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There’s a wonderful story that I’ve shared before – but I love it so much that I’m going to share it again. Maybe you’ll remember it, maybe you won’t. It’s from a book by the writer Ian Frazier called On the Rez, about life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The story is about a high school basketball player in the late 1980s named SuAnne Big Crow, who became one of the greatest basketball stars of her tribe before she was killed in a car accident. Every time the Pine Ridge girls team played a certain other team, white kids from off the reservation, that school made fun of them. They made Indian war whoops and shouted things like, ‘Where’s your tomahawk?’ whenever the Pine Ridge team came on the court. The Pine Ridge kids get angry, often heckling back, stoking the mutual hatred. One day SuAnne insists on being the one to lead her team out onto the court before the game – and then stops suddenly in the middle. She takes off her warm-up jacket, drapes it over her shoulders, and begins to do the Lakota shawl dance, a traditional young woman’s dance. She performs the whole beautiful dance in silence, and the arena is completely still. Then she grabs the ball, dribbles it to the hoop, and does a perfect lay-up. The whole gym erupts into wild applause – and from that day on, when those two teams play each other, there is no more of that taunting. Friendships begin to happen between the two teams, and one of the Lakota girls says of the other school, ‘There are some really good people there.’

That’s a story that always makes me cry. It’s a story of a young teenage girl who responds with generosity and dignity to ugliness and hate. It’s a story of call, of doing the right thing at the right time. And it’s a story of changing others’ hearts and minds – of what happens when we live in alignment with God’s love in our world. When we live with integrity, growing into the full stature of Christ, realizing whom God is calling us to be – it changes everything.

My mother-in-law liked to say, we are not evolving well as a species, and sometimes, I fear she is right. In our daily prayers at our online Morning Prayer service, we pray for the leaders of the world, that they may act with wisdom, integrity and compassion. But so many of our leaders seem to utterly lack integrity. From our presidential candidate to our Supreme Court justices to many of our university administrators, we see people flouting moral standards, even federal laws, with impunity; serving their own interests instead of the common good; making decisions based on big donors instead of doing what is right. I was almost startled this week to hear the International Criminal Court’s announcement of war crime charges against both Hamas leaders and Netanyahu – the chief prosecutor reviewed the evidence and issued the decision without bowing to public opinion and threats. Whatever you think of his decision, it felt like a rare moment of integrity – we don’t often hear from someone ready to be such a grown-up. And so we’re not very well modeling to our kids what a grown-up should look like, either.

This can’t be the way God is calling us to be.

The story we heard from Isaiah today is in some ways the story that sets the paradigm for all call stories. It’s the reading often chosen for ordinations, as people step forward, feeling full of conviction to dedicate their lives to God and the church; it’s the language of that stirring praise song, ‘Here I Am, Lord’; it’s a powerful, mystical, profoundly personal story of the prophet receiving his commission directly from the Most High God. Isaiah’s only hesitation in replying is over his unworthiness: ‘woe is me, for I am a person of unclean lips.’ But God does not hesitate in return – don’t worry, I’m taking care of that. I will cleanse you and give you the integrity you need. Just go and speak my word.

The gospel story of Nicodemus, on the other hand, is another sort of call story. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, surrounded by people who all say this Jesus of Nazareth is a nut job. But what he hears from Jesus stirs something inside Nicodemus, and he quietly slips off to talk to him in the middle of the night. He’s confused in that conversation, but something seems to take – at the very end of the gospel, Nicodemus brings spices to Jesus’ tomb, along with Joseph of Arimathea. No longer hiding, he openly identifies with Jesus’ followers, whatever the cost. He hears a call, and he responds, in time, with integrity.

Some of us may experience a call like Isaiah’s – big, dramatic, supernatural and momentous. But more often, it’s something like what happens to Nicodemus, or like SuAnne Big Crow. The call comes because something happens inside of us. Something in us stirs, shifts, becomes uneasy with what people around us are saying. We find we have to make a change in our behavior, our community, our understanding of truth. Or something in us stays our first, hot reaction, prevents us from snapping back in anger and insult, grounds us in generosity and largeness of spirit. We might feel ourselves nudged to do something; we might feel ourselves restrained from saying something we shouldn’t. We might make a big change in our lives or we might just reach out in a small way to someone who needs it. We can make a big puzzling mystery out of call and vocation, seeking some kind of ultimate answer for which direction we’re meant to go. But seen another way, responding to God’s call is another word for living with integrity; which is another word for maturity. We are all of us called to grow up – into the full stature of Christ, as our baptismal words say. And that’s a long, slow process.

Today, Trinity Sunday, we honor one of the central doctrines in the Christian faith, the idea that God is a community, an interplay between different ways of being: the Creator, always creating; the Incarnation, drawing creation back into God; the Spirit, guiding creation’s response to that invitation. The Trinity is a fluid system of integrity – of absolute coherence and alignment, yet always shifting and flexing and growing. It’s often been described as a dance, never standing still, always moving.

And the Triune God invites us into that dance, that process of finding coherence. Calling us to respond, calling us to root ourselves in whom we were created to be, and to grow into whom we are called to become. To align our own trinity of head, heart, and hands, so that all we do and say and think and feel is of one piece, and of one piece with God.

And so on this Memorial Day weekend, how are we called? How are we growing up? And how are we helping others to grow as well?

It often is simple – thankfully, none of us are the chief prosecutor of the ICC, our call and so our response is a bit lighter to carry. And yet not always. Tomorrow is Memorial Day – at our cemetery in Queens, volunteers have walked the whole grounds, placing flags at the veterans’ graves. They do this to honor those who responded themselves to their own calls, to serve, to stand with others, to face into fear and evil and stay firm. Many of them were kids, not much older than SuAnne Big Crow. And yet they served, and sacrificed everything.

Other volunteers this weekend made our Saturday kitchen happen – people spent the morning putting food items into bags, carrying the bags outside, and handing them to guests. They did this to respond to the nudge inside of them that reminded them of how much they have and how little others have; to be with community instead of isolating alone. Others this week shared food with one another here over Bible study – our teens, that is – and stories of God’s action in our lives – our book group, our Revive small group, our choir. Others prayed for the names given to them that day to pray for on our prayer chain, offering up intercessions for strangers in need. Others found ways to serve God’s call in their daily work, with their families, in their own quiet prayer. All of these ways of living in integrity; responding to the Spirit; growing up. And all of these ways that help others to grow up too.

Most of the world’s leaders may fail at this; we pray for them daily anyway. But we’ve already responded enough to God’s call to get ourselves here today – so guess what, we’re the ones on the hook to continue responding. We are called in love, given a precious invitation, drawn into the dance. We are fumbling toward integrity, with God’s help. Our kids are watching, for one thing; our kids are showing us, for another. So may we live, children of God, in the full stature of Christ.

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