320 E College Street, Iowa City, Iowa 52240 Sunday Worship, 7:45am, 9:00am, 11:00am

If someone asks you, Did you get a call?


Preacher: The Rev. Judith Crossett

If someone asks you, Did you get a call? You might—particularly as you’re hearing it said in a sermon—think of a call from God, or a call to become a priest. But anyplace else, you might think of a different kind of call. Did you get a call to give money to that charity, or that candidate? Did you get a call to serve on that committee, or the Vestry? Did you get a call inviting you to that event (or did you get left out?)? Did you get called on, in class or a meeting? Did you get that call asking you to call other people about a charity, or a committee? Most of these are not very welcome.

But surely a call in our lives as Christians is a good thing. Traditionally, a sermon about call addressed to young people would remind you that you might be called to ordained life (deacon or priest), to professed life (nun or monk), or to lay life, to being a Christian in the world. All are valid and all are valuable. In my early years of Presbyterian Sunday School we were told to find God’s purpose for us, another way to look at call. Christian formation throughout life helps us ask, are you called? what are you called to?

But we may need to be prompted, to be asked whether we are called—neither Samuel nor Nathanael recognizes a call when it comes without some help. Samuel lives in a time when the Lord is rarely heard, and he is young—maybe about 12. He is obedient, jumping up each time he hears his name. But he doesn’t know who is calling until Eli tells him. Samuel is not unwilling, but it takes 3 tries and having the answer handed him to get it right.

Phillip hears “follow me” straight from the mouth of Jesus, who has sought him out, and Phillip catches on immediately. But Nathanael gets Phillip as a go-between; Phillip is sent to tell him “we found the one spoken of by the prophets”. Nathanael has “no deceit”, and also no tact when he responds. Not only does he not get that it is Jesus, but also he even doubts that meeting this person could be worthwhile at all. Jesus tells Nathanael that he knows him, he saw him. Nathanael then sees that Jesus has “searched me out and known me”, and he accepts the call.

A call is God actively seeking you, not all mankind, but you. You are actively being sought by God; He is waiting for you to hear and to answer. Alister McGrath’s biography of C.S. Lewis describes him as a convert who accepted Christianity when he allowed imagination to have its role along with reason, and then realized that God had been seeking and calling him for years—he had been pursued by God. In George Herbert’s poem “The Collar”, the priest rants at obedience and constriction, looks to worldly life, fame, riches—until he hears a voice which seems to have been there all along say “Child” and he answers, “Lord”.

Call may not give you a turn-by-turn GPS-plotted road map. You get the first step; even that may not be what you want to do. Samuel has to tell Eli that he and his family will be destroyed. Spending time in at Free Lunch, or the Shelter, may expose you to things you didn’t want to see or know. The apostles often looked for glory—Nathanael was looking for the glory bit—but instead, they were told to serve loaves and fishes. In street ministry today, we’d remind you that you are serving people, not sandwiches.

I’ve spent some evenings at the Temporary Shelter this month. There are, as another volunteer commented, more discussions of God there than most other places. One of our guests started telling us about his close friendship with one rap star, and about an evening when he said he turned down partying with another. He also told the volunteer that God was speaking to her, giving the message into his left ear because she wasn’t listening yet, that God wanted her, and our guest wouldn’t always be there to tell her about God’s calling her.

At least one of his stories was true. So I ask you: have you had a call? Are you listening?

Date Posted Title Listen Download
Jan 18, 2015 If someone asks you, Did you get a call? Listen Download