Today we honor George Herbert, a priest and poet in the church. Herbert was born in 1593 to a well-connected family in England. Though he flirted with politics, he eventually turned to the church, becoming a priest age 33. Two things are notable about Herbert. First he is well-known for his poetry, some of which became hymns. He influenced many other poets, as his poems moved people on issues of prayer and the spiritual life. Herbert was also well known for his devotion and service to others. His approach toward life and ministry inspired many. In fact, his words, “Nothing is little in God’s service,” remind Christians again and again that everything in daily life, small or great, can be a means of serving and worshiping God. When talking about his poetry, Herbert seemed to meld the two passions when he wrote about his poems as being “a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul, before I could submit mine to the will of Jesus my master, in whose service I have found perfect freedom.”
What Herbert reminds us of today is the sacred nature of all our calls. Sometimes, we do not feel comfortable using “call” language for what we do on an everyday basis. In fact, we read passages like the one from first Peter, and we presume that only clergy, or “elders,” have a call. Though first Peter is talking about how a spiritual leader should lead, we cannot assume we are exempt from similar instructions. In fact, I might argue that the call that each of you live out in the world is far greater than the call I live in my position. You have the much together jobs of witnessing in everyday life without such clear markers of faith and devotion like a collar. And you have the ability to reach way more people that I could ever hope to because unlike what many people assume about me, you are actually “normal.”
What first Peter and George Herbert would both like us to see is that all of us have kingdom work to do, and our aim is to do that work faithfully and with enthusiastic hearts. Herbert only lived to be 40 years old, and yet one of the things we honor is the way in which he was a faithful, humble, enthusiastic priest – not a bishop, or martyr, or leader of some great movement. He was just a parish priest who knew that nothing is little in God’s service. As we celebrate his passion for everyday life and everyday call, we too are emboldened by knowing that fulfilling our calls is not “little” in God’s service. Amen.