My life has changed radically from a year ago; this speech, given to my church a week or so before I left Denver and moved to Philadelphia, is the foundation for this blog.

August 17, 2008

Amy Durfee WestI joined Trinity in December, 1985, and I have been in this sanctuary just about every Sunday, and every Christmas Eve, since then. Three of my five children were baptized here. I’ve sung in the choir for many years. I’ve been the chair of the Second Century Foundation for a dozen years or so. Trinity is home and family to me, and I treasure it.

But today is my last Sunday here, and Mike asked me to tell you a little bit about that.

Next Saturday I’ll be heading off to Philadelphia to go to school full time. For the next four years, I’ll be working on an MBA in urban economic development and a master of divinity from Eastern University. I think God wants to use my 28 years as a real estate lawyer, and this additional education, to help build His kingdom. I don’t know what that will entail; going back to school wasn’t my idea to begin with, so I don’t think what happens next is really my decision either. I think I was called.

When I woke up one morning last March with the astonishing conviction that I have to do this, it seemed sudden. In retrospect, I see that God has been calling me for many years, in many ways.

I think every one of us is being called to something. Maybe my story will make it easier for you to hear your call.

As our United Church of Christ friends say, “God is Still Speaking,” and God uses many different ways of communicating with us; through other people, through books, through music, even through seemingly random encounters on the street. One way God called me was through singing in the choir. Whenever we sang “Here I am, Lord” I’d get emotional and agitated. The text is from Isaiah 6:8, which says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said ‘Here am I; send me.’” There are many other songs about dropping everything and following Jesus, such as “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore,” which says, “Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me; by your side I will seek other seas.” They all had the same effect on me. I kept arguing with God about it, and God kept calling.

Another messenger was Bono, the leader of the rock group U2. I don’t know if you know this, but Bono is a modern prophet, a champion for justice and for the rights of the poor and outcast. He convinced Bill and Melinda Gates to invest their fortune in health and education for the world’s poorest people, and he is a spokesman for the ONE campaign.

Bono gave an amazing sermon at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, 2006. He said he used to ask a friend of his for the Lord’s blessing on his songs and his work. Then one day his friend said, “Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing — because it’s already blessed.”

Get involved in what God is doing. It’s already blessed.

How do we know what God is calling us to do? I think we have to work at it. We have to ask, and we have to be willing to listen to the answer. We have to humble ourselves, spend time alone with God, and get our egos out of the way.  Believe me, I know how tough that is. But I tried everything else, and nothing else worked.

When Jesus said that those who lose their lives for his sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will find life (Mark 8:35), I think he may have meant that we have to give up thinking we belong to ourselves. We are God’s hands in the world, stewards of everything and everyone that God has placed in our care. If we submit to God, we will be set free to find our highest purpose, our heart’s true desire. And then, finally, we can experience joy with nothing missing.

The central message of the gospel is “good news to the poor.” God is calling you, individually, and as Trinity Church, to BE good news to the poor in your own, unique, God-given way. You can’t (and shouldn’t) all go off to seminary, but you can all do something to bring about the Kingdom. And you are capable of doing more than you think, because it isn’t your work, it’s God’s.

For my farewell to you, hear the words of the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing of the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

Goodbye. I love you all.

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