When I was going through the ordination process, it felt like I told my “call story” a hundred times. In ministerial circles, a “call story” is the story of the way one came to be a minister. Call stories, of course, are varied. Some are dramatic, with “lightning bolt” or Damascus Road experiences. Others of us have more nuanced stories that have unfolded over time.
For me, the beauty of having told my story repeatedly is that I have discovered themes or patterns that highlighted important moments and people in my life. For one thing, I learned how central mentors, especially clergy mentors, were in my story. Both local church pastors and college chaplains shaped my journey in deeply formative ways. It is no surprise to me (or to others) that I am a college chaplain today.
In today’s reading, Paul is clearly giving us a glimpse of the way he interprets his own call story. “If I preach the gospel, I have no reason to brag, since I’m obligated to do it” (CEB). “I did not choose the ministry; it chose me,” he seems to be saying. For Paul, it is the message of the gospel and what it means that draws him into ministry. Everything he does is for the sake of the gospel. He provides this information without any expectation of reward.
Discerning our call story is an important part of our journey. We make meaning out of our lives as we reflect on questions such as who it is who calls us and what it is that we are called to do. We are also wise to pay attention to the strengths and gifts we bring with us.
What is your call story? What gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in life and moves you and your community toward flourishing? How is that inspired by the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Holy one, accompany us as we discern our calling. Give us courage to proclaim your gospel. Amen.
What is the ultimate source of our strength? All the authors for this week come to the same conclusion: True strength comes from the Lord. Isaiah asks: “Who is like God?” God never grows weary and provides unfailing strength to those who wait for God. The psalmist praises God as the one who lifts up those who are beaten down. It is not those with human strength who are truly mighty but those empowered by God. In First Corinthians, Paul states that he has laid down any form of his own strength so that the gospel may advance. In Mark, Jesus heals many as a demonstration of his power over the physical world. Thus, God’s power is not just a metaphor but a reality.
Read Isaiah 40:21-31. In what ways do you call on God’s unfailing strength? How is that strength sustaining you?
Read Psalm 147:1-11, 20. How do you experience God’s provision in your life? What is your response to God?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:16-23. How are you living out God’s call to you? How has your call evolved over time?
Read Mark 1:29-39. Where is your “deserted place” where you spend time alone with God? What helps you maintain a discipline of spending time alone with God each day?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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