Answering God’s Call: What’s A Call?

Congregations in liturgical churches have been hearing a lot of scripture about what it is to be called by God.  Some have been called to live lives as prophets, and some to bear prophetic messages only once.  Some have been sent to far off cities, and some to stay where they are, proclaiming God’s word there. Some have been overwhelmed by the awesomeness of God’s presence, some by angels, and some by the still small voice of God.  What connects them is the sure certainty of the call.  

Jesus called twelve to be his companions on the way as he walked from town to town.  Others followed as they were able, compelled by his charisma – a nascent form of call that may or may not have borne fruit.

To be called by God is compelling, but it is not irresistible.  One is always free to say no, and many do. Jesus loved the rich man who was unwilling to follow Jesus’ call because it meant he would have to lay aside his riches.  Who knows what became of him?  Maybe he was among the several hundred who gathered on Pentecost to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, or maybe not.  

The mythical story of Jonah, who was swallowed by a big fish only to be coughed up on a beach three days later, is a morality tale about the compelling call of God to which one can say no until the only possible answer is yes.  And even then Jonah complained about it because God didn’t perform according to Jonah’s expectations. 

All who have been baptized into the body of Christ have been called in some way, probably a unique, one of a kind way. Regular worship and being fed by the Holy Eucharist strengthens the call.  Nevertheless, it can go unheard and unheeded.  Again, God’s call is always compelling, but not always irresistible.

Good and faithful people yearning to know what God has in store for them often expect something dramatic to introduce it, making it clear.  Most often that call is from wise friends and pastors reminding them of Jesus’ call to follow him in their daily lives.  I guess it seems too simple, too prosaic to be a genuine call from God, but there it is.  That’s the way God calls most people – through  persons ordained to proclaim God’s word and announce God’s call.

Pay attention. Listen.  God’s call to each of us is not something we have to search for.  It’s not hidden away.  It’s there in plain sight, recorded in the gospels, proclaimed from the pulpit, nourished by Holy Communion. It’s practiced in daily life. 

Is God’s call ever so compelling that it changes daily life in significant ways?  Yes, sometimes it is, as when one is called to surrender one’s other career plans in favor of ordination.  It’s always compelling but never irresistible.  If you are willing, it will happen.  It’s never forced.  The hard part is confusing what you want, or think you want, for what God is calling you to do.  As they say in AA, let go and let God, don’t try to steer.  There is no key, no magic formula, no workbook test that will give you the answer. It’s a holy mystery, relax and live into it.

The rich man could not let go and let God, he could not let go of his riches.  What might you be holding onto that prevents you from hearing the simple, plain call from God for a revitalized way of life?  The Samaritan woman at the well had nothing left to let go of, but she needed to hold dear something new, God’s love for her.  What do you need to pick up and hold dear as the sign of God’s love for you?  Jonah whined and complained every step of the way. What are you whining and complaining about that distracts and slows your path of following Jesus?

2 thoughts on “Answering God’s Call: What’s A Call?”

  1. I have just completed a three day gathering of our Virginia Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, interviewing people who have sought to respond faithfully to God’s call on their lives. Your reflections are so true and timely. Thank you for sharing them.

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