“Non-Essential Personnel”

This morning, a clergy friend mentioned that next Sunday, he’s thinking of preaching a sermon titled, “Happiness Is Being Non-essential Personnel.”

He’s still working out the theological ramifications. And it’s not exactly clear which hymns go with it.

But with Ash Wednesday, and the season of Lent just a week away, maybe it is a particularly appropriate season to think about what is essential in our lives, and within which contexts we are essential to the flourishing of others—and what (and where) is the non-essential in and of our lives?

I know someone who, early in her career as a hospital chaplain, was a little chagrined at the thought that she wasn’t a part of the hospital’s official “disaster plan” — that if a regional catastrophe occurred, if push came to shove, she wasn’t someone they couldn’t do without. It took the ongoing work of spiritual practice, and the experience of having children of her own, to help her see the true essentials in a new light, and to let go of the expectation of being needed only on her own terms, and within the scope of her own visions.

In its own way, Lent offers us an opportunity to seek that kind of insight—to ask ourselves what truly defines us and why—and depending on what we see, to seek the courage to live into it, or to live for something deeper and more worthy.

It’s a chance to see our own visions for what they are, and even more importantly, to open ourselves to the possibility of what God’s vision for us and for the world might be.

Over the coming weeks, I hope you and I will take that opportunity in some way.

There are many ways to begin considering what’s essential and what isn’t—and to whom—and when.

But as you do, remember that, for reasons perhaps known best to Him, God decided that you and I were essential to His purposes here. Happiness isn’t being “non-essential personnel” at all, but rather finding where we need to be and serving there with all the joy and courage we can muster, knowing that our being there is vital, not only to our neighbors, but in some way, to the Essence of Being itself.

See you in church,

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