Because You Are Called

By: Brian Harris

Through some slightly unusual circumstances I’ve been asked to preach on the same topic (at different churches) for a few weeks in a row.

The topic? “Called”. Or “Because you are called”. Perhaps you could say I’ve been called to preach on being called – but perhaps that’s trying to be too smart.

I love the idea behind “called”. It presupposes two really important things. One – that there is a caller, and two, that this caller notices us – notices us enough to call us. Both make a radical difference to the way we are invited to live life.

Because there is a caller – or because God is – there is meaning and purpose. To know that this is an intentionally created Universe logically leads to the “why?” question. Why created – for what purpose? When we discover that the “story of God” has plot and purpose, and that we are called to play a part in it – well that transforms the way we look at things and the questions we ponder. It means we should ask the question, “what am I called for?”

I Have Called You By Name

Isaiah 43:1 informs an embattled Israel “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” Despite her disobedience and all that had gone wrong, Israel is assured that God’s call remains. It is a call with great reassurance, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…” (v2). The call does not exclude the possibility of waters, but it does exclude the possibility of being alone. When we are called, we are assured we will never be alone.

Perhaps that’s the first thing to notice about God’s call. While we might imagine that it’s primarily about what we might do for God, the first call is to relationship with God. It is to bask in our status as child of God. And that is the name we are called by, for as 1 John 3:1 puts it, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Being precedes doing. We are first of all called to be the children of God – to delight in our family status, and to get to know the God who has called us, the God we see most clearly when we look into the face of Jesus.

We Are Part of a Family

Of course even as I celebrate being called into the family of God, I am reminded that this is not a single child family. I have an enormous number of brothers and sisters. As with all families, siblings can be a source of great joy, but also one of struggle and confusion. But it’s worth it – because it is family.

It’s not just a family with a father, and siblings, it also has a mother. Both St Cyprian and St Augustine remind us, “If you do not have the church as your mother you cannot have God as your Father.” Like it or not, my call to Jesus is also a call to the Church. Because it is a call to the church I have a role to play. Tempting though it may be, that role is unlikely to be chief critic. Now true, there is a place for critics, though more critics of the engaged sort who are offering what they can, because of love for God and love for the family of God. When they alert us to things that have gone astray, we should listen closely and with care. After all, as the family of God we are called to represent God in the world, or to be the body of Christ in the world. It’s hard to imagine a loftier calling. Because it is so lofty, it can take many different forms. Sometimes church comes to us in an unexpected guise. It certainly isn’t limited to four walls, a speaking head from the front, and Sunday. But nor is it just me and Jesus on our own. In some sense, it is God’s family being together.

The Story of God

If we are called to relationship with Jesus and to the family of God, there is a third part to our call. We are called to play our part in the story of God. Now there is likely to be some flexibility here. We are not puppets on strings either dancing to the masters tune or sullenly trying to pull in another direction. We are called by name – and in the uniqueness of that name and its ongoing evolution, new possibilities emerge. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 tells us of three called people who were entrusted with different gifts – one 5 talents of gold, another, 2, and yet another, 1. Two respond creatively, one does not. None of them finish in the place where they started, for the person who had 5, has 11, the person who had 2, has 4, and the person with 1, finishes with none. Our response matters. It’s a dance. God invites, we respond, God invites, we respond, God invites, we respond. Some of our responses are better and more obedient that others – but the dance goes on.

We often enter the dance tentatively and somewhat nervously. We might well be convinced that dancing is not our thing – but something about the music and the tone of the call, gets us to put a toe in the ring. Actually, it doesn’t really matter where we start – as people who whole heartedly dive in, or those who need lots of persuasion to participate – where we start is not where we end.

What does it mean for you to hear Jesus call you name? Because he does… And if we hear only silence, it’s time to take the mufflers off – for we are indeed called to Jesus and called to the family of God and called to our part in the story of God.

All of our life can be seen as a response to the call of God. So what will that response look like this week?

Article supplied with thanks to Brian Harris.

About the Author: Brian is a speaker, teacher, leader, writer, author and respected theologian who is founding director of the AVENIR Leadership Institute, fostering leaders who will make a positive impact on the world.

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