Saturday, October 10, 2015

What do Callings Call?

Tomorrow I'm giving my lesson in Elder's Quorum for the month of October: the chapter called "Leadership" in the Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson manual. As I was preparing for that lesson, I came across a passage in the chapter that I really liked:
"He [Christ] helped us realize that the godlike qualities in each of us clamoring for expression can become glorious living realities. His example continues as the greatest hope and strength of mankind."
I realized a profound part of a leader's role while reading this quote: like Christ, he or she gets the good parts of us to "come out from hiding." While those "godlike qualities" are normally hidden unexpressed inside us, the leader "calls them out," letting them emerge into the light of day. Note that word: call. The leaders in the church "call" in more senses than one: not only do they call out that potential in us, but they also give us "callings" and sometimes also titles we can be "called" by (Elder, High Priest, teacher, chorister, etc.). But these different kinds of "calling" are really all the same thing. As philosopher Martin Heidegger notes in his What is Called Thinking:
"To call is not originally to name, but the other way around: naming is a kind of calling, in the original sense of demanding and commending. It is not that the call has its being in the name; rather every name is a kind of call. Every call implies an approach, and thus, of course, the possibility of giving a name."
In all those different kinds of "calling", the leader calls by "calling out." He calls out divine potential, as President Benson observed, but that divine potential is actually what different callings "call for." When the bishop gives you a calling as a Sunday School teacher, he's summoning the divine potential in you to fulfill that calling. He "calls forth" that possibility.

In all this "calling," it's the divine in us that's "being called," summoned, etc. But if we remind ourselves of the use of names as a kind of "calling" (that is, "I'm called Christian," or "she's called Brenna," etc.), then this gains a whole new dimension when we consider the fact that we covenant, "take upon us the name of Christ," as mentioned in countless places throughout the scriptures. This is something we do whenever we say "in the name of Jesus Christ" or any variant of that phrase, but what does it mean in the context of this post's idea? I'll put forward the notion that when we take the name of Christ upon us and we're thus "being called by His name," Christ is calling out to the Christ in us. Christ calls us Christ; Christ calls out to Him in us, to the divine revealed through Him in our spirits and bodies.

From this perspective, all our callings are ways for Christ to call out the Christ in us. Our callings are Christ calling us--calling us Christ, calling forth His divinity in us. But when we're called by Christ's name, at least in a sense, we no longer have our previous identity. As the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31:
"But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away."
When we are "in Christ," called by His name and full of His grace, all absolute ties between our existence and our identities are severed. We still weep, but it is as though we don't weep; we are still men and women, but it is as if we are neither. This is similar to the Law of Consecration: we still own our wealth and our property, but because we consecrate it to the Church, it is as if we did not own it. In Christ, all claim to pretension and possession vanishes: we consecrate our identities to Christ, and we receive all that Christ has in return.

This is how physical intimacy between a man and a woman is, even in the innocent, microcosmic ways that I've experienced: both the man and the woman give up their manhood and their womanhood to the "space" between them, and they are both able to enjoy both identities. In that intimacy, I experience both man and woman, though I claim neither identity for myself. We are both together in the "between," and we mingle our identities there.

And this is also what happens when we are given callings in the Church. Though I am called as an Elder's Quorum instructor, it is as though I'm not called in that way. For my ultimate identity lies not in that teacher-ship but in Christ, for all callings in the Church are callings that call out the Christ in us, as I said. The man who "descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth" calls out to "all things" in us. And so should it be surprising that since I've had my calling, I've experienced a connection to "the whole" like never before? I feel like I have a place in connection to the whole Church, that I'm somehow serving that totality through my calling. I think that each calling is a way for each member of the whole to serve every member of the whole. One for all and all for one.

I guess you could say that the main thought here has been that Christ--as the "all-in-one"--calls out to the all in us and so brings our nature as Christ or at least Christ-like. As I said, Christ calls us Christ; He calls forth Christ in us. We enter that space "between" all things that Christ represents, for as He who brought about the "at-one-ment," Christ makes as at-one with all things as we take on His name. In fact, I guess you could say that this is what the "gathering" is all about: Christ gathers Christ--His divinity--wherever it lies latent, hidden, or buried. He calls forth Christ by gathering Israel. Our callings, therefore, bring about the gathering, for they gather Christ as He lies scattered across the world, like leaven hidden in so much bread, like treasure hidden in a field.

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