randy Calvo’81