Living Into Our Call
Based on 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:14, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35, Psalm 51
I have been blessed in my life up to this point, to have had two calls from God into which I have lived. The first was my call to be a pharmacist, an educator and to seek broader communal healing through improved medication use within the public health system. I had gone to college expecting to become a physician and had progressed through two years as a pre-med student. I came home the summer after my second year in college with the realization that I wasn’t happy in pre-med. Something was getting in the way of my peace and my energy; I was confused, distraught and at a loss for what I would do next. I knew for a fact that I wouldn’t continue being that unhappy – I needed a new plan when I returned to school in the fall. I needed to figure out how to live into God’s call on my life.
People come to religion and spirituality seeking something beyond themselves. Whether it is to connect to a power greater than whatever is afflicting them in this world or a search to use their gifts with meaning and purpose, all people will eventually seek after God – in whatever way they understand God. Many people come to organized religion like the folks we read about in the Gospel of John today. Here, the crowds have had their momentary hunger, both physical and spiritual, met by the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. They clamor after Jesus seeking more – more food, more miracles, more spectacle…but they won’t be satisfied because they are only seeking after the show, not the substance.
Our readings for today point us in the direction of what our call from God might look like and then how we might live into that call. It might be, as Paul writes, that we are called to some finite job within God’s church. However, by doing that we discover (like I did) that we are using our gifts to build up the Body of Christ. Jesus teaches that the only work that God calls us to do in the world is to believe in Jesus whom God sent to us. We might also find that we are called at times to be like Nathan, having to admonish and correct someone powerful because they have sinned against God and others and need to be admonished in order to get back into right relationship. Before we go farther, let us go to God seeking the grace and courage to live into our calls…
King David had scorned and thus displeased the LORD we are told in our reading today. God tells Nathan, the king’s prophet, that the king needs to be corrected. Nathan tells David a story about a very rich man who abuses his power over someone who is poor – stealing his only female lamb who was like a daughter to him. David’s anger is kindled, and he says the man should die because he did this thing and had no pity! Nathan informs David that he is the rich man who has forgotten his call and all that God has done for him. God’s punishment to David and his offspring will be severe, but God will not take God’s favor away from him. David repents and Nathan assures him that God will not kill him, but the child he created with Bathsheba would die. Nathan discovers that living into God’s call on his life can be daunting and painful.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus has left the site of the mass feeding and gone to Capernaum. The crowd catches up to him and Jesus tells them that they are only seeking after him to be given enough to eat. Most of the people were food insecure in those days – unable to meet the basic needs of themselves and their families. The people want to know what they must do to live into God’s call on their lives. Jesus answers simply and directly, “…This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent….” Jesus teaches that their spiritual hunger will only be relieved by coming to “the bread of life”.
Paul is two-thirds of the way through his letter to the believers in Ephesus. He wants them to know that they are called by God to live lives characterized by, “…all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace….” The call of God on our lives, writes Paul, is to work together using our collective gifts in “…building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ….” When we are mature in our call, we will no longer be “…blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming….” When we have fully lived into our call, we will speak truth to each other in love and continue to grow into the mind and heart of Jesus.
Frederick Buechner, preacher, pastor and author, has this to say about understanding our call and living into it in his wonderful little book, “Wishful Thinking”. He writes about vocation saying, “…Vocation…it comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which one is the voice of God rather than Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you most need to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing cigarette ads, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you’ve probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored or depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet….”
Discovering our call then, is discerning with God where our unique gifts can be employed most helpfully to move the world towards God’s shalom. Living into our calls requires that we listen to the voice of God and not the voices of the world or our self-interest; the latter which calls us to be rich and famous and leaves the world poorer than it was before we were born. Living into our calls means trusting that God will provide the bread and water of life so that we nevermore hunger or thirst. Living into our calls means that we will be more glad, more energized and more effective than we have ever been at doing what God designed us to do with God. Thanks be to God, who never stops calling us to live into our lives fully and well. Amen and amen!