The power of invitations and introductions

By John E. Flower

Our life and world is always changing. Sometimes it just kind of sneaks up on you until you realize -- hey, it's a new day, a new era of life. Sometimes it's more quick, more dramatic, and even miraculous.

After work one evening, I was jogging at the track and fell in step beside another fella jogging. We chatted for a couple of laps about mostly meaningless things, enjoying the air, the push of the jogging pace, and the fellowship.

We exchanged names and while doing so found that we had the same work titles, but our work descriptions were quite different, and his sounded fascinating.

He said his company was just up the street from mine, was hiring, and he'd see if there was still time to interview. Days later I had a great new job, a raise in pay, and a new city to explore.

I always found church to be a fine place to meet a lot of interesting people, as well as where to find ways to be meaningfully helpful. We had a strong young singles group, and our upcoming meeting was having a guest speaker.

I arrived a little early, greeted a few friends, and settled in a chair. At the last moment a new and attractive young woman arrived sat down on the opposite side of the room.

The speaker gave his intro and then chose me and her to use as a topic illustration, asking us a number of life and personality questions. His intent was to prove how difficult it was even in a homogenous group to find truly compatible people.

He finished instead by suggesting we make an effort to get to know one another he thought we had potential. A year later we were engaged, and as you read this we are celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary.

I enjoy introducing people to other people and places and things I think they might like. Don't you? And isn't great when it works out.

After having been the beneficiary of a number of gracious invitations and introductions, I eventually accepted invitations to become a pastor. They refer to that as a "call story" which perhaps I'll share in more detail another time.

I sometimes wonder why more people don't more obviously live their lives in Christ and Spirit, to the glory of God and to the encouragement of others. