"In life and in death we belong to God." That is how the first sentence of our newest confession, "A Brief Statement of Faith," reads. The Rev. Dr. Jack L. Stotts, former President of both McCormick Theological Seminary and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, moderated the special committee that wrote this confession. Jack Stotts also wrote a less known piece published by the PC(USA) titled, "A Theology of Vocation." I understand that the next issue of Horizon’s Magazine will include a portion of this twenty-three-page guide.
In the guide, Stotts is clear that "First, theologically speaking, a people is called, not an individual. About this we are often confused." He talks about Israel being called, the people in bondage being called, not Moses in isolation. "It is the people Israel, not Israel the person, who are called. It is the people Israel who are called, not Jesus, unless you understand Jesus as Israel individualized. Jesus is God’s people called." The call includes disciples and all of us who are baptized into this calling.
In January I have spent time in conversation with seminary students studying leadership in the connectional church, with seminary presidents who are leaders in the connectional church, with leaders in the PC(USA) including Linda Valentine and Cliff Kirkpatrick, with leaders committed to renewing a culture of call in the PC(USA), and with numerous groups celebrating with their words and their actions the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the greatest church leaders of our time. Each one of these persons was called by God, is called by God. But their call is not just about them or issued to them. They are a part of a call that extends to those they lead and to the larger Christian community of which all members of the PC(USA) is a part. By our baptism, we are claimed and called.
Jack Stotts completed his baptism and his call last Thursday, January 24th around noon when he died under hospice care in Austin, Texas. Cynthia Campbell, President of McCormick Seminary calls him "a consummate and compelling teacher, a strong preacher and one who made the Bible and Christian tradition come alive whenever he spoke." Stotts lived out Christ’s call that we are all a part of as well. We are left wondering how we might we honor his legacy? How we might respond to God’s call?
"Wouldn’t it be great," a teenager in a congregation I served once wondered, if we all were nurtured in our call the way candidates for ministry of Word and Sacrament are intended to be nurtured. What if we treated each child of God in the community of faith, as a gift that has gifts to serve God as part of the people called.
Or in the closing words of "A Brief Statement of Faith:"
"In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God's new heaven and new earth,
praying, Come, Lord Jesus!"
For it is …
"With believers in every time and place,
rejoice that nothing in life or in death
can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
A wonderful photographic tribute to Jack Stotts can be found here.
P.S. As a way of celebrating Jack Stotts life you are invited to use "A Brief Statement of Faith" in worship on February the 10th, the date of his memorial service, or sometime soon.