You Are Called: Week 4

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Video: Spiritual Assessment 

Sunday 30 June 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’ 
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Daily journaling

Responding to God 

Monday 1 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


William C. Placher, Callings, Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation

More generally, when the Bible talks about “call” or “vocation,” it characteristically means a call to faith or to do a special task in God’s service.  In the Old Testament, God calls the first Israelites, the prophets, and rulers to do his will.  In the New Testament the word klēsis(“calling,” from the Greek verb kaleō,“to call,” used eleven time, mostly in letters by Paul or authors influenced by him:  consistently refers to God’s call to a life of faith. Paul assures the Thessalonians, “We always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call” (2 Thess. 1:11).  Reminding the Corinthians that God makes use of foolishness and weakness, he writes, “consider your own call, brothers and sisters; not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Cor. 1:26). In both cases the “call” was to come, be a Christian.

Some scholars therefore argue that the initial call to faith or calls to a special mission are the onlybiblically warranted meanings of the word “call.”  But it is always dangerous to argue that something did not exist just because the historical record does not mention it.  The Bible, after all, focuses on the stories of people for whom God had a special task, not the more “typical” farmers or potters, husbands or wives, or parents, so it is hard to be sure whether the biblical authors would have thought of their more ordinary roles in life as callings.  Colossians insists, “whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters” (Col. 3:23).  This passage does not use the word “call,” but it certainly invites Christians to think of any task as work done in the Lord’s service. Here, as on other issues, the Bible gives us complex answers, and, in trying to understand them, it makes sense to ask how wise Christians down the centuries have interpreted them and understood what Christian faith means by vocation or calling.[i] 

Daily Journaling

Two callings

Tuesday 2 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


William Law (1686-1761) seemed destined to a successful academic career at Cambridge until he refused to take the oath of allegiance when George I came to the throne; “Non-jurors” like Law held that the descendants of the Stuart line going back to James II remained kings of England, and believed that taking the oath of allegiance to more recent kings violated an earlier oath.  By this refusal Law came to be ineligible to hold any official position.  He served for a time as a tutor to the son of a wealthy family and then retired to his hometown, where he was eventually joined by two women in a small, informal religious community.  They lived a life of great simplicity and gave most of their money to support local schools and other charities.  One of his favorite devices was to invent imaginary characters whose behavior illustrated the flaws of a whole class of people—the discussion of “Calidus” in this except is one example.[ii]

Calidus [Law here invents a name for an imaginary typical character; the name means “eager” or “hasty” in Latin] has traded above thirty years in the greatest city of the kingdom; he has been so many years constantly increasing his trade and his fortune.  Every hour of the day is with him an hour of business; and though he eats and drinks very heartily, yet every mean seems to be in a hurry, and he would say grace if he had time.  Calidus ends every day at the tavern, but has not leisure to be there till near nine o’clock. He is always forced to drink a good hearty glass, to drive thoughts of business out of his head, and make his spirits drowsy enough for sleep.  He does business all the time that he is rising, and has settled several matters before he can get to his counting-room.  His prayers are a short ejaculation or two, which he never misses in stormy, tempestuous weather, because he has always something or other at sea.  Calidus will tell you, with great pleasure, that he has been in this hurry for so many years, and that it must have killed him long ago, but that it has been a rule with him to get out of the town every Saturday, and make the Sunday a day of quiet, and good refreshment in the country.

He is now so rich that he would leave off his business, and amuse his old age with building, and furnishing a fine house in the country, but that he is afraid he should grow melancholy if he was to quit his business.  He will tell you, with great gravity, that it is a dangerous thing for a man that has been used to get money, ever to leave it off.  If thoughts of religion happen at any time to steal into his head, Calidus contents himself with thinking that he never was a friend to heretics, and infidels, that he has always been civil to the minister of his parish, and very often given something to the charity of schools.

It must also be owned, that the generality of trading people, specially in great towns, are too much like Calidus.  You see them all the week buried in business, unable to think of anything else; and then spending the Sunday in idleness and refreshment, in wandering into the country, in such visits and jovial meetings, as make it often the worst day of the week. 

