Following Our Callings

            How often do you think about your calling from God?  Your talents, skills, interests, and passion are all gifts from God that He wants you to nurture and develop for use in His kingdom during this life.  I think sometimes we forget that through Christ, God’s kingdom was brought to earth, just as we confess in the Lord’s Prayer...’thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’

            I love the idea that these texts from Jonah and Mark came up on the day of our congregation’s annual meeting.  We have the call stories of Jonah, Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John and can learn from their experiences.  All of us have callings from God to be used for his glory, and he encourages us to follow them.

Listen to the first verse in our Jonah text...”The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”  Following God’s calling in our lives and professions requires energy, perseverance, and accountability.  God spoke a second time...’Get up and go.’ 

We may not always like what God has in store for us.  Remember that Jonah was called to go to his enemies and preach God’s message of repentance and forgiveness.  He didn’t want to see the Ninevites receive God’s grace.  They were enemies!  God’s call stretches our comfort zones.  Like Jonah, God is calling YOU and ME to get uncomfortable for his sake. 

Then in Mark, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God.  What is the Good News?  ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the Good News.”  Believe that we are forgiven!  As Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee, he called Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow him.  How did they respond?  Simon and Andrew immediately left their nets while James and John left their nets AND their father to follow him.  That is following a calling… stepping into the unknown, leaving our safety nets, trusting God.

So we have one man who is called to do something that he despises, offering God’s forgiveness to his enemies.  And we have four men who are called to leave their comfortable vocations and follow Jesus with no guarantees of earthly security of any kind.

            How many people mute their true callings for something that society calls more successful?  People often ignore their God-given dreams and passions out of fear of failure, because it may not lead to financial wealth, or because it will require taking steps of faith into the unknown.  Instead of taking the risk to do something great with their passions/convictions/calling, they settle for something safe and less fulfilling.  In those cases, God’s purpose has been derailed by fear as people seek fulfillment without hope from outside sources.

            When we listen for God’s call, it does not guarantee a life of ease.  In fact, when looking at most of the call stories in Scripture including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Paul, and Jesus, there were great challenges to be overcome.  But God will not give us a calling (purpose) that has no promise.  We are not walking into a vacuum when we follow Him.

            I remember my grandmother’s response when I told her I was going to seminary in 2009 at the age of 40.  She asked if I recalled telling her at the age of 5 that one day I would be a minister like her and grandpa?  I didn’t remember that event and remarked that I wish someone would have reminded me of that much earlier.  But she wisely said that all of my previous experiences were part of my call and necessary preparation for ministry.

            What is YOUR call story and purpose?  When has God led you into the unknown, exercising your faith through trials and challenges in order to use your gifts and talents in such a way as to bring glory to Him?  How is God using you to share his love and mercy to others? 

            And what about this congregation?  Where do you see Christ’s presence and calling?  After all, Zion is not some individual organization focused on self-survival, or at least that isn’t God’s purpose.  It is part of the Body of Christ, a movement across the world whose purpose is to glorify God and to spread Christ’s Good News of love, repentance, and forgiveness. 

            How will we write our call story?  Are we like Jonah running from God, afraid to face the reality that God’s will challenges us to repent and forgive our families, friends, neighbors, enemies, and even ourselves?  Or might we be like the Simon, Andrew, James and John that dropped everything in complete obedience while answering their calls?  Maybe we fall somewhere in-between. 

Our purpose as individuals and as the Body of Christ is to use our God-given gifts to the best of our ability while giving all glory to Him.  Thanks be to God for each unique individual in this place who has a purpose anointed and blessed by HIM.  And may God’s encouragement, motivation, and perseverance overcome our fear.  Amen.