Baptism and Calling

Scriptures: 1 Samuel 3:1-20, Mark 1:4-11, John 1:43-51

Let us pray:

In the divine silence of our souls, help us, O Lord to discern the calling of your voice, to see that which your Light illumines, and to put into practice your will for us in this time and place.  Amen.

Jesus begins his ministry journey at the waters of baptism just like you and me.  Jesus is claimed in the waters by God as God’s Son, even as we are claimed in the waters by Christ through the Holy Spirit to also be God’s children.  Claimed as such, the argument can be made that we also participate in Christ’s journey – the journey from life to death, and death to life.  For some, this is a journey of suffering.  For others, it is a journey of blessing.  For all, it is a calling implanted deep within us to seek out God and be more than just living biological bodies with the power of higher thought.

What is the life that we are called into?  Is it here and now or now and not yet or purely an afterlife kind of existence?  These are mysteries that I cannot answer, but I do know that to be baptized into Christ, we are also somehow baptized into the family of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  The question remains, what do we do about it?  For some, the calling might be simply to follow.  For Samuel at first, it was specifically to tell Eli, the old prophet, what was in store for him and his family.  By reading his and his family’s entire history prior to Samuel’s arrival we can speculate why God chose not to speak to Eli directly anymore…none-the-less, God does speak, and the boy Samuel hears, listens, and reports when Eli asks him to.

For others, the calling may be as life changing as dropping everything, right now, leaving home, everything you know and love, and follow a semi-stranger you meet with just one glance.  Philip and Nathanael do just that.  For you and me, perhaps we have ears that hear and have obediently followed, perhaps some of us have taken a few side trips or like Jonah tried to run from God’s calling.  But God still calls, God is persistent, and I am convinced God’s voice cannot be silenced for long.

God calls us from the diverse corners of this community and beyond through the waters of Baptism, in the bread and cup, in the music of hymns and in the fellowship of our lives.  God calls to us in the voices of parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, at coffee fellowship, in the preschool, from down the road at the school, to the Pacific Crest Trail.  God calls us in the midst of our every day, not just on the proverbial mountain tops.  Are we listening?  Are you?

What is God’s ultimate call on our lives?  Do we have something in common other than God just calls?  I am convinced that within each of us, you and me, is a calling implanted by God to be God’s witnesses.  Our life is a gift from God, and were we to really listen to that divine silence within the depths of our souls, we would hear God’s voice calling, calling; guiding us in what God would wish us to do and be.

I am beginning to see faith formation as a process of always listening and responding to God, which would imply that there is not an end goal in sight, but rather an ever-expanding, ever progressing spiritual growth into awareness that keeps us rooted in the God-center of our lives, that inner place we call soul.  Eugene Peterson, in one of the books I’m reading for this semester, speaks of the trends of culture that have taken us far from our soul, far from the communities of faith within which we find our faith formation.  It has been a growing concern for several decades now, as individuality and “self” has slowly replaced community and “soul.”

Perhaps a part of the current calling of our faith tradition is to reclaim a soul-perspective, a community-spirit, the shared life of our faith journey that weave themselves together to make us who we are in this faith community, a community approaching its 113th birthday.

What will the next chapter of thegv journey be?  What will the next chapter of this church look like in the Book of Life?  We have an opportunity to discover and live that out together for another year.  Personally, I am convinced that God is speaking still, and that you do have a calling, and that you have the energy and resources needed to give your calling flesh, enliven it, and live it out in this time and place.  But it is not an individualistic calling, of that I am certain.  I believe it is a collective, communal, koinonia kind of calling.

