Part 1: Who’s calling?

This piece is inspired by a talk I gave to a local parish women’s group in 2016. I’ll split it into three parts. The first: Who’s Calling?

My daughter is two years old. For her, when you call someone, you see their faces. Admittedly, she calls few people – namely her grandparents. And she knows exactly how it works on my iPhone – push the button, listen to an odd ringtone, and then bling! There’s Jamma. Or Papa. Or whomever else is visiting. This is what a phone is to her.

We have a video monitor to look at her while she’s in her bedroom sleeping. It’s crazy technology.

She thinks the monitor (this monitor) is HER phone. Since she could hold it, she was fascinated with this device – pressing the buttons, looking at the screen, everything.

Lately, now that she’s older, my husband – clever fellow – has taken to placing one of her favorite stuffed animals in front of the camera and handing her the monitor to see ‘who’s calling you!’ She can get into it and have a little conversation with the teddy bear or dolly who appears in the screen.

I understand that the theme of this semester’s WINGS groups is ‘We Are Called,’ and so this morning I want to invite us to contemplate three questions: Who is calling? What’s the message? And How do we respond?

So, that’s what we’ll work with this morning – and for each section, I will include a story from our Scriptural tradition – one about who is calling; one about what is the message – and one about how could we possibly respond.

Sophia- my daughter – is always eager to know who’s calling. To hear their voice, yes. But even more… to see their faces. To read their expressions. To know their love and longing for her.

Can we too become fascinated with who is calling us? God, of course, doesn’t use an iPhone – I believe that God wants to come to us directly. To read our expressions. To communicate. To have a conversation. So that we might know God’s love and longing for us.

Who is calling?

When we are in prayer and trying to hold an attentive posture to the call, indeed, the caller could be anyone. But to consider one way God has manifested in our tradition, let us turn to the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs we will find a non-traditional, but compelling, image of God… Proverbs gives us a woman shouting in the streets – right in the heart of society. She has strong words for her listeners. Check them out:

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
    I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
    I hate pride and arrogance,
    evil behavior and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
    I have insight, I have power.

My fruit is better than fine gold;
    what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
    along the paths of justice,
bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
    and making their treasuries full.”

And now that we’ve heard the traditional translation, let’s cut Lady Wisdom loose… (from the translation known as The Message, the life’s work of Pastor Eugene Peterson).

“I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity;
    Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street.
The Fear-of-God means hating Evil,
    whose ways I hate with a passion—
    pride and arrogance and crooked talk.
Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics;
    I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out.

My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary;
    the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus.
You can find me on Righteous Road—that’s where I walk—
    at the intersection of Justice Avenue,
Handing out life to those who love me,
    filling their arms with life—armloads of life!”

Let’s hear it for Armloads of Life! Good counsel and common sense! What more do we need right now? This passage is a monologue of the character Lady Wisdom, who appears most frequently in Biblical text in the middle of the Bible – right around Wisdom, Proverbs, and Sirach.

Can’t you just picture her shouting on a street corner – a capacious, grounded, wise woman telling it like it is? I love this image of God — calling us, inviting us, commanding us to live better, dig deeper, to suck the marrow out of the life She made us for.

She promises that pursuing her, the deep fundamental truths of the universe is what will bring us the satisfaction we crave.

She is confident.

She is vocal.

She is looking at you. And me.

Read the whole thing here: Proverbs 8

You might be heartened to hear that high school students are eager to practice virtues. They can see the value of them. One assignment I give my students is to choose a virtue – wisdom or courage or love or moderation, any of them, and to keep a journal for one week of how they have practiced living this virtue in their lives. And I get back some of the most beautiful reflections – how students chose to tell their mothers they loved them every day for a week; how they chose to turn off their cell phones while doing their homework to practice moderation – how they chose to say something when one of their friends made a joke at someone else’s expense or had the courage to say something when someone said something racist. It would really inspire you to read these reflections. They do want to practice these virtues. They are hungry for wisdom – as, I think, we all are.

In the next post: What is the message?

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