That all important Call
They call it "the call." Not the call of the wild, but the call of the Lord. I got the call when I was quite young, around 18 years old.
We know that the prophets in the Old Testament received God's call. They were called to prophesy. We know that Jesus got the call, called to be the Messiah. The trouble is, the call of the clergy is somewhat indistinct. A clergyman in a difficult parish always gets the call to go somewhere else. An unruly parish council can be quickly brought into line by mentioning the call. "The Lord called me to be your minister and you are duty bound ........" You can't argue with the call.
Confirming the call is a very difficult matter. First, there is inner conviction. "I know the Lord has called me". This is usually confirmed by a sense of inner peace, and who can argue with inner peace? Then there is open and closed doors. "The Lord has set his pathway before me". This is usually confirmed by positive circumstances which are obviously God's way of telling us we are on the right track. The powers of darkness have found this idea one of the most effective ways of leading innocents up the proverbial garden path.
Once called I found the notion of becoming a clergyman increasingly absurd. Who in their right mind would want to spend the rest of their life with their collar back to front. Learning the ropes in my father's perfumery business seemed a far more sensible option. Sitting in the perfumery room, learning off the mysterious fragrances of nature, blending and matching, quietly subsumed the childish notion of the call. In fact, business as usual soon provided far more interest than my youthful excursion into religion. It was quietly absorbed into the cluttered memories of childhood.
My mother said to me it was about time we had our daughter "done", christened that is. I really didn't see the point, but then her birth should be celebrated, and what better way to do it? I rang up the local minister and went and saw him about booking in. We had a good talk, but then he asked me, "do you believe in Jesus?" Well of course I didn't, so I told him. We chatted on and he gave me a little book to read about Jesus and getting in with Him. I didn't really want to get in with Jesus just yet. Like the thief on the cross I thought it would be a good idea to wait till the last moment and then go for it. Going for it too early was likely to cruel too much of my fun. Anyway, after the christening I read his book. By the way, the christening was one of those memorable events when the child screams all the way through it. Not just when she was handed to the minister, but all the way through. We certainly all needed a drink after it. So I read his book, and yes, this Jesus bloke just seemed too real to me. It was either go with Him or go against Him. I didn't feel I could do anything else but go with Him. So I asked Him to be my mate. But what about the call?
The next week I rang for an appointment to see the principal of the Anglican theological college in Sydney. Moore Theological College is what it's called. His name was Dr. Knox, an imposing man in an imposing place. Still I had the call and so I did have to see him. I was petrified. What did I know about it all? Well I had attended Sunday School for two years, even went to church for a few years. None-the-less I didn't feel easy.
We talked, and one of the things he seemed keen on was the call. Did I have the call? That's what he wanted to know. Did I have the call? Did I what? Then he asked a full-on stupid question, "when did you become a Christian?" "Last week" I answered. He lowered his head and looked over his glasses. "Last week" he mused. The tone was different, the words were the same. I'd blown it. Call or no call, I wasn't getting in. "Now Bryan, I want you to come and see me next year and we will talk some more." All very unreasonable I thought to myself. I mean, what is a Christian?
One whole year is a long time for someone who has the call. Still I thought I should put my time in usefully, so I went back to church with wife and daughter. Funny thing church, particularly the Anglican church. Blokes running around in dresses, repeated words from a little book, and hymns. I didn't mind the hymns. We used to sing hymns at school and get the verses out of sinc'. If you can get three parts of the congregation singing three different verses, it has quite an interesting sound. Of course if you got caught you copped a switch around the legs.
I fronted up again the following year, and the year after that. A bit rude! It was then the good Dr. decided I could train for the ministry. I'm not sure what persuaded him. By this time I wasn't too sure about the call, and in any case I don't think he put too much weight on it either. Persistence was probably the quality that got me in.
So what about the call? I've been called many things over the years, but God's call, that's something quite special. Probably the word invitation would be better. Jesus invited me to be His friend for eternity. It's a general invite for everyone, and I am glad I took Him at His word. Jesus invited me to follow Him, to learn from Him, to be a disciple. That's an invitation for all His friends. I'm glad I took up the invite. As it turned out, I specialised in Bible teaching within the ordained ministry of the Anglican church. Pity help the Anglican church!
Did God call me into the ministry of the Anglican church? Well here's the rub. Jesus doesn't play chess with any particular church. He's just into people, people who want to know their Creator.