Hearing the call makes all the difference
This is the last of 44 columns I have written for Insights over the past four years. Unlike John Wesley’s 44 sermons, Niall Reid’s 44 columns are unlikely to be remembered much beyond the time of their writing, nor will Niall Reid be a name recognised by anyone 200 years from now.
My impact on the world will be minimal in the scheme of things.
John Wesley on May 24, 1738, at a meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, felt his “heart strangely warmed” as he listened to a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, an experience that would impact his theology, his ministry, his preaching, which from then on would focus upon bringing about revival in the church.
He saw this as his response to the call of God on his life.
I had a strange sensation of the heart in 2006 at Kincumber as, with others in retreat, we meditated on the scripture and God’s call upon our lives.
It was there that I had the feeling I would be called to be Moderator and, as time went by, that in that role I was to call the church to a ministry of grace.
Yet at times I ask myself if I have fulfilled what it was that God called me to be or to accomplish. Even though the influence of my life and ministry will never be of the order of John Wesley’s, I have no doubt God’s call was upon my life, to be one of the cogs in the great machinery of God’s mission.
Just because we are not a John Wesley or a Martin Luther King or a Desmond Tutu or a Billy Graham does not mean we are not called. Every great person has been touched or influenced by people, family, friends, teachers, mentors and communities who will never be remembered, acknowledged or revered but without whom these great leaders would not have gone on to achieve in the way that they did.
I am a great believer in the call of God on all our lives. God’s call is not only for ministers or missionaries and it is not only concerned with activities within the church.
The call of God is to be discerned by every Christian, every person, every community of faith.
I believe that it is important for us to recapture the idea of vocation not simply for those who serve within the institution of the church. We are to be agents of God in whatever we do, wherever we are.
Maybe, if what we have seen simply as a job we come to understand as a vocation, it will become a means of transformation: transforming our own attitudes, motivations and actions; transforming the lives of others and the communities to which we belong.
God’s call is not simply to whatever we might do on a Sunday or within the institution of the church or within the walls of a church building; it is a call to be the church in the whole of life and work and play, in every day and in everything.
Yes, most of us are called to be and do things that won’t be seen as earth moving in themselves but may have greater impact than we will ever know. That’s because what we have said or done, the example we have given, cumulatively with the little vocational activities of others, begins to shift a community, a way of thinking, a way of being and possibly makes all the difference in the life of someone who goes on to change the world.
As the Uniting Church, not simply a building on a street corner, or an institution based in Pitt Street but as the leaven in the loaf, the church in the world, we are called to be a community of grace, a prophetic voice to the church and the world providing a glimpse of who God is and what can be. I truly believe this.
Thank you to all those who have encouraged me in my vocation, blessed me with their prayers and shared with me in serving Christ through the life of the Church.
Niall Reid, Moderator 2007-2011