Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What is Call? – Part 4

Please see earlier Parts 1, 2, and 3

Looking back over Christian history, the authentic call may have aspects which are not necessarily appealing. God may speak to us in circumstances not to our liking.  The genuine call is not usually concerned with the more mundane and pedestrian middle-class concerns of modern cultural aspirations. Simply reflect on those calls which the Church honors and celebrates, such as the lives of the Apostles post-resurrection. Think of Julian of Norwich. Recall the examples of Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer. Ponder the lives of the Martyrs of Memphis. Spend some time thinking of the ministries – and variety of challenges faced by – of Duncan M. Gray, Jr. and Will D. Campbell.

We may blanch. We may ignore the call.  We may deny it.  We may choose a path more to our liking.  I would contend, though, that we do so at our own peril.  A friend who denied what I believed to be a genuine call saw much of his life fall apart.  Another, who refused the pathway to healing, lost his vocation and family. It is not out of a sense of God’s punishment, but from a sense of being out of synch with what we are created to be and do.  It is both a call to service and fullness of life, as opposed to self-fulfillment.

A genuine call is to service and fullness of life, and is seldom one of complete self-fulfillment.  There is almost always a cost – sometimes small, sometimes profound.  The Greenville, Mississippi poet of the early 20th Century, William Alexander Percy, summarized that truth so well in Hymn 661 from the Hymnal 1982:

They cast their nets in Galilee
Just off the hills of brown
Such happy simple fisherfolk
Before the Lord came down

Contented peaceful fishermen
Before they ever knew
The peace of God That fill'd their hearts
Brimful and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
Homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
Head-down was crucified.

The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod,
Yet, let us pray for but one thing -
The marvelous peace of God.

To reduce this truth to the almost inane, in calling us to service, God says to us, “I never promised you a rose garden.”  The true, authentic call is not so concerned with location, compensation, size of the parish, or the trappings of success.  The Call is to hear – and hopefully respond to – the voice of the One who seeks our service, wherever it may be.

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