thinking theology

Open to the Call

1 Samuel 3:1-20; John (1:43-51)

The readings for this Sunday are about improbable calls. In the Samuel passage, the boy in training for the priesthood is very new and unprepared. He has no idea what is happening and has to have to spelled it or for him. The disturbance in his sleep is neither too much hummus, nor a scary dream, nor an unreasonable demand. Instead, it is a call from the Holy One that disturbs his sleep and will overturn the course of his life. He is to replace the descendants of Eli in the family dynasty of priests. We know as the story proceeds that he will call the first kings; he will advise and chastise; reprimand and encourage. But he is still a boy when he is called, with no idea of what his future will hold.

In the gospel passage, Nathaniel is called by Jesus despite his racist and classist attitudes. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”, he sneers about Jesus. Jesus teases him by acknowledging his prejudices. Nathaniel, astounded at the insight, is completely won over. Jesus remarks that if he thinks this is a big deal, he will have to stick around for the denouement, the fireworks, as it were.

Both of these passage ask some different questions about who and how people are called. St. Paul himself a murderer and a bigot is called into Jesus company. The first men called by Jesus were simple men. Women followed and financially supported him. Children could not be driven off; nor would Jesus permit them to be chased away.

You might be noticing who is not called. There are no stories about God calling the rich and powerful, the brokers of deals or the politicians. Some of these do follow Jesus, Nicodemus, for example, but they have to seek out Jesus, rather than the reverse.

The ones who are called are called because they have nothing to lose. They are open to the voices because nothing else filters their hope. That have no status, no power, nothing to look forward to particularly. Jesus offers them a cosmic adventure, s spiritual ride of transformation and insight.

A challenge to ourselves: ask what filters stand between us and the call. What elevator music blocks out the call? What busy anxiety cancels the seeking Spirit? What possessions or status makes us deaf and blind in our souls?


A Star Without a Name

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,
she easily forgets her
and starts eating solid food.

Seeds feed awhile on ground,
then lift up into the sun.

So you should taste the filtered light
and work your way toward wisdom
with no personal covering.

That’s how you came here,
like a nameless star
Move across the night sky
with those anonymous lights.

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