“...he saw two other brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”
He gave them an offer they couldn’t refuse. No I am not talking about the Godfather, I am talking about Jesus calling the two brothers James and John to be disciples. It comes through most clearly in the King James version. No discussion necessary. No asking Dad for permission. No explanation as to where they were going, or thoughts for what was going to happen next, because truly, they didn’t know. They were called. And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Fleming Rutledge has noted that within the call is the very agency and power that is needed to live out what is required of you. The one who is calling you provides it.
Calling is a funny thing. I can remember here and there when I was a kid, someone in the church would announce their calling, generally as a missionary to deepest Africa. My grandmother would joke about this, that calling always seemed to be to somewhere more exotic, leaving the less glamorous work still to be done at home. My mother would echo that she wished someone would be called to fold her laundry or to do some dishes.
Author Wendell Berry has wondered aloud, why few seem to be called to live out their Christianity in daily life, the space that most people actually occupy. Christians who are also doctors, teachers, lawyers, mechanics, even artists. Lay ministry is a real thing. It means you are wearing two hats. Is it possible to be called to multi-function? This crosses my mind as I raise a family, that I am primarily called to serve. If I am not putting bread on the table and shovelling the driveway when required, I am not a very good Christian because it all seems to roll together into one job.
You cannot feel called without a caller and therein lies the mystery, that strange quickening of your spirit. Christianity comes from a history of revelation, the progressive act whereby God reveals himself to human beings. If you are a Christian, there is no doubt that at some point, God inexorably revealed Himself to you. Just like the travellers on the road to Emmaeus, the Gospel burns in your heart like a strange fire you did not put there yourself.
The call to Christ, always serves the real and specific world we live in and that is why the involvement of regular people is important. The call to every single human being plays out as God’s incarnate purpose within the larger stream of human history. Call it a trickle that becomes a flowing river.
The Apostle Paul talks about calling in his epistle to the Corinthian church. “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are. Sounds like God is actually celebrating the mundane, in order to teach us something.
We like to think of calling, as something that makes us show up well in front of crowd. This could account for those monastic orders who direct their followers to mundane tasks like gardening, mixing daily life with holy vocation. It might be a more realistic take on how things really work, and I do mean work. Word made incarnate, in our own lives, might mean rolling up your sleeves.
Like they say, God does not call the equipped, he equips those called. Just in case, don’t be afraid to do dishes or fold a bit of laundry. It’s all in the big plan.