Thought for the Month:Our calling is friendship

July 30 2019

Thought for the Month, with Stephen Newell, pastor, Zion United Church, Frampton Cotterell

I WAS asked to preach recently with the theme: what is our calling in life? It all sounds rather grand, and it's the sort of thing that you'd expect a 'church minister' to talk about. But in truth it's a key question for us all. What are the things that make life feel meaningful and good? What gets us out of bed in the morning? (For me this is basically nothing...I am NOT a morning person, I only feel called to more bed in the morning!!)

Of course our calling depends on the stage of life we are at. But I do think there are some principles. Strangely I would summarise these as fun and friendship! For instance, a child at school is called to have fun. Now I realise that they also need to learn stuff, but relationships and friendships and family are often the key that unlocks fulfilment and potential. When kids aren't enjoying life, something is seriously wrong. Indeed, I would add that for all of us a massive part of our calling is to love and enjoy those around us. While I don't like some of the nuances that attend the phrase, 'charity begins at home' (it may begin there but for most it shouldn't end there), certainly it is true that a big part of our calling is to love and enjoy our friendships, families and work colleagues. Doing stuff that we enjoy is great, but if we do stuff we enjoy and help someone else as well, isn't that a double blessing?

I suspect most would agree with this, but perhaps you think that this doesn't sound like a very 'grand' calling. Surely as a minister I should be 'saving' something or someone! Well, in my view, no one ever got saved without friendship. Friends, real friends, help us to discover who we are and unlock our often hidden aptitudes. To cherish the people around you and invest in them becoming their best is at the heart of our calling. If you want to think deeper then these ideas of friendship are mirrored in the best understandings of faith.

The first statement from the Westminster Confession 1647, a very ancient 'confession' from my faith tradition, asks: “What is the chief and highest end of man?”

Answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

Obviously here the friendship and enjoyment is with God rather than with people, but it is definitely about enjoyment and relationship.

I realise some struggle to understand and grasp the whole relationship with God idea. I suppose that is understandable, especially when we have often painted God in such an unfriendly light. However, I argue that we discover our true calling in radical friendship. Perhaps if I paint friendship with God as friendship with the world he has made, some will find that easier. We discover ourselves when we offer friendship to whatever and whoever God places in front of us, especially when that friendship takes on the form of going the extra mile, or turning the other cheek, or dancing with joy at a beautiful sunset, or choosing to live more gently in our world.

So discover your calling in life by developing your friendships: enjoy them, cherish them, be interested in them. What better time to do that than over the summer? Why not go the extra mile and invite someone round, share a drink, enjoy a few laughs?

If you know someone isolated or lonely, pop over or send a card and, dare I say it, think whether there is something that you can enjoy about God or his wonderful world. If so, enjoy it!