Now they do not live thus, because they cannot support themselves with less care and application to business; but they live thus because they want to grow rich in their trades, and to maintain their families in some such figure and degree of finery, as a reasonable Christian life has no occasion for.  Take away but this temper, and then people of all trades will find themselves at leisure to live every day like Christians, to be careful of every duty of the Gospel, to live in a visible course of religion, and be every day strict observers both of private and public prayer.

Now the only way to do this is for people to consider their trade as something that they are obliged to devote to the glory of God, something that they are to do only in such a manner as that they may make it a duty to Him.  Nothing can be right in business that is not under these rules.  The Apostle commands servants to be obedient to their masters “in singleness of heart, as unto Christ.  Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not to men” (Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22, 23).[iii]

Daily Journaling

Servants of Christ 

Wednesday 3 July 2019 


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


This excerpt comes from a collection of sermons Martin Luther wrote in 1521-22, while hiding out in the Wartburg castle. The text for this sermon is Luke 2:15-20, in which the shepherds visit the baby Jesus and then return to their sheep.[iv]

…all works are the same to a Christian, no matter what they are.  For these shepherds do not run away into the desert, they do not don monk’s garb, they do not shave their heads, neither do they change their clothing, schedule, food, drink, nor any external work.  They return to their place in the fields to serve God there!  For being a Christian does not consist in external conduct, neither does it change anyone according to his external positions; rather it changes him according to the inner disposition, that is to say, it provides a different heart, a different disposition, will, and mind which do the works which another person does without such a disposition and will.  For a Christian knows that it all depends upon faith; for this reason he walks, stands, eats, drinks, dresses, works, and lives as any ordinary person in his calling, so that one does not become aware of his Christianity, as Christ says in Luke 17[vv. 20-21]:  “The kingdom of God does not come in an external manner and one cannot say ‘Lo, here and there,’ but the kingdom of God is within you.” Against this liberty the pope and the spiritual estate fight with their laws and their choice of clothing, food, prayers, localities, and persons.  They catch themselves and everybody else with such foul snares, with which they have filled the world, just as St. Antony saw in a vision.  For they are of the opinion that salvation depends on their person and work.  They call other people worldly, whereas they themselves in all likelihood are worldly seven times over, inasmuch as their doings are entirely human works concerning which God has commanded nothing.

…For we are unable to give to God anything, in return for his goodness and grace, except praise and thanksgiving, which, moreover, proceed from the heart and have no great need of organ music, bells, and rote recitation.  Faith teaches such praise and thanksgiving; as it is written concerning the shepherds that they returned to their flocks with praise and thanksgiving and were well satisfied, even though they did not become wealthier, were not awarded higher honors, did not eat and drink better, were not obliged to carry on a better trade. See, in this Gospel you have a picture of true Christian life, especially as pertains to its external aspects: on the outside, it shines forth not at all or at most a little bit in the sight of the people so that, indeed, most people see it as error and foolishness; but on the inside it is sheer light, joy, and bliss.  Thus we see what the apostle has in mind when he enumerates the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 [v. 22]:  “The fruits of the spirit [that is, the works of faith] are love, joy, peace, kindness, being able to get along, patience, confidence, mercy, chastity.[v]

Daily Journaling

Fruits of the spirit

Thursday 4 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


St. John of the Cross, “The Way to Enter the Night of Sense”

The soul enters the night of sense in two ways. One way is active, the other passive. The active way consists in that which the soul does of itself to enter the dark night.  The passive way is that wherein the soul does nothing but God works in it.  Here, only patience is required.  It will be well to set down briefly here the way which is to be followed to enter this night of the senses.  The counsels given here for conquering the desires are few and concise and adequate for one who sincerely desires to practice them.

