We’ve now had two Sundays exploring what it means to be called by God into service. I’ve discovered over the years that there are two misconceptions about that, and they both have a certain basis in scripture. The first is that God has a particular plan for our lives, and that finding and living into that plan is one of the primary tasks of a Christian. One never hears if God has a particular plan for non-Christians, but that’s for another time. The second is that a call to be of some special service to God, as the disciples were called by Christ to follow him, must mean a dramatic change of life in almost every way. Do you realize how many otherwise good people have agonized themselves into a paralyzing tizzy over that stuff?
It never seems to occur to those seeking God’s plan for their lives that what God might actually be saying is that wherever you are and in whatever you are doing, there is a more Christ like way to be, and that that is what God’s plan is all about. It’s not about finding the right path so much as being more Christ like on the path you are already on.
The same goes for the apparently more explicit call to follow Christ into some kind of specially assigned service. Didn’t Jesus say to his disciples something like, “Look around you. The field we are standing in is the one ripe for harvest.”? There are, to be sure, those who are called to extraordinary work in extraordinary places, but it seems to me that God most often calls us to do particular work in the places we already are among the people we already encounter.
In fact, I think that what God most often does is give us the work of opening our eyes to a larger horizon of more opportunities to be accomplished in new ways that challenge us to actually become that new creation we keep hearing about. I just don’t think God tells us to do it his way or walk the plank. I think he lays before us opportunities without number, and, if we let him, engages with us, participates with us, in the decisions we are perfectly free to make.
You might wonder if I, as a priest, am not waffling a bit on this. After all, was I not called to the particular ministry of ordained clergy? Yes, I think I was. Being the slow learner that I am, it took me a long time to become prepared for that call, but even then, I don’t think God said, “OK here’s what were going to do. We’re going to start you off in one of the largest churches in one of the largest cities and then work your way down to a congregation of 20 in rural Washington. How’s that for a plan?” Rather, I can hear God saying, “Steve, you have made some unusual choices in your ministry, not quite what one might expect, but it’s been fun hasn’t it, and we’ve had a great time doing it together. I’ve got some ides about what you might do next, but you haven’t done too bad making your own decisions. Let’s see what you have in mind and we will keep working together.”