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The Christian calling, John 15:17-16:3

6th Apr 2019

17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.16 “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. (NRSV)

When you hear the phrase ‘Christian calling’- what do you think of? Do you think of priests and ministers, archdeacons and bishops, those for whom their vocation is to be an officer of the church in a public and visible way? Or perhaps you take a slightly broader view seeing the work of children’s and youth workers, pastoral visitors and worship leaders as being ‘Christian Callings’ too? How much of a stretch is it to see the making of coffee, welcoming, sweeping the floor and emptying the bins as a ‘calling’- surely these are things that people just do?

Calling is not about the job you do or the works that you enact- it is not about what you do, but about who you are and the one whom we are serving and worshipping. In today’s passage, there are some strong, polarising words- love and hate, persecution, sin; not easily digested, and perhaps appearing to fly in the face of the idea that the Christian God is one of compassion and mercy.  Here Jesus is preparing the disciples for what is to come- not the perceived glamour of an upfront role as a worship leader or church minister, where they would be praised and exist in the glow of having high and exalted positions of power and authority, but instead that the world would, as in the passage, hate them and persecute them, as Jesus was by those who opposed him and the Father.

In our lives today, how much opposition to our faith in Jesus do we face? I would suggest that it is very little, but still sharing that faith is difficult for us. However, the calling that is universal to all who profess to follow and worship Jesus is that of the great commission found in Matthew, to ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19&20). This is our primary calling, the difference for each of us is how that is lived out. Just because we might not be those in ‘public ministry’, this does not undermine our primary call to reach those who do not yet know Jesus.

We are all called and commissioned to this work of eternal importance- to share the gospel and to see people transformed by its life giving message of hope; for ourselves, for those we love and for those with whom we lie and work in community. This work is not always easy- it can be a task of great personal sacrifice, a work fraught with the possibility of rejection. This is what it means to follow the call of God and to take up our cross daily. So, however this lived out, be it publically, or in quiet works of service, in relative ease or in struggle, know that you are called by God and be encouraged, by God’s words to Samuel- He looks not at the outward appearance but at our hearts. How are you living out your calling today? 

Katrina Thomas, Distance Learning student