Jesus calls. His invitation is a quiet whisper at times, a thundering alarm at others. It can happen anywhere at any time.
Jesus has been calling out to people for millennia. "Calls" is our Jesus verb today. Last week in the column I shared that for every Wednesday of Lent, we'll be unraveling a different Jesus verb together.
The goal is that by the end of this Lenten excursion, we all feel a deepened connection to Jesus.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus does a lot of calling. The pattern is often the same: Jesus calls an individual or group over to him, and then he shares a significant truth.
In Luke 18:16, he calls a group of children over to him, and then he articulates the value of young people to the whole crowd. In Mark 8:34, Jesus calls out to a group of people, and then he teaches them about the importance of denying oneself.
Again and again, Jesus calls. After that, he expresses insights about what it means to follow him.
Jesus' call pattern continues today. First, he calls out to us. Then, he teaches us about justice, kindness, service, and love. His call doesn't generally arrive directly via cell phone or postal letter. Instead, the call is often more indirect and experiential. An intuition felt deep within. An insight gained through a conversation. The wisdom gleaned from a hymn verse.
Jesus calls out to us through the various mediums of our everyday lives. After he calls and captures our attention, then he leads us. Last week, I heard Jesus calling in the midst of a worship service.
Now that I am serving in a new pastoral role at the synod office, I am not leading worship on a weekly basis in a congregation. This transition presents the exciting opportunity to connect with what church participation feels like in a different way.
I'm genuinely looking forward to this new chapter, but I was struggling as I sat down in the pew and waited for Ash Wednesday worship to begin. I felt lost and uncertain about my purpose. The realization that my thumb would not be used to make the sign of the cross in ashes on anyone's forehead was causing an unexpected amount of distress. I was in a new place among new people.
The evening service began. Sunlight beamed brightly through the back windows.
From where I was sitting, I saw the back of hundreds of people's heads. With the intensity of the light coming in, it was like a flashlight was directed at the back of each and every person.
Jesus called in that moment. I grabbed a tiny pencil from the pew and scratched his guiding words onto the back of my bulletin so I could remember them: "See my people and my church in a new way, from a new perspective."
Truth be told, I relished the old view. The one I had from the pulpit. But now, I've got a new view, and this one is pretty spectacular, too. As the light shined so beautifully upon everyone in the sanctuary that evening, Jesus was calling me to experience faith from a new vantage point.
As the ashes were placed on my forehead that night, a deep and permeating peace filled my spirit.
Jesus calls out to us at different points along the journey. When he does, we are invited to take note. There are insights to gain and wisdom to absorb. May you hear his call throughout the experiences and interactions of the week ahead.