There is something deeply powerful and marvellous, joyful even in the experience of ‘being called’ and recognised, especially and particularly by someone who loves you, and all of us have had, I suspect this experience to a greater or lesser degree. Our hearts and minds sing as we recognise their love and respond deeply and genuinely to such a gift of love in this calling.
However, our other response is often not to pay attention when this is happening, as it interferes with our pre-set plans; and often we dismiss the strength of such a calling when it’s hard to hear and understand in the clutter and busyness of our daily lives and the noise and immediacy of the world’s demands.
When we’re being called into a vocation of being a scientist, an engineer, a teacher, a nurse, a social justice advocate, a parent, or other identities and roles, it is possible, even easy to ignore, dismiss and not follow through if we think the calling is not clear or coming at the ‘right time’ because of other priorities.
Jesus message is clear: The time is always right. The need to understand who we are and how we shape our lives in relation to what we are, what we do; and just as critically, how we ‘be’ in this world is in fact defined by our relationship with God, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.
On a practical level, being called and the idea of vocation, to do and be in a way that we were made and intended with our gifts and capacities is a central part of our faith and doctrine, both in a specific sense and generally as a way of thinking and understanding.
We see and understand ‘calling’ or vocation as responsibilities and duties in a role, and generally as gifts of the Spirit.
We often think of being called, as happening very specifically on a particular occasion as with Paul on the road to Damascus. That it happens to other people who are different and special, and not likely with us. We also think once the call has been heard and accepted, our lives change and there is a ‘before’ and then there is a ‘now’, a difference that is made once and for all time and often we’re not sure if we want that to happen to us.
As Christians, we understand this change happens in our relationship with God, the One Who Calls rather than recognising changes occur also with each other. However, it is important to understand we are called by God continuously, throughout our lives, however long we live. There is never a time when this is not happening. How we respond is our choice.
I think too, our calling is also discerned through our relationships with each other, and as our being called and our calling evolves over time, these relationships multiply and change. They are dependent too, on the emerging, changing capacities of our real selves, as we are mutually influencing and responsive to others around us and the world.
This is because as human beings, we are created relationally by God, by the One Who Calls us into being. We become who we are as unique individuals in and through relationships with others, with Creation and with God.
Healthy personal development is seen as a process of increasing the number of relationships we have, and in the increasingly complex connections with others who come into our lives over time. We know those who come into our lives can be the single most critical factor of influence in what our lives become and how they become.
And so, if relationships are integral to our own sense of who we are as Christians, our relationship with God, is profoundly, unequivocally fundamental to our being, as the beginning, the middle and the end of us.
Being called individually and our capacity to hear such a call is critical.
Samuel, (1 Sam 3:1-20) who we are told ‘did not yet know the Lord’, was dependent upon Eli who realised what was happening and who had to tell Samuel who was calling.
The Psalmist (Psalm 139)reminded us of God’s call in some of the most beautiful poetry:
O Lord you have searched me out and known me: you know when I sit or when I stand, you comprehend my thoughts long before. You discern my path… you are acquainted with all my ways….for you have created my inward parts: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. … You knew my soul and my bones were not hidden from you: when I was formed in secret, and woven in the depths of the earth….
The Psalmist acknowledged our language and understanding of God is so inadequate and incomprehensible, all we can do is give thanks for being called because it is too wonderful.
John’s story of Jesus and Nathanael (John 1:43-51), continues the story of God’s call to each of us here today. It shows us the pathway of being called, of answering with curiosity, of being open to the unexpected, of responding and following, all occurring because of the relationship we have with Jesus and each other.
I recently did some teaching as I ran a leadership course in the Anglican Centre in Rome for Anglican women and one of the profoundest moments occurred when we remembered and reflected we are made in the image of God, we are unique in our humanness, and we are in relationship with God who made all creation and called it all into being, and then called each of us. Each, and every one of us is known and loved by God. Our ability and capacity to recognise our calling and our faith in God, is a gift of grace from God.
Our response is one of deep joy and happiness as we encounter Jesus as God’s love and truth made truly human; and as we enjoy life together with one another in community because we are bound in love by the same Spirit. Consequently, our relationships and community life is one of constant change and it is not fixed or rigid as we each bring our calling to share both in the church and in the wider community. Our recognition and acceptance of God’s love we repeat each week, as we speak of loving God with all our heart and with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength and loving our neighbours as ourselves, because we see God in each other’s face.
This is the deep desire of the One Who Calls to each of us, this is our calling and vocation however we express it, in what we do, say and be.
I look at you and see the face of God. We, you and I, are made in God’s image, and as I reflect on Philip, Nathanael and all the other disciples and followers of Jesus through the millennia who responded to this call; I hear our response today, to God’s invitation as you and I join God’s community.
Jesus’ response to Nathanael suggests the life of faith is not carried out in response to some single incident that initially sparks belief, but is instead a response to the summons, the call, to ‘come and see’ (John 1:39, 46) and the promise of a greater relationship with God and ongoing learning and listening to God.
Most of us encounter Jesus in community. Our relationships with each define the Jesus we see and experience.
That is why we make promises at the sacrament of baptism to help those being baptised to know who is Jesus. Built in and around the relationships we have with each other and our response to being called, we praise God for being called.
And I urge you Sisters and Brothers always to be listening hard for the One Who Calls and to be ready wherever we are, whatever we’re doing as we celebrate with joy and love the experience of being called and of saying ‘Yes’ throughout our lives!.
The Lord be with You.