For each of us there is a calling from God – what’s yours at this time?
Mary Copping, 18 October 2020
Isaiah 35: 3–6; 2 Timothy 4: 5–17; Luke 10: 1–9
It was really good to be at the thanksgiving service this week for Bishop John and Dorothy, with their friends and family. And we look forward to the day when, as a church community, we can come together all of us to give our own thanks for their lives.
It brought to mind the time when I was exploring ordination … perhaps, one could say, trying to avoid it! One day Bishop John said to me, ‘Mary, I do believe that the Lord is calling you to ordination’. I thought, ‘What a shame. Bishop John is usually right, but in this instance, he’s got it wrong.’ Of course, he hadn’t got it wrong – he was spot on, as they say. Recently I was talking with a friend who used to visit Bishop John for spiritual guidance, and she said, ‘He said the same to me, but nothing’s come of it yet.’ And I said, ‘Just watch out!’
Today we celebrate St Luke the evangelist, whose calling was to tell people about Jesus through his writing and his teaching. My calling was to ordination. But over the years I have been called to many different things: teaching, working with families, typing letters in an architect’s practice, and just being and allowing people to care for me in my breakdown – that was the hardest one. Each of us has a calling from God, something that he’s asking us to do for him, and it changes over the years.
In our gospel reading we hear of Jesus sending out the 70. Their calling was to tell people about the kingdom of God. They took nothing with them, relied on people to give them what they needed. But each one of these disciples would have carried out their calling in their own individual ways – according to each of their personalities. They took nothing in terms of goods, but they took themselves, their gifts, their personalities, their enthusiasm, their experiences of their time with Jesus.
In the Family Service this afternoon we are going to give the families a paper rucksack and ask what sort of things they could take with them in the rucksack to share the love of God. We hope they will suggest such things as compassion, kindness, gentleness, understanding and patience. This is what each of us takes with us as we share God’s love.
These times we are in, very challenging, sometimes can be frightening and sometimes feeling without hope, as we cannot see what the future holds. Perhaps we had things all worked out, knew what was going to happen – looking forward to holidays, times with family? Now what? There is a lot of fear and anxiety around. Surely this time is when people need even more the love of God, the hope that he can bring, the kindness and caring – and we’ve seen a lot of this lately. What is our calling in all of this? What is God asking each of us at this time?
Perhaps he is calling us to publicly serve him in speaking out for those without a voice, or for God’s Creation; perhaps to quietly help others, befriend them, listen to their fears, love them; perhaps to be at home and pray – God always hears our prayers – or perhaps our calling is to accept the love and care of others in our weakness and our need, as in my breakdown.
I love the first part of the Isaiah reading:
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!’
God does give us the strength somehow to carry on; he does steady us when we feel we are going to give way; and he can help us in our fears. And our mission and calling, as his people, is to bring strength to others, help them where we can, befriend and love them, care for them, as we allow them to care for us in their calling. The most difficult part, sometimes, is to allow others to care for us. In William Vanstone’s classic The Stature of Waiting, he reflects on the majesty of Jesus as he ‘waits’ before those who accuse, taunt and crucify him. He describes how our times of inactivity and powerlessness are as important as times of action. This is part of our calling.
Vanstone describes how our times of inactivity and powerlessness are as important as times of action.
And what of our calling as a church community, as we have this beautiful, holy building? God has got great plans for us and for this building in the months and years to come. But he also has plans for us and for this building now, at the present. God works even more powerfully through difficult times as we call out to him for help. We know that God has done a huge amount for us and a huge amount through many people working tirelessly over many years to bring us to this point in the life of this church. Ours is to welcome those who want to come – as in this service, as Bishop John and Dorothy’s thanksgiving service – to make sure people feel safe and to welcome them into this holy place to experience the love and presence of God. It is also where we as God’s people can meet, in the building or online, to receive strength and hope for the time ahead, to receive God’s love and forgiveness for the calling he has placed on us, or perhaps even to receive the hint of a new calling from him.
The wonder of God, our creator, is that he has made each one of us differently. And for each one of us there is a calling from him – something only we can do, something different to anyone else.
At the coffee morning last week, Alexa read out something Richard Rohr had written about Saint Francis: that he was ‘attuned to God’s presence at all times’. Of course, for most of us this is not possible. But the more attuned we are to God with us – as it says in St Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer, ‘Christ with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me’ – the more we are able to be aware of Christ in our lives, the more we are able to carry out the calling he has for each one of us.
God is love; God loves us; God loves his creation. Ours is to share that love whenever we can and to receive that love from others. So, what is your calling at this time?