As we live into an engagement with our calling, for God deserves nothing less, we owe it to ourselves to be actively seeking, listening, learning, growing, and responding to God’s promptings in our lives in community.  From our Celtic forebearers, one kernel of spiritual wisdom tells us that all of life and spirit in our reality are reflections of the relational nature of life and spirit within the Triune Godhead that made us in God’s image.  A part of that reality is being so present in God and in life and with one another that we can’t but help reflect being authentic initiators of relationship:

“Of course we invite people to choose God and the new life that comes in Christ. Of course we know that God has already chosen humankind, through Christ, to be the heirs and recipients of that new life.”[1]

But make no mistake,

“John’s Gospel and the Synoptics agree on this crucial point: it is not enough to believe in Jesus. Discipleship consists in following him (sometimes all the way to the cross…).”[2]

Discipleship is God’s calling in our lives actively being lived out.  It is continuing to grow and be stretched as we live into relationship with God, who extends the invitation to be in relationship with us.

Let me share with you something that stretched me, something I learned this week about this passage that I did not know before.  Commentator Lee Barrett writes,

“The application of the titles Son of God and King of Israel to Jesus is justified by his exercise of divine power and royal authority. Such power and authority are evident in his ability to awaken in people a believing response not based on empirical evidence. Philip simply hears the imperative “Follow” and obediently does exactly that.  Nathanael, with no verbal command from Jesus, comes, sees, hears, and spontaneously follows. …

Jesus’ paradoxical identity is elaborated in these verses in terms of his critical role as the revealer of God. Jesus’ call of Philip and Nathanael is not so much a call to mission as it is an invitation to an epiphany. The theme of the person of Jesus as the epiphany of God is suggested by Jesus’ reference to the “angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (v. 51). Ever since Augustine, theologians have perceived a connection between this image and Jacob’s vision of the ladder of angels at Bethel (Gen. 28:10–17). This scriptural parallel is reinforced by Jesus’ description of Nathanael as an Israelite in whom there is no guile. Traditionally, Jacob’s new divinely given name, Israel, was taken to imply that he was the personification of God’s people rapturously beholding their God. Jacob, however, was regarded also as an inveterate man of guile. Jesus’ address establishes Nathanael as the new Jacob, as the ideal Israelite. To further support the parallel, Jacob was also remembered as the one who saw God face to face and was utterly transformed by the encounter (Gen. 32:30). Consequently, concluded countless theologians, individuals like Nathanael who behold Jesus are seeing the very face of God, just as Jacob did. Jesus the Son of Man is the ultimate ladder stretching between heaven and earth. Jesus is the point of contact between the finite and the infinite, the conjunction of time and eternity. Jesus is the place where the heavens are opened and the divine glory can be contemplated. Similarly, Nathanael as the guileless Jacob, the true Israelite, is the prototype of a new humanity reborn in Christ.”[3]

In baptism, we are reborn.  In baptism, we are called to be disciples.  In baptism, we are called to be witnesses that new life is possible, and we are called to invite others into new life also.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose for us, even Him who is the Christ.  Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Elton W. Brown, “Pastoral Perspective, John 1:43-51” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor ((Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lee Barrett, “Theological Perspective, John 1:43-51” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor ((Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

Questions for Reflection

What is the difference between baptism with water alone (John’s baptism; see Acts 19:3, Mark 1:8) and baptism with the Holy Spirit (baptism into Jesus; see Acts 19:4–5, Mark 1:8)? What difference does the Holy Spirit make in baptism? What difference does the Holy Spirit make in your daily life? Where, in what place, and through what person or persons do you hear the call of the Lord? Consider it each day this week. Who has awakened in you a new prayer, a hope, an insight? Give thanks for those persons and moments as signs of God’s love for you.

Household Prayer: Morning

As I rise this day, O God, I give you thanks for breath and life, for the people I will see today, for family, neighbors, and friends, and for those whose ways are challenging to my serenity. Help me to give thanks especially for the people who pull me to new understandings and show me sides of life that I have not known or do not welcome. Urge me to follow you today; in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Living God, maker of light, thank you for the gift of this night. Let me be at peace in your presence so that I may rest, be restored, and arise to praise your glory; in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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