The biblical authors are certain that everyone reading their writings has received a unique call from God, so they’re very careful when they include "call narratives" in their works. They want to help us, the readers, reflect on our own calls.

That’s why scriptural calls always contain two basic elements: God’s holiness and power, and our weakness and unworthiness. Neither can be separated from the other. An all-powerful God gives us weak humans the strength to carry out the call. They’re two dimensions of one event.

Isaiah’s call is classic (Is 6: 1-8). The prophet initially experiences Yahweh’s magnificence. God is "seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of His garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above...crying ‘Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of hosts! All the earth is filled with His glory!"

Unworthy

Such an experience quickly leads Isaiah to reflect on his imperfections. "Woe is me," he exclaims, "I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips."

But one of Yahweh’s seraphs quickly burns away Isaiah’s wickedness, and he hears God call: "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?"

Isaiah no longer has an excuse. God has removed his unworthiness. "Here I am," he responds, "send me!"

Paul’s call-experience parallels Isaiah’s (I Cor 15: 1-11). After clicking off an early Christian list of disciples who witnessed Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, Paul adds one more name to the list, specifically for his Corinthian community: "Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me."

The phrase "born abnormally" refers to the fact that the risen Jesus entered Paul’s life even before he converted to Jesus, while he was still actively persecuting "the church of God." Paul’s own experienced demonstrates that no one is ever too unworthy to be called.

It also demonstrates the power of God that accompanies the call. "By the grace of God," Paul proclaims, "I am what I am, and His grace to me has not been ineffective."

But lest anyone think Paul is the only one on his list unworthy to receive a call, Luke sets the record straight with the Gospel (Lk 5 :1-11). Peter is the most famous member of Jesus’ Twelve at the time Luke writes in the 80s. That’s why the evangelist constructs his narrative around the outspoke Galilean fisherman. Because his readers know the significance of Jesus calling Peter to follow Him, Luke deliberately displays this most important disciples at his worst.

Fishing

When Jesus commands, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch!" peter first tries to set him straight. "Master," he reminds Him, "we have worked all night and caught nothing." But then he humbly adds, "At your command, I will lower the nets."

The unexpected catch of fish forces Peter to fall down before Jesus and make a classic statement of unworthiness: "Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man."

Jesus never denies Peter’s appraisal of himself. He simply ignores it, tells Peter not to be afraid of his shortcomings and calls him to start being concerned with something far more important than fish: people.

Luke ends the narrative with a sentence understood by every disciple of Jesus through the centuries: "When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Him."

Some of us presume Jesus has never issued a call in our direction simply because we don’t think we have what it takes to respond correctly. It takes a terrific amount of courage and determination to "leave everything."

Perhaps we should take the time to read a few call narratives. We might discover something about our own calls.

(02-01-01)