September 1, 1998—another beginning for me as I followed God’s call to seminary and began my first semester working on a Master of Divinity at Emory University Candler School of Theology. No, I did not lose my religion—there are those who think that is what happens when you receive a degree from Candler School of Theology. Instead, I was encouraged, invited, and led by outstanding Christian scholars to answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” The beginning of an eight yearjourney to becoming an ordained full elder in the United Methodist Church—really?—eight years?—yes, really, and that’s another topic for another day.
Trusting God, and ignoring family and friends concerned about my decision to leave a fulfilling career in higher education where I used my gifts of teaching and administration with loving and professional colleagues, and where I was now in a “vested retirement plan” with an excellent salary—what was I thinking?—I gave it all up and went to school, full-time, to complete a necessary degree to become an ordained minister. I was warned of the low salary I would receive, the “hateful” Christians I would find in churches, and the closed minds of many Christians who will not accept female ministers. None of these dire warnings deterred me as I had experienced all of this in the profession of teaching and education. Oh yes, I still had my doubts and concerns, and they will continue to be with me as they keep me humble and help keep me faithful to God’s grace.
My family had moved our membership from the United Methodist church we had been members of for 12 years and where we had raised our children in the faith to another United Methodist church with a female pastor. I had heard testimonies about her outstanding preaching and her witness of the love in Christ in her and for people. I prayerfully decided that part of becoming a full elder in the United Methodist Church would best be fulfilled if I had a good role model and mentor, and Rev. DeDe Leetch became that for me in numerous ways over the next eight years.
On September 1, 1998 the following words appeared in the church newsletter in her monthly writing. I dated it, had it laminated, and continue to use it as a book mark. I found out by goggling the title, “My Banner is Clear,” that it was written in 1980 by a young man from Rwanda who was forced by his tribe to either renounce Christ or face certain death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was killed on the spot. The night before he had written the following commitment which was found in his room [some of the words have been changed from what I read in my Google search without the meaning being altered]:
I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made.
I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.
My past is redeemed; my future is secure.
I’m finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded.
I now live by faith, lean on Christ’s presence, walk by patience,
am uplifted by prayer and labor by power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow,
my way rough, my Guide reliable and my mission is clear.
I cannot be bought, deluded or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of
adversity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up or let up until I have stayed up, stored up,
prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus.
I must go till Christ calls, give till I drop, preach till all know,
and work till Christ stops me.
And when Christ comes, he will have no problem recognizing me…
My Banner Is Clear
This laminated book mark stays in my Bible so that I read it often to remind me of the radical faith in God that Christ had that gave him the ability to teach, heal, and stand against the “way things are” in this world. This is the same faith and radical discipleship that is required to follow Christ. It is a high calling for every person who claims to be Christian—a follower and disciple of Christ.
I fall short of this calling every day, and every day I ask God to have mercy and forgive me as I ask for another day to try again. I rely on the power of the Holy Spirit inside of me to help me strive for this high calling. My banner is clear so that I can continue to “turn the world upside down” one day at a time by struggling to love with the love of Jesus so that others see that love in me and want the same love in their lives.
Will you join me? The cost is high, and failure occurs daily along with God’s grace abounding to help us learn from our failures and mistakes. Welcome to radical discipleship expressed in words that describe what I believe is the life Jesus calls us to live. In my opinion, the reward is not “heaven.” The reward is living the abundant life with a clear banner in this life in this world.
See you Sunday and in between.
Guest Blogger: Rev. Dr. Susan Martin Taylor
You can read more from Susan and follow her on her blog at: Turning the World Upside Down
- Ball Ground United Methodist Church ~ Touting a B.I.C.! (barefootpreachr.org)
- Call to Discipleship (mymostfavoritethings.wordpress.com)