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January 10, 2017

Hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me;” Isaiah 49:1”

To those sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . “ 1 Corinthians 1: 2

We use the word “call” and its variations in a number of ways. Most commonly we call friends and family on the telephone. We make calls; we receive calls. We accept or decline calls. We have call waiting. We participate in conference calls. We call out to an acquaintance at a chance meeting on the street or in the supermarket. We communicate with each other.  Law enforcement and military folks are “called to serve” — to protect and serve the citizenry. People often feel a calling to a certain profession in the medical field or in other professions where his or her God-given abilities and talents can be put to good use.

But how can we be called before we are born, and what did Paul mean that Christians are “called to be saints together” in this week’s Scripture texts?[1] Talking about being called by God or to be a saint is likely to draw skepticism, laughter, or ridicule. But God had his eye on us before we were born and that is a reason to rejoice. He called us to him while we were still being formed. In her best-selling devotional book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young tells us that Jesus is calling us to come to him, to be comforted by him, to be guided by him, to be enveloped by him. Simply put, God’s call to us is to love him and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is our primary and main job. Everything else—our work, where we live, where we go to school, our volunteer activities, our charitable contributions—everything else is secondary to our main job: to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love others as ourselves.

In his book Called, Mark Labberton, the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, California, put it this way “God’s call is that we love God first and our neighbors second and that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we come to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’(Galatians 5:22-23). Without any special guidance from the Holy Spirit, with no anxiety or worry, and with utter confidence, we can daily pursue these first things as our primary vocation” (Labberton, Called (2014) InterVarsity Press, p.88).

We unnecessarily complicate the question of what we are “called” to do. It’s not rocket science. We are called to love God first and each other and to live in community together with those around us. It starts where we are—at home, at work, at all of the places we are as we go about our everyday lives. Labberton points out that “Each of us is a child of parents, perhaps a sibling to someone, a friend to friends a colleague to coworkers. Following Jesus starts here. It starts with seeing these people again for the first time, now visible to us anew as we learn to see them as made and loved by God . . . We don’t see people this way when they’re annoying to us or clearly self-interested or rejecting us and our faith or failing to do their share of the work. Right there, in the midst of ordinary life, we face the gritty task of following Jesus by learning to love and serve those at our doorstep. “ (Called, p. 46)

In this week’s Psalm, David wrote, ”Here I am, I have come.” Psalm 40:7. Will you come? Will you show up on your own doorstep? That’s where you are required to begin. Being called to be a saint in the community requires you to start where you are—in your home, in your church and in your community. It’s not always easy. Those closest to us have a unique ability to irritate us. It’s easier to support someone we don’t know as well, who doesn’t grate on us. But as annoying as we can be to each other, that is our primary call: to love God and to show God’s love to those around us. Will you answer that call? Will you answer as David did: “Here I am.” ?

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan


[1] The Scripture texts for this week are Psalm 40:1-11; Isaiah 49:1-7;1Corinthians:1:1-9; John 1: 29-42a.


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