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God Calling

The Rev. Dr. William Rich
May 9, 2019

I was a wet-behind-the-ears first year seminarian in the fall of 1977.  In the hopes of getting to know some fellow students, I remember the night I wandered into The Fatted Café, a student hang-out in the lower-level of one of the dorms at Yale Divinity School.  Even more vividly, I remember the shock that night of hearing a fellow-seminarian strumming her guitar and singing a gospel song unlike anything this buttoned-up Episcopalian had ever heard before: The Royal Telephone.  Among the words were these:

                        “Central’s never busy, always on the line,

                        You can hear from heaven almost any time.

                        ‘Tis a royal service, built for one and all….”

I didn’t know what to think.  Was it okay to laugh?  Was I supposed to take it seriously?  Could I both laugh AND take it seriously?


That song helped me to begin letting go of a too-narrow and “mystified/mystical” understanding of the word vocation.  Clergy, I began to see, are not the only ones who have a vocation.  The Royal Telephone gave me my first glimpse into a more spacious understanding of vocation: God can be calling anyone at any time.  God has built vocation “for one and all.”  God desires to call all people at all times, and if we restrict our understanding of call to something “special” we may miss the call.  For usually the call is not to something grand, but to something smaller and specific, for the here and now—in the midst of the life one is already leading.


One great theme of the Fifty Days of Eastertide is that, through being raised with Christ into the new life of resurrection, God calls us to become living vessels of the love of Christ.  On Morgan Allen’s first Sunday as Trinity’s Rector, we heard Jesus commission the gathered church in these words: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)  As Morgan made clear in his sermon that day, in this Easter story, Jesus commissions not just the “inner circle” of his close and original followers, but all of us—clergy and lay, long-time Christians and the newly baptized, those used to being at the center and those more at the margins—to be bearers of mercy, grace, and peace together.  For it takes the whole body of Christ to hear God’s call and respond to it.


God’s call to you may come at “almost any time” and almost any place—at home or at work, at the ball park or on the T, at church on Sunday or in the bar on Saturday night.  And the call will be the same to each of us: to receive and pass on the resurrecting love of Christ so that someone else can know new life.  What a magnificent vocation we share!


In the joy of Christ’s Easter peace,


The Rev. William W. Rich





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