In last week's posting I completed the two part series that introduced a Christian worldview construct that I find helpful in understanding what it means to be a "follower of The Way" and how Scripture unfolds the purposes of God for followers throughout history. I nicknamed it the Life Spiral aka a Missions Cycle. In this post and the next I want to briefly hone in on our sense of vocation, our "calling". It arises out of a state of seeking to glorify God and it is rooted in a particular location determined by Him, not by our own priorities or preferences...
Tangata whenua (indigenous New Zealand Māori lit.: “people of the land”) know well the importance of a call. It features as an integral part of relationship building between residents of a place and strangers seeking to become friends. The online Māori dictionary explains that the formal Karanga is,
“…a ceremonial call of welcome to visitors onto a marae, or equivalent venue, at the start of a pōwhiri (welcome ceremony). The term is also used for the responses from the visiting group to the tangata whenua ceremonial call. Karanga follow a format which includes addressing and greeting each other and the people they are representing and paying tribute to the dead, especially those who have died recently.”
The English word “call” is probably derived from the Welsh “galw”. In English we intermingle this Welsh with Latin so that “calling” is related to many words with the Latin root “voco”: vocal, advocate, irrevocable, provoke, revoke, equivocal, even vowel and vocabulary. It is also the root of vocation.
The Māori use of “karanga” is similar to the Welsh “galw” but does not completely match the Latin “voco”. Nevertheless we can marry together two converging ideas and explore what this can mean for followers of Jesus in a spiritual sense, especially when it comes to thinking about why God has put us on this earth – why God has put YOU on this earth.
The Apostle Paul shared some of his testimony with first century believers of Galatia who lived in the highlands of what is now the region Anatolia in modern day Turkey. In Galatians 1:15 he declares something that is true for all of us… “But even before I was born, God CHOSE me and CALLED me by his marvelous grace.” He goes on to describe his specific calling, “Then it pleased him to reveal His Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.”
A “call” is an intention made known.
It is directed at an audience, whether of one or many people. An integral part of relationship building for Māori is acknowledging and respecting the separate lineages represented by the people meeting. Those lineages carry a certain social currency that helps cement relationships. It locates the people in a place and time. It provides important context, making the encounter real, and establishes who they are. It is witnessed by all present who confirm the “call” via the rest of the pōwhiri (getting-to-know-you ceremony). Acceptance of the reciprocated calls is confirmed via the sharing of breath (hongi, a nose pressing greeting) then sharing of ‘bread’ (kai).
When God calls He intends to be heard. It’s primarily a desire for relationship, an invitation for you to join Him in something eternally wonderful. No kidding. We’re not talking some fantasy game wordplay here. It’s “all-or-nuthin’” real-life action time. You could choose not to listen but you won’t be satisfied until you do. He’s placed a desire to fulfill His call in your DNA. “Even before I was born…” Paul said. The sooner you get in the game, the better.
Next week we will look at how this works out in your daily life. In the meantime...
Follower of Jesus, what might it be that God is saying to you?
Have you got your fingers in your ear for fear of what you might hear?
Do you surround yourself with 'white noise' to block out His whisper?
Do you engage in manic activity so you don't have time to sit and listen?
Let me assure you, until you listen, you will never be able to satisfy that nagging sense of "surely I was meant for more than this?" Because YOU ARE.