I. Calling and Call
Calling is the category by which we seek to understand and to elucidate the dynamic and content of God’s calling to us and others. We begin with an affirmation about God, whom we have known in and through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit.
God is the one whose very being includes calling. The creating God calls the world into being, and all that is in it. God’s calling is to Abraham and Sarah, to David and to Solomon, and to the multitude of generations of the Hebrew people. In the New Testament God is calling through Jesus Christ–among others–fishermen, those with leprosy, a tax collector, a Samaritan woman, and Marys and Marthas by the score. Through Paul, God’s calling is addressed to the Gentiles. God is the one calling the creation to remember the source and end of all that is and will be. God as the calling God initiates the relationship that is our destiny and our hope. We are, individually and corporately, invited and compelled to answer that call. The calling God reorders all that is so that individually and corporately we can be those people, individually and together, that God intends. In theology we seek to discern more clearly the content and the consequences of God’s calling. The initial focus is on who God is and what God does.
In contrast to calling, calls are those channels through which God’s calling comes to us. The initial focus is on the social, cultural, and ecclesiastical structures that provide conduits through which God’s calling is mediated. We hear God’s calling not abstractly but through the concrete challenges and opportunities that surround us. Through these transactions God’s calling and our response may and do converge. To respond to the calling God is to respond to calls in the world. We only respond to God’s calling through mediating structures. These calls give shape and form to God’s calling and therefore to our response to God’s calling.
The calling is God’s calling to us and to others. The call or the calls are the concrete and specific (though not unambiguous) locations for hearing and responding to God’s calling. For example, a call to a professional ecclesiastical office is one form of hearing and responding to God’s calling. But it is not one that excludes other calls–parenting, being a citizen, etc. Calling is singular. Calls are plural. Calling is enduring. Calls are provisional. Calling is universal in scope. Calls are geographically, socially, temporally, and culturally specific. Calling is of ultimate significance. Calls partake of the ultimate. Calling gives integrity to the multiplicity of calls. God’s calling cries out for specificity in calls. Through calls God’s calling is “embodied.”