Let the soul have an habitual desire to imitate Christ in everything.  Let it meditate on the life of Christ so it may know how to do this in the manner of Christ.  Let it renounce every pleasure that presents itself to the senses if it be not purely for the honor and glory of God.  The soul must never desire any sensual thing for its own sake.  It must not desire the pleasure of looking at things unless this helps it Godward; in its conversation let it also act this way.  And so in respect to all the senses insofar as it can, the soul must avoid the relevant pleasures.  If this is not possible, it must at least desire not to have it.  In this way it will soon reap great profit. 

The soul must strive to embrace with all its heart the following counsels so that it may enter into complete detachment with respect to all worldly things for the sake of Christ.  Try to prefer not that which is easiest but that which is most difficult.  Seek not that which gives the most pleasure but that which gives the least.  Choose not that which is restful but that which is wearisome.  Look not for that which is greatest, loftiest and most precious but for that which is least, lowest and most despised.  Strive to go about seeking not the best of temporal things but the worst.  If this is done with a full heart, the soul will quickly find in them great delight and consolation.

If these things be faithfully put into practice, they are quite sufficient for entrance into the night of sense.  For greater completeness, however, let us look at another exercise that will help us mortify those things that reign in the world and from which all other desires proceed; namely, concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life.  Let the soul strive to work, to speak and to think humbly of itself and desire all others to do so.

The following advice is given here in reference to the night of the sense but it will later also be applicable to the night of the spirit.  In order to have pleasure in everything, desire to have pleasure in nothing.  In order to possess everything, desire to possess nothing.  In order to be everything, desire to be nothing.  In order to know everything, desire to know nothing.  This does sound very harsh and difficult, but the proof of it is in the experience of those who have done it.  Their yoke is sweet and their burden is light.

When your mind dwells upon anything, you are ceasing to cast it upon God who is everything.  To arrive at the All, you must deny yourself everything.  When you possess the All you must possess it without desiring it.  In this kind of detachment, the spiritual soul finds its repose, for it covets nothing, and nothing wearies it.  This is not something that can be accomplished by human effort, but only through the grace of God.[vi]           

Daily Journaling

Rest in God

Friday 5 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


Howard Thurman (1899-1981) grew up in poverty in Florida, raised by his grandmother, a former slave.  Educated at Morehouse, Columbia, and Rochester Seminary, he served many years as pastor of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco and Dean of the Chapel at Boston University. 

Give me the courage to live!

Really live—not merely exist.

Live dangerously,

Scorning risk!

Live honestly,

Daring the truth—

Particularly the truth of myself!

Live resiliently—

Ever Changing, ever growing, ever adapting.

Enduring the pain of change

As though ‘twere the travail of birth.

Give me the courage to live,

Give me the strength to be free

And endure the burden of freedom

And the loneliness of those without chains;

Let me not be trapped by success,

Nor by failure, nor pleasure, nor grief,

Nor malice, nor praise, nor remorse!

Give me the courage to go on!

Facing all that waits on the trail—

Going eagerly, joyously on,

And paying my way as I go,

Without anger or fear or regret

Taking what life gives,

Spending myself to the full,

Head high, spirit winged, like a god—

On…on…till the shadows draw close.

Then even when darkness shuts down,

And I go out alone, as I came,

Naked and blind as I came—

Even then, gracious God, hear my prayer:

Give me the courage to live!

Daily Journaling

Courage to change 

Saturday 6 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen 


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1960-1945) grew up in Berlin, the son of a prominent psychiatrist; his career in theology surprised his relatively secular family.  He was active in the “Confessing Church,” the German Protestants who were opposed to Hitler’s efforts to control the churches, eventually teaching at the Confessing Church’s more or less underground seminary.  While visiting the United States just before the beginning of World War II, he was invited to stay here, but concluded that no one who avoided the hard times Germany was facing would have the moral authority to have influence in Germany after the war.  He was arrested, imprisoned, and shortly before the end of the war, executed.  In this book, published in 1937, he addressed the radical demands Christianity might make on one’s life and the central importance of obedience to Jesus’ call.  In an earlier chapter he attacked the idea of “cheap grace,” the notion that god’s forgiveness leaves Christians free of tough ethical demands.[vii]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

