The joy of being called
"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.’" (Matthew 4:18-20, NIV)
By BISHOP ROBERT HAYES JR.
Bill is a dear friend who, like me, enjoys memorable quotations. Since my college days, I have collected a great number of books that contain quotes ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. So has Bill.
Every morning at 6 o’clock, Bill sends a text message with his quote of the day to me and a few other friends. Bill is my dependable automatic alarm clock, waking me with the "ping" of my cellphone, letting me know his selected verse for the day has arrived.
Many of the sayings are inspirational, and some keep me laughing throughout the day. He recently sent this quip by Rita Rudder: "When I eventually met Mr. Right, I had no idea that his first name was Always!" (There may be other women who agree with her!)
However, it’s his quotes about life that most challenge and encourage me.
As we quickly come upon Labor Day, a text that I received from Bill has caused me to consider our daily work. The quote, by H. Jackson Brown Jr., states: "Find a job you like and you add five days to every week."
What an insight!
There are several ways to describe the work we do.
Sometimes a job is called an occupation, which suggests that is the way we fill time.
Some people refer to daily tasks as their livelihood, meaning how they earn income for living expenses.
And when we describe what we do as vocation, we seldom realize the significance of that word.
Vocation reflects a Christian view of life because it means "a calling."
When describing Jesus’ encounter with Simon Peter and Andrew, the passage in Matthew’s gospel is clear: The two brothers already had an occupation — they were fishermen. At the moment Jesus met them, they were pursuing their livelihood, casting out their net to catch fish to sell.
But when Jesus invited them to be participants in a vocation, they couldn’t resist that call.
I find it so intriguing that they left everything and followed Jesus in that very moment. What would entice someone who has spent years doing the one job he knew best to leave it in an instant?
Fishing nets could not satisfy them; livelihood is not life. Jesus appealed to their deepest uncertainty. Those brothers yearned to be part of a movement that would link their hearts to a greater cause, wider than the sea, more appealing than catching fish.
One commentary explains it this way: "Jesus satisfied their longings. There was such an authority in his invitation to ‘come, follow me’ that these men, used to wrestling with storms in darkness, found in him a worthier manhood. His eagerness caught their youth, his certitude their loyalty, his tenderness their love; and some divine solitude in him called to the depths of their soul."
Jesus still invites people into a trusted vocation. He links your uncertainty with your occupation or livelihood to his cause — to a calling greater and nobler than anything else you can desire.
How do you fill the time or earn your living? You may be a teacher, student, pastor, farmer, doctor, lawyer, volunteer, or a thousand other roles. When you come to understand that your work has become a vocation, that’s when you offer up the best within you. You give full measure to what you are called to do, seeing every person as a unique creation by God, worthy of love, time, and attention.
Cecil Frances Alexander wrote poems and hymns in the 1800s. She was the wife of a parish minister in an impoverished area of northern Ireland.
She loved people. One biographer said she "went from one house to another, from one bed of sickness to another, from one sorrow to another she went, always carrying food, warm clothing, and medical supplies to the poor and sick."
Her husband asked her to write a hymn to accompany a sermon about Andrew and Simon Peter’s call on the shore of Galilee. She wrote these words:
"Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea;
day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying ‘Christian, follow me.’"
If your occupation does not have in it a sense of the Divine for you, it will always be just a job. It will never satisfy the gnawing hunger of discontent. But when you heed the voice of the One who bids you to follow Him, your work truly becomes your calling.
Saint Augustine wrote, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."