Brad Pitt used to dress in a chicken suit at a Mexican restaurant. Johnny Depp cold-called people to sell them ballpoint pens. Madonna once worked at Dunkin’ Donuts and squirted jelly on a customer. Rod Stewart started out as a grave digger.
And me? I used to sell and repair vacuum cleaners.
Many of us had those early jobs that we would rather not think about. Back when we were just old enough to work and start earning money, we settled for any job we could find, looking for anyone who would hire us. Before I started a two-year stint at Central Vacuum Stores in St. Petersburg, I was a newspaper delivery boy (getting up at 2:30am every Sunday), a restaurant dish washer (I’d rather not talk about it), and a bellboy (in a hotel without an elevator.)
There were those tough jobs, and then there were jobs I didn’t qualify for. The first job I ever applied for was at a Hungry Howie’s pizza joint on Seminole Boulevard in Seminole. One day, when picking up an order for the family, I noticed a “Now Hiring” sign on the counter, next to a stack of applications. I picked one up, took it home, and studied it.
It was a short, simple, and fairly standard application. And the most important question was, “Why would you make a great employee at Hungry Howie’s?” followed by about three full inches of blank space to write my answer.
I knew that was about 2-7/8 inches too many. I had never made a pizza in my life. I knew a lot about cooking from helping my mother in the kitchen, but I knew the chances were slim that Hungry Howie’s had not yet added to their menu lumpia spring rolls and chicken adobo.
But since this was my first foray into the world of job applications, I decided to make an impressive case for myself. So, to answer the question of why I would be a great pizza maker for Hungry Howie’s, I listed the following:
“Maintains a 4.0 grade point average.”
“Sophomore Class President.”
“First Chair, Bass Clarinetist, Concert Band”
“Member, Chess Club.”
“Numerous Superior Ratings at Solo and Ensemble Competitions.”
“Tenor vocalist in the high school’s touring ensemble.”
I proudly walked into Hungry Howie’s the next day and slid my application across the counter to the manager. After wiping tomato sauce onto his sweat-stained shirt, he picked it up to take a look. Then he looked at me. And without saying a word, he walked toward the boys in the back of the kitchen.
Rather than wait for a response, I turned toward the door, then heard an eruption of laughter from the storage room. I knew right then and there that my budding career as a pizza artist was over before it started.
THE TOUGHEST JOB IN THE BIBLE
In the Bible, there is one job that is indisputably tougher than then all the rest, for which people were woefully unqualified. Making calzones and repairing vacuum cleaners is nothing compared to being a prophet in the Old Testament. Prophets were often plucked from obscurity, with no name recognition or resume, in order to carry out the most dangerous missions. They spoke words of truth against powerful rulers too hard-hearted to listen and nations too brittle to respond. And, they endured long stretches of loneliness, starvation, and fear.
Yet, they served one of the most vital roles in the Bible. They were God’s mouthpieces, offering course corrections for wayward empires and wicked emperors. They dazzled with demonstrations of power and words of authority. They were equal parts street performer, political pundit, hatchet operative, and wordsmith. And their lives serve as examples to us of how to live with courage, integrity, and faith, during the most troubling times.
The prophets had the toughest job in the world, but their impact has endured throughout history. When Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood up to the Nazis, when Oscar Romero spoke out against the government of El Salvador, when Nelson Mandela confronted the forces of apartheid, when Mother Theresa offered hope for the poor, and when Pope Francis rails against the injustices of our day, they are lived into the role of the prophet, the toughest job in the Bible.
For the next five weeks, we will be studying two of the greatest prophets in biblical history. Elijah and Elisha served concurrently as God’s messengers to the Southern Kingdom of Israel for about thirty years during the 9th Century B.C.E. Elijah confronted the tyrannical rule of Ahab and Jezebel, and together they challenged opposing prophets of foreign gods. Their stories are recorded in First and Second Kings, which often reads like it were straight off the pages of an Ian Fleming spy novel.
Along the way, you will find easy entry points in these stories.
- If you feel at the end of your rope, with no hope for your future, join us this Sunday for “The Case of the Amazing Abundance.”
- If you feel powerless against forces that are beyond your control, and question the power of prayer, join us on June 5 for “The Case of the Fiery Face-off.”
- If you are having a crisis of faith, and question God’s presence and activity in your life, then listen for God’s calm, quiet voice in “The Case of the Exhausted Agent” On June 12.
- If you are feeling all alone in your faith journey, then watch how the work of God is passed from Elijah to Elisha in “The Case of the Fiery Chariot” on June 19.
- And if you are in need of healing in your body, mind, and spirit, then learn a lesson of trust and obedience on June 26 in “The Case of the Incurable Commander.”
This all amounts to a worship series we’re calling “God’s Special Agents,” and it will be an exciting summer blockbuster to experience together. You won’t want to miss a single action-packed episode!
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist