Do You Know Where You Are?
After graduating railroad conductor school, I was sent to Cleveland, Ohio for several weeks of hands-on training. There we worked different shifts, with different crews on many different tasks in the hopes that when we were called to conduct our own trains, we would be ready. Every morning we had a safety meeting called a “job briefing” which were usually held outside before we began our actual work. On a nearby shanty there was a safety poster which read: WHEREVER YOU ARE BE THERE! One co-worker from Boston would turn to me each day and say with his thick New England accent: Do you know where you arrrrh?” In light of our calling in the world, we too must ask ourselves that question: DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?
For many weeks, we have explored the subject of calling. Frequently people talk about being called to a certain profession, such as people who work as caregivers, medical people, teachers, nursing home professionals, etc. But do we ever think of that calling in terms of God? Too often we make the mistake to assigning a “God given call” exclusively to people in the ministry while secular calling remains in a different realm - a vocation. Is there a difference? Should we make a distinction? Consider how Christian author, Dr. Os Guinness, describes the relationship of calling to every day vocation: “God usually calls us in line of our giftedness, the purposes of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.”
What does he mean? Let’s start with thinking about how many hours a person spends working in their lifetime. Forty hours a week; fifty weeks a year; forty-five years until retirement. That is a lot of hours! A friend and mentor used to talk about the time an “ordinary commuter” spent on a bus or train into New York city. Are you ready for it? It is over 500 hours a year! And with the ability to log into the cyber world, each person’s work can begin the moment they are in transit, hours before their work day actually starts. And at the end of the day, the same thing occurs on the way home also! When I had a regular job with a regular schedule on the railroad, I saw my engineer more than my wife! The truth is we become our careers. It absorbs us, dominates us and defines us! The challenge is to redefine and rethink this perspective. What if we considered ourselves stewards of God’s gifts and talents? What if we considered our calling from the perspective of: “Do what you are in accordance to God’s call” instead of “you are what you do?” I think that point hit home during the pandemic as truck drivers, railroaders, store clerks and others, people we often take for granted, became “essential workers.”
We spend a great deal of time training on our individual call but there is a calling greater than ourselves; is there such a thing as a national call? That is an often neglected but very essential in our present era. In a time where “unity” is being called for but sadly not being embraced, we need to re-examine this national call in context of scripture. Is there a national call on the church as the Body of Christ?
This question is hardly new. Back in the 1970’s, one historian noted that Christian faith in America was essentially “socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging.” It can be argued that little has changed. Does our present conclusion emanate from the fact that we don’t know how to apply our faith to a world in need, or have we assigned our faith to the four walls of our own houses and churches? “The problem with Western society,” Dr. Guinness believed it is “not that we are absent from where we should be, but instead are absent from answering the call from where we are.” Did you ‘get’ that carefully worded guide? Remember that safety logo: WHEREEVER YOU ARE BE THERE ? This is what God is calling us to - everyday.
Who is Jesus? That is what we asked a few months ago in a sermon series. Jesus is not just a religious leader; he is the Lord of all. Is he the Lord of your life? If so, how do we take Christ to the world? The answer is complicated: if we go too far, we can make the gospel a political endorsement; or if we go too far in the other direction, it becomes a private, irrelevant faith confined to our homes. Dr. Guinness offers several options, one of them is to jettison the idolatry of choice. “Choice” can be a loaded word, but here it is not. Choice merely means following the Savior unconditionally. Then by following Christ, we can claim the Great Story as ours.
Think about the following paradox: we are the most connected society in terms of electronics and communication in history; but at the same time the most isolated and lonely. Is there a remedy? Yes, there is! By being a follower of Christ we can achieve meaning, purpose and identity in a topsy-turvy world. We can have purpose with single-mindedness about Christ without being fanatical, intolerant and mean-spirited. This is found in answering the call with a “yes” and saying “no” to the chaos of our present world.
In light of what we have said, I close with the words from Arabaella K. Haney’s famous song:
I love to tell the story of unseen things above.
Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love;
I love to tell the story, ’cause I know its true,
It satisfies my longings, as nothing else would do.
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best,
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old , old story that I have loved so long.
My prayer for you is that wherever you are, you will be there following the Savoir fully while finding meaning and purpose in Christ.
Yours in Christ,