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Frames of Faith – Canon Maggie McLean

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I think one of the hardest things in life must be to do a job you don’t enjoy.

Milk round – getting up early on mornings like today – cold – dark – smelt of sour

Nothing wrong with the job – it just wasn’t the right job for me.

Our journey through life can be the story for each of us finding the right job.

It’s the role in life that fits who we are and makes the most of the gifts we’ve been given.

As someone once put it, ‘Find a job you love and never work a day in your life’.
It sounds simple – but the reality of finding that job can be far more challenging.

I know we have several serving and retired teachers at CTK and many only feel fully alive and engaged within the act of teaching.

(There are bad days of course and not all feel like this) but for those who find their fulfilment in helping others learn, who delight in those moments when a student is helped to achieve their full potential, there is nothing quite like it.

For others that sense of fulfilment may not come in a job but in a hobby. Something we do that brings us fully alive. Skiing down a well groomed piste; bungee jumping; creating something beautiful like church vestments, pictures, a play!

In all areas of life, if we are the right person with the right gifts, we can lose ourselves in the task.

It is often in these terms that people make the distinction between a job and a vocation.

As I said a moment ago, finding that activity or area of work can be difficult. For people of faith God is part of that seeking.

We believe God has made us all different, and each of has a combination of skills that is unique to us.

Christians will want to discern the part God has called us to play – the thing we have been uniquely made to do.

Sometimes we discover what this might be not through a positive experience, but a negative one. As someone once wrote:
“There is as much guidance from God in what does not happen and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does happen. Maybe more”.

This experience is sometimes called ‘testing a vocation’. We do something and find out from the experience that it’s not for us.

We learn from it about our self and about the world, and we try something else. What might appear to be failure becomes a major source of learning.

Today we have heard two very contrasting accounts people being called, finding their vocation. In fact they seem to range between the sublime and the ridiculous.

Young Samuel, helping Eli in the Temple, is quick to hear and respond to the call of God. Quite understandably Eli is slow to see what’s going on and who it is that is disturbing Samuel’s sleep. It takes three goes before the penny drops and Eli understands.

Philip, on the other hand, appears to leave his old life behind in response to the briefest call from Jesus.

Nathanael, even more startlingly, bases his entire recognition of Jesus on the fact that Jesus says he saw Nathanael sitting under a fig tree.

When Jesus says ‘You believe because I told you I saw you sitting under a fig tree’, it’s hard not to hear a chuckle in his voice.

We go from God having to nag Samuel into response to Nathanael acknowledging Jesus on what seems the most flimsy evidence.

If nothing else it tells us something about the multitude of ways that God calls us – and the diversity of people that call comes to.

This church, like all churches, has a responsibility to help people both encounter God and also come to understand what it is God wants them to do.

The Christian community at its best holds up a frame, opens a door, and encourages people to pay attention.

We want people to share our experience. To be looking and listening at those points in our lives when we are open to spiritual concerns.

I think this is one of the reasons why services of baptism, marriage and for bereavement are so important. It can be at these times when we reflect more deeply on the direction of our lives and what it might be that God is asking us to do.

In this season of Epiphany we are reflecting on how God is made known in the world.

The calling and encounters of Samuel and Nathaniel help us understand the variety of ways this happens.

For most of us our experience may feel like the call of Samuel or the encounter of Nathaniel.

Either way, it reminds us to pay attention to what’s going on around us – and use the frames of faith to see and understand God’s presence in the world around us.

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