There is no hierarchy of callings in God’s eyes. Your calling is as important as any other. Your calling has its validity in the one who called you.
This is the message that anti-apartheid activist and academic, Rev Prof Allan Boesak had for the new seminarians.
Prof Boesak was preaching in a Sunday service to welcome the Class of 2018, on 21 January.
Reflecting on the life of Isaac in Genesis where Isaac seems to be the dim little star among the great shining stars – Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, Prof Boesak said it is alright to be like Isaac.
“Abraham’s life is characterised by hearing God’s voice and moving into the future. He is the one who boldly negotiates God down on behalf of those two cities that God wants to destroy. Jacob comes onto the scene, steals his brother, Esau’s blessing, lies to his father and we love him. Everyone wanted to be Joseph, the favourite of the father who rises in the palace to become second in command of Egypt, the empire of the time, with all that power. Abraham, Jacob and Joseph lived lives of high drama.
“Isaac’s life is characterised by immobility, and he does not go anywhere. He stays almost stuck in one place. From all appearances, Isaac is the most unremarkable man. He seems to live a life of quiet desperation and internalised pain. We know Isaac as the long awaited son of Abraham and Sarah. We know Isaac as the young boy who goes with his father, does not know where they are going or why, and he is almost sacrificed. We know Isaac as the confused and deceived and helpless father of Esau and Jacob. We know him as the guy who lived with his mother until he was forty years old. It took him that long to find a girlfriend,” Prof Boesak said.
He urged the new students to stop worrying about the nature of their calling and to stop comparing themselves with others, for it is alright to be Isaac.
“You are here today because God called you for a reason. It does not matter what people say about you or how they may judge you. You do not have to be Abraham or Jacob. You do not have to sit on a throne in Egypt to be special. God has called Isaac as much as He has called Abraham. You are what God has called you to be if you keep yourself to the power of the Holy Spirit. She will take care of you. She will mould you. She will lift you up.
“Being different does not mean that you are deficient. Your ministry is different; it is not deficient. So Abraham must not make you feel that you are deficient. And anyway, any deficiencies that you might have, in the bible that I read Jesus says; ‘My grace is sufficient.’ Whatever the challenges and the difficulties, if you hold on to that grace you will be found sufficient,” Prof Boesak said.
In this era when church leaders are tempted to ingratiate themselves with the political leadership, Prof Boesak urged the students to stay true to God’s calling.
“God says to Isaac, ‘Do not go to Egypt. Stay in this land. Egypt is the place of temptation; it is the land of wealth. It is the heart of empire where there is power, privilege and unending prosperity. Egypt is the place where you give up. I know the temptation.’ We are in the struggle against evil and injustice. God says, hold on to the faith and the courage that I have given you,” he said.
He expressed concern that the church is no longer as prophetic as it was during the struggle against apartheid.
“After 1994, we found the voice of power so close to our ear and we forgot that there is another voice that is the Holy Spirit that we have to listen to. We were so mesmerised by Mandela that we forgot to be faithful to Jesus. Looking at the things that you never had before, an invitation to the Union Buildings, to the presidential dinner where you network with all those billionaires and millionaires who became so rich in such a short time.
“In your ministry, you will have the same question as Isaac, shall I stay or shall I go? I am telling you do not go, do not be lured by power, do not be seduced by privilege, do not let the voice of status be louder than the voice that whispers into your ear that says; you be my humble child and I will keep you, do not forget that voice that says ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God with its justice, power of love, peace and inclusivity before you look for all these other things’. You get these things anyway but you will not receive them as a bribe from the hand of Caesar,” he said.
Prof Boesak encouraged the future ministers to be prophetic when preaching the word of God and was quick to warn them that it will entail being aliens.
“A prophet who speaks the truth of God to the world in which we live will never belong. You will always be an alien and they will ask why you cannot just shut up and take the money that they want to give you and leave in peace to make more money. That is what you are going to hear. Stay as an alien. It is hard to remain faithful every day when you see the wicked prosper and you have to battle every day to survive.
“Stay in your own church even though you feel like an alien in your own home, in the place where God has placed you. The only guarantee you have is the promise of God: ‘I will be with you, I will bless you and I will fight your battles’. Stay here and face the challenges, tribulations, disappointments and setbacks in this place where the promise must be fulfilled through you. Do not go to Egypt. Stay without guarantees but never without hope,” he said.
Prof Boesak said many people will be envious when God blesses you, not because God has never blessed them but because they just cannot stand you being blessed. He was quick to advise the students not to go away but to stay and dig other wells.
“If they come and tell you that they doubt your calling, do not run away, dig other wells because you know God is faithful. And if you stay through your ministry, there will come a time when people will say they have found water. You will feed a whole congregation and community because they have found water through you because you stayed. If you stay the wells will be opened again. If you stay, the hungry will be fed. If you stay, the poor will hear the good news. If you stay liberation will come to all our people. If you stay the name of God will be glorified again,” Prof Boesak concluded.