1 Corinthians 1:26-29
26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.
27 Instead, God chose what the world considers nonsense to put wise people to shame. God chose what the world considers weak to put what is strong to shame.
28 God chose what the world considers ordinary and what it despises--what it considers to be nothing--in order to destroy what it considers to be something.
29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
If we are parents, we remember calling our children for some reason. I remember being a kid and Mom would call to me in my room or when I was somewhere in our backyard playing. “Dinner time,” she would call sweetly. And being the child that I was, I would continue playing, ignoring her summons. After a time her call changed, “Patrick Michael Jolly you get in here this instant.” Two calls, for the same purpose, but with different intensities.
In the physical world, we often judge the importance of a summons or request based upon the urgency we perceive in the asker’s voice. At our spiritual level, we develop the skill to recognize God’s guidance or call and interpret its urgency through the experience of moving into prayer and meditations.
Rather than being responsive to God’s calls, sometimes our ego directs us to second-guess God, or ignore God entirely. But God will continue calling to us until we respond. At first, these calls are subtle sweet urges. God is trying to get our attention on a particular matter, and until we are sensitized to the whispers of that ‘still small voice’, we ignore them; we remain unaware.
God tries again, this time with a little more urgency. The process continues until God resorts to what is called the ‘Cosmic 2 by 4’ upside our head. It is not that God will ever do anything to harm us; it is simply that the consequences of our inattention to God’s persistent plea accumulate to such a critical level that it seems like we are being bludgeoned into paying attention.
The urgency of God’s message is directly proportional to our attention to the message. So, it is important to learn to recognize God’s calls to us sooner, rather than later.
At the spiritual level, just like the physical level, there are times when we judge a call based upon the information given or what is being asked of us. Sometimes we receive an appeal from someone and we wonder, “What the heck did they call me for?” We don’t consider our self qualified.
I remember being in high school and I was asked to teach a series of group guitar lessons to a bunch of elementary students. I could play the guitar some, I had never taught anyone to play, and this would be a totally new experience for which I had no training.
At first I balked; I was nervous and afraid, and felt under-qualified and ill-suited. But then I decided to give it a try. In truth, I had a good time, and it led to a paid position teaching guitar with the school district during the summer to elementary kids. It was a wonderful experience that I had nearly rejected.
One of the hardest lessons of my life revolves around willingness. God continually offers us opportunities to serve, and naturally the decision is always ours. There are those blessed souls who are quick to say ‘yes’ to God and step into a position of service. Some of these good responsive souls, though, have another challenge - it is hard for them to say ‘no’. Their lessons involve learning when to decline an invitation, to discern which requests are from God and which are from the world and are directed by the ego.
Others of us say ‘no’ to everything; we easily reject opportunities, and we deny ourselves and others some wonderful experiences because of our reluctance. Our unwillingness to answer God’s calls decreases as we understand that we are being called to spread the joy and love of God. We will be given ample opportunities to act on the requests from God and share Christ’s love with others.
As the opening Bible verse states, God calls us, and it is not because we are powerful, or experienced, or wise, or talented in some area. God calls us because of His plans, not ours.
We all have been given talents and gifts in some way or another. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us: God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Each of us has specific and unique talents in some area; some are more obvious than others. What do you love? What interests you? That is a pointer toward your gifts.
Your gift may be in the way that you smile and relate to others, or how you think, in teaching, or how you perceive three dimensional objects. It could be in gardening, flower arranging, in design, in mechanical skills, and in the combinations of every talent you can dream up… the list is as long as there are people on the planet.
The utilization of our talents is one type of calling from God. At different times in our lives we will feel a greater or lesser urgency in this type of calling. We may feel it so greatly that we decide to make a career of our talent, or we may share our gifts informally.
If I have been gifted with a musical talent, then it would be selfish not to serve others in some capacity with it. Through prayer and quiet times with God, I try to allow Spirit to dictate the level of use of my talents. I do this because if I had my way I would not be sharing nearly as much of myself as I do. I am more naturally reticent and reluctant to open up and let my little light shine.
I think that is one reason that I have a gift of music – I must lean outward in order to share it; I need to get outside myself, my small timid, unwilling self, in order to express myself musically.
The same is true with my calling to the ministry. It is not a natural tendency for me to get up in front of people and speak. That is the antithesis of how I see myself. I don’t have great verbal skills, nor do I like being in the spotlight or the center of attention.
But now I am doing things that I never thought I would do. God has called me, and it has been a supreme blessing. I have gained so much joy and fulfillment because I have been willing to answer this call from God.
The question I ask myself is, “Patrick, how much more joy and love are you passing by because of your continued reluctance to answer God’s calls?” I want you to ask yourself the same question, and then ask yourself, “In what areas of my life am I unwilling to respond to God’s calls?”
I understand that there are some of us who are fighting this idea. There is fear there and discomfort. You’re thinking, “Well, sure Patrick, you have an identifiable talent and have found your calling, but I don’t know what my calling is, and I don’t really hear God’s voice all that clearly.”
But God calls us in various ways and for various roles. There are specific requests and general requests. We are called to be a dreamer, a giver, a servant, a healer, a parent and sibling to others. We are called to be an example, a teacher, a neighbor, a leader, a “pray-er.” We are called to be everything that God is – love, forgiveness, compassion, wisdom. In short, from God’s perspective – we are called ‘to be.’ We are called to be what God has made us to be – a Child of the Living God.
God calls us generally through the commandments. We are called to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Christ said that this is the most important calling, summons, appeal, or command.
Micah 6:8 asks the question, “What does God require of us?” In other words, what is God calling us to do? The response is another fundamental calling for each of us: “To do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
When we are not adhering to these three simple calls, but letting our ego lead us, we feel the consequences as shame, guilt, self-blame, self-disappointment. This is because Christ monitors our intentions, thoughts, words, and actions and provides feedback. Sadly, some of us bury those feelings and discount them as weaknesses, instead of valuable guidance as they are intended.
To draw upon our original Bible verse: God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, 29 so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
We don’t need showy talents to be useful to God. We don’t need worldly power, wealth, fame, advanced degrees, proper etiquette, the proper upbringing, the right skin color, the right sexual orientation, the right dialect or personal history, or anything else the world considers valuable to be of supreme value to God. Despite what society tells, no one is superior to us; there is no one inferior to us, because as children of God we all walk hand in hand with Christ – we are equals, of equal value, and are equally loved.
As 2 Timothy 1:9 teaches: God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace….
Each of us has been blessed with a holy calling. It is individualized specifically to us and is of no lesser or greater value to God than anyone else’s calling. It is not based upon anything we done, but upon God’s plan for us. But we have to consent to this partnership with God: it is God’s plan, but we must accept it and implement it. We are co-creators with God, and Spirit will take us as far as we are willing, grow us as large as we allow, and make us shine as brightly as we permit.
My prayer is that we open our hearts, open our minds, and open our lives to the light of Christ, so that we can respond more fully and willingly to the holy calling that is uniquely ours.
And to those who are retired and feel like you’ve lived your life and served enough and are blessed in your old age… can I tell you something? You’re not done yet. Are you still drawing breath? Then God still has plans for you. Oh, listen … I can hear your phone ringing. You might get that; it could be God.