Walker Percy once wrote, “you can get all straight A’s and still flunk life.”
Somehow we fail at life if we are unable to discover its, and our own, meaning. Deep in our hearts most of us want to find and fulfil a purpose bigger than ourselves. Kierkegaard, a Christian philosopher, put it this way: “the thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wants me to do.”
We live in a time when we have too much to live with and too little to live for. Having lots of possessions and people in our lives still leaves a gap; a longing for something more, a sense of purpose and a sense of call.
Christian people believe there is a calling for everyone because there is a caller, God. Throughout the Old Testament, God the caller summons people to follow God’s call.
The greatest call however is the invitation of Jesus, the call to be disciples. This is our primary calling; issued in love to all who would hear the good news of the Gospel. Whenever we speak of a ‘calling’ to be a minister, teacher, mother or engineer, we are really speaking about our secondary calling – or as Mother Teresa put it “a call within a call.”
Sometimes the church gets this all mixed-up. Eusebius, the 4th century bishop, argued that Christ gives us two ways of life. One is the perfect, dedicated to contemplation and reserved for priests, monks and nuns; and the permitted life as he called it, a secular life of farming, trading and raising families. This two tier, higher-lower, sacred-secular view of calling, perverts the biblical teaching that we are all called to follow Christ, to use our gifts and skills for others and for God’s purposes.
As I said at a recent ordination, we are all called to ministry; that is to serve Christ and others, and ordination does not confer a special status, making the ordained somehow part of an elite or hierarchy. I appreciate the sharpness of Luther’s words “the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the rustic labourer in the field, if they work in response to the call of Christ.”
So first we must answer the awe-inspiring call to follow Christ. Then we must seek the guidance of the Spirit and the discernment of the Christian community to work out how and where we will serve Christ. God often uses our gifts, experiences, training and weaknesses to show us where our secondary calling is. For some it will be a ‘heart burst’ or a deepening passion or conviction.
Sometimes it involves a great struggle, opposition and hardship. Sometimes our call will take different forms and have different levels of intensity.
My prayer is for a church where we are all eager to serve the risen Christ and others; a community where we are bravely open to wherever God takes us. The caller calls.
Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church WA