Posts Tagged ‘call’

Abraham– Week 4: Call

June 12, 2017

We continue our Abraham study with the chapter entitled “Call”, about the beginnings of Abraham’s call to follow God. Once again, there are notes from co-teacher Bill that can be accessed here. If you’re reading along or following this blog I encourage you to add your own comments, and if you haven’t started reading the book, Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler it is well worth the read. It is available on Amazon and possibly through your local library as well!

This chapter addresses the question of what it means to be called by God, particularly as it pertains to Abraham and particularly as understood by Christians, Muslims and Jews. We can also glean form this discussion what it means to be called on a more personal level; for, as Abraham is called, so are we called as his descendants.

The call of Abraham teaches us, according to Mr. Feiler, that God hears the cries of all of God’s people. God heard the cry of Abraham, who at an advanced age had no heir; God responds with a promise of not only more descendants than there are stars in the sky, but also land that will be his and theirs. In order to receive this promise Abraham must leave his homeland and go… somewhere. God isn’t clear in the beginning where Abraham will go, only that he needs to go. And Abraham, trusting God, goes.

This is something new; Abraham is breaking tradition with his father who is a maker of idols. For Abraham, God offers no physical manifestation; neither does Abraham seem to need it. We might wonder how to put ourselves in Abraham’s shoes: is God the still, small voice in Abraham’s head? Is there an actual conversation? We have reported interchanges between God and Abraham, but is this a conversation as we humans understand conversation? And if not, what was it that convinced Abraham to go?

In Mr. Feiler’s book he describes the differences in emphasis between Christianity, Judaism and Islam regarding the understanding of Abraham’s call. For Jews, Abraham’s call began as a call to migration, a call that will lead him (and his descendants) to the promised land. Later the understanding becomes more spiritual in nature as the exile sends Jews on a different journey, a journey away from the land to a place where they are the other. Now the task, says Mr. Feiler, is to “go to yourself…find your roots.” For  Islam Abraham’s response to God, that he picked up and went to another land at God’s instruction, is the ultimate submission and obedience to God. For Christians the Abraham story represents a “hoping against hope” (as Paul puts it)– he didn’t disbelieve God’s promise even though he was of advanced age and “his body was as good as dead” (again, Paul). Feiler’s friend Father John says that “the lesson of Abraham is that you have to be willing to risk it all. You have to give up everything for God.”

As Christians we ask ourselves “what is God calling me to do?” We beleive that all of God’s people have gifts and abilities that we are to use to fulfill God’s work in the world. Frederick Buechner describes the place God God’s us to as that place in which a person’s deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. It may be that we are called, as Abraham was, to pick up stakes and move to a new land. It may be that we are called to a a new ministry in which we are the other, the outsider who must form relationships before we can accomplish any change in the world.

 

 

 

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What Will You Say “Yes” To This Year?

January 27, 2014

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The lectionary passage for yesterday was Matthew 4:12-23, which includes Jesus’ call to his first disciples:

Now when Jesus[a] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled

“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat  in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus[c] went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news[d] of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

This is a classic story that most of us are familiar with. There’s even a children’s song about it:  “I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men, I will make you fishers of men if you follow me.”   Our picture may be of Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, passing by these fishermen, and calling to them “follow me!” and having the men drop their nets and come running after. Their response to Jesus seems to be immediate, and positive, with no discernment committee or dithering or talking it over with the family. They just jumped up and came after him, saying an emphatic “yes!” through their actions.

But that isn’t how it always is in real life, is it? We aren’t always ready to jump up and follow where Jesus is leading us. Heck, most of the time it really doesn’t seem clear what Jesus is calling us to do!

So how do we know what Jesus is asking of us, and how do we find the courage to say “yes?”

First of all, we do have to spend some time in discernment. Discernment is a process which may involve prayer, Bible study, and conversation with others, in which we come to understand what God/ Christ/ Spirit is calling us to do– what our purpose is in God’s great creation. We may have different purposes at different times in our lives, and we may have to spend time in the process of discernment over and over again throughout our lives. Sometimes we have an inkling of an idea, a glimmer, and when we spend time in discernment we are able to make the glimmer come alive, and we know what we’re to do. Sometimes we’re stuck, and the discernment process can help us begin to be unstuck, to find a way forward into a new purpose or calling.

Then, we have to be willing to change. It doesn’t do us much good to understand our purpose if we’re not willing to live it out. Sometimes people and churches get stuck in this place– they get comfortable the way they are, and they don’t see any need to change or they are afraid of change. However, change comes whether we want it to or not, and to me it’s better to embrace it, to be intentional about the change that you need to make. We have to remember, Jesus never said, “stay where you are and as you are, it’s ok, you can live out your purpose staying in place.” No, Jesus said, “follow me!” and “go in pairs to the surrounding towns” and “go into the world and share the gospel with everyone you meet.” If we stay stuck in place then we really aren’t following the call that Jesus has placed on all of our lives. Change is hard! But again, it happens whether we want it to or not– and if we are wise, we will make the change happen rather than just letting it happen to us. All we have to do is say “yes!” to that thing that we find when we discern Jesus’ call on our lives.

So, what will you say “yes!” to this year?