And as he passed by he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, Follow me.  And he arose and followed him. Mark 2:14

The call goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience.  The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus. How could the call immediately evoke obedience?  The story is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events.  By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them. Something must have happened in between, some psychological or historical event.  Thus we get the stupid questions:  Surely the publican must have known Jesus before, and that previous acquaintance explains his readiness to hear the Master’s call.  Unfortunately our text is ruthlessly silent on this point, and in fact it regards the immediate sequence of call and response as a matter of crucial importance.  It displays not the slightest interest in the psychological reasons for a man’s religious decisions.  And why? For the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response if Jesus Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, Levi follows at once.  This encounter is a testimony to the absolute, direct, and unaccountable authority of Jesus.  There is no need of any preliminaries, and no other consequence but obedience to the call. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word.  Jesus summons men to follow him not as a teacher or a pattern of the good life, but as the Christ, the Son of God.  In this short text Jesus Christ and his claim are proclaimed to men.  Not a word of praise is given to the disciple for his decision for Christ.  We are not expected to contemplate the disciple, but only him who calls, and his absolute authority.  According to our text there is no road to faith or discipleship, no other road—only obedience to the call of Jesus.[viii] 

Daily Journaling

God’s authority on our lives

[i]William C. Placher, Callings, Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2005), pp. 4-5.

[ii]William C. Placher, Callings, Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2005), p. 303-304.

[iii]William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life(London:  Macmillan, 1898), 29-36.

[iv]William C. Placher, Callings, Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2005), p. 213.

[v]Martin Luther, The Gospel for the Early Christmas Service, trans. John G. Kunstmann, Luther’s Works, vol. 52 (Philadelphia:  Fortress, 1974), 36-38.  

[vi]William Meninger, OCSO, St. John of the Cross (New York: Lantern Books, 2014), p. 25-27.

[vii]William C. Placher, Callings, Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2005), p. 389-390.

[viii]Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R. H. Fuller (New York:  Macmillan, 1959), p. 48.

Reflections on Assessing your Spiritual Gifts by Jennifer LeBlanc 

When St. Paul writes his first letter to the Church in Corinth, he’s writing to a group of relatively new Christians who are growing deeper in faith while also seeing their community grow in both numbers and impact. It’s a letter full of practical instruction about growing our relationship with Christ, and one section begins this way: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Corinthians 12:1).  

After a successful, 20-year career in media and years of volunteer lay leadership at my church, I was called to use my gifts in a more direct way by working for the Church as an employee. It took much prayer and deliberation, but I left the money, the identity of who I am by what I do, and dove head-first into ministry.

The first year was scary. What had I done? It felt as though I was constantly looking for ways to reassure myself of this calling. I was blessed with one such tool of reassurance after taking a spiritual gift assessment. My top three gifts are Leadership, Discernment, and Shepherding. While some people’s spiritual gifts differ from their natural talents, mine were perfectly aligned. That was a gift all on its own.

God put me in a position and at a place where I could train-up Christian leaders, shepherd the young and serve as a student to the wise, to truly lean in to all of those years of leading teams, counseling and consulting with clients, and building effective communication strategies– all for the people of God and to the glory of God.  All I had to do was trust in Him, and let go.

After 5 years in ministry, I can tell you I am where God wants me to be, where he has called me to serve him and to bring others into a deeper relationship with him. No matter what you do or where you work, you can serve as a witness to the love and compassion of Jesus. You are equipped.

The Church has an urgent mission in this world, and the only way we fulfill that mission to the level we need to is through each of us using our God given gifts to the fullest. And we can’t do it without each other. That’s what Paul was telling that fledging church in Corinth, and that’s what he—and God—are calling you and me to realize in our own lives.

The Commission on Ministry offers this six-week program to help participants discern their call to serve God's Kingdom. Each week includes a theme, and each day offers a prayer, reflection, and journal entry assignment to aid vocation discernment for laity. The program's principal book is Gordon Smith's, "Consider Your Calling, Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation."