While I was putting together this issue, my dad passed away after an extended battle with Alzheimer’s. As I grieve his death, I celebrate the life of my dad. I received from him many gifts, including a love of music and photography. He was, as a United Methodist pastor, a mentor for me in my call to ministry. So it’s fitting that, as I’m remembering his life, I’m thinking what it means to be called, to follow Christ in the world. (View pictures of my dad are at the end of this post.)
Some of us — like my dad — hear and follow a call to a “set-apart ministry.” In my tradition, there are Elders (my dad) and Deacons (me). There are lay ministries of various types (diaconal ministers, deaconesses, missionaries) and those who keep churches going through gifts of music, teaching, and administration. In the scriptures we find stories of those called to serve God such as Zechariah, a priest and father of John the Baptist (Lk. 1) and Aaron’s sister and prophet, Miriam (Ex. 15).
Saying yes to God’s call sometimes takes a person to places of radical change, danger, and uncertainty. Abram and Sarai left their country and all that was familiar to journey to a different land (Gen. 12). Esther was called to risk her life to save the lives of Jews in Persia during a period of Exile (The Book of Esther). Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John left their fishing nets to follow Jesus and “fish for people” (Mark 1).
But often the call comes to follow God right where we are, fulfilling our calling with the gifts that God has given us. Lydia, a merchant of purple cloth, didn’t leave home or change professions. She was baptized and opened her home to the faithful (Acts 16:14-15). Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) lived her life in Joppa doing “good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need” (Acts 9:36). Nimrod was “a great hunter” (Gen. 10:9). Deborah was a nurse (Gen. 35:8). Dan “settle[d] disputes for his people” (Gen. 49:16). Asher grew fine food and supplied delicacies for the king (Gen. 49:20). Joseph was a carpenter called to help raise a child named Jesus (Matt. 1).
Jesus said, “Follow me” (Matt. 4:19), and the trick is figuring out “Where?” and “How?” It’s not always clear. Often, it’s not a life-time gig. The call to “follow me” involves a lifetime of listening, paying attention, and being willing to adjust our path. No matter where we are on our journey of life, we are called to follow.
P.S. We’re excited to announce the digital edition of Alive Now. Subscribers to the digital edition get the same material as in print, plus audio, video, and links. You can read the new Alive Now on your iPhone, iPad, Android, desktop, or laptop. Learn more here.