Saturday, 14 January 2017


   This week’s readings talk about several things that lead on from baptism but I would like to look at the passage that reads, God says, “I have called you.…”  In the passage, we hear the evangelist’s account of the call of the first few disciples. John the Baptist points to Jesus and says of him, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Two of the Baptist’s disciples hear this, stop following John, and are called by Jesus to follow him. They hear that Jesus is the promised one, and they are called by him to follow. So off they go.

     Now this business of “being called” is a tricky but an important thing. It is easy to get confused about it, especially the way we use it these days. We tend to equate being called with doing some specific thing—usually a major thing like going to work for the Church in another country and so on... We talk of being called to be ordained, or being called to a special—usually full-time and professional—form of service.   And that is all we do with being called. So, on the one hand, most of us can listen to the call of these disciples and neatly separate what happened to them from what is going on with us. “After all, they were called—we’re just ordinary people.” So, we are safe from that.

     People who come before a Ministry Selection Board for interviews for Ordination really struggle with this idea of call. Sometimes they have had very powerful experiences of the presence of God, and think that means they must do something new and different; and for several denominations that usually means to get ordained. Others think it might be a good idea to get ordained, but aren’t sure if they are called, whatever that might mean. So, they all just dread talking to the Ministry Board because they know people are going to ask them about it all and they all think they ought to have a better answer than they do.

     But the fact is, both ways of looking at and for a call from God miss the point. Now, there is such a thing as a special call to a specific ministry or type of service. But that is not what is usually going on with us when God calls us. The two to whom Jesus said, “come and see,” were called exactly as we are called. They were called to be disciples—as we are called to be disciples. Whether we are supposed to be ordained or not, when we are called by God, as we are each called in our Baptism, we are, like those first two, called to be disciples. In them, and in their call, we can see, with some real clarity, the call of Christ to each of us, and to all of us.

    Remember that from the very beginning, Jesus called, not individuals, but a community, and the idea of a call makes no sense, from a Christian perspective, outside of the larger community. This is the first thing to remember.  Remember Jesus does not first, or primarily, call us to do a specific job, or to fill a specific role. Our call as Christians is not initially for us, as it was not, initially, for Andrew and the other disciple, a call to work.

     It is, instead, a call to relationship. Jesus does not say, “do this,” he says, “come and see,” or “follow me.” There is a big difference. To respond to such a call for relationship, for intimacy, is very different from signing up to do a piece of work. (Just like falling in love is very different from serving together on a committee). To be called into relationship—to be called to follow—that is to enter a mystery; it is to move out, full speed ahead, into uncharted darkness. Jesus simply says, “follow me.” He calls us first to himself—to a personal intimacy and shared life. That is what matters, and that is to be central. Everything else is left behind.
     Those first disciples were not called to go somewhere in particular—they were called to go anywhere Jesus might lead. They were not called to renounce this thing or that thing, but to be able to walk away from anything and everything, for only then would they be free—only then would their lives fully belong to Jesus.  This is often why a sense of call can be both frightening and frustrating. Sadly, because we live in a society that insists that for something to be valuable, it has to produce, we start looking for what we are called to do. No, to be called is to enter a time of listening and waiting. It is after this we act on what is heard from God.

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