God’s calling

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. – Genesis 12:1-9 [ESV]

Biltmore Estate Garden, Asheville, SC | April 2021

The landscape became more and more barren as we drove our 1974 Ford Pinto station wagon across the west slope of the Colorado Rockies. Gaig, and Steamboat Springs were well in the rearview mirror. Rangely – the second point of the dual parish to which I was called – was 20 miles to the south. Vernal, the place we would live for the next four years was 30 miles ahead. We were in the middle of nowhere. A year later, when Diane’s parents visited, I asked her mother what she thought of this beauty. She remarked, “It’s interesting.” It wasn’t her kind of beauty – although it had a majesty and beauty all its own. 

We’ve lived in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, and Texas. We were both born in Missouri, and every state and place we’ve lived since Missouri has been directly connected to our calling. Having determined that God was leading me to become a pastor in the Lutheran church meant moving for school, vicarage (internship), and various congregations in those states (plus the one in Colorado when we lived in Utah).

With all this in mind, you might think that a vocation (calling) is unique to pastor types and their families. And to some extent a pastor has a very unique and specific calling. It is clear and obvious when a church extends a Divine Call. They vote and send a specific document called a, “Diploma of Vocation.” That document explicitly charges one to serve as a pastor. I have accepted calls to serve in the six churches I have served over the past 42 years. 

But vocation is not the providence only of called and ordained servants of Christ. In fact, we’ve all been called to faith by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel message has come to us, and God calls us to repent and believe in Jesus. Fully believing the Good News of Jesus is to follow him. That is a calling that accompanies us wherever we go. 

For Abram (he is yet to become Abraham by God’s renaming), it meant a move to a strange place. Even more challenging than our trip across the western slope of Colorado, it was to a land that God would show him. It’s like this:

God: Abram, get up, take your family and go to a place I will show you.

Abram: OK…where, exactly, do you have in mind?

God: I’ll show you when the time comes.

Abram: Ah, um, OK??? OK? OK. Got it. I’ll go.

There was, however, a very special promise to Abram. That promise would fuel a faith in him that would define him as the father of faith. It still inspires others to go places to which God calls them. And it would become a foundation for Abraham’s righteousness – a righteousness of faith. 

Some people think of vocation as their own personal multiple choice question: Shall I become a lawyer, doctor, teacher, or business person? Better we should embrace our first calling from God: a vocation to repent, believe, and follow wherever God calls us, and whatever we do for a living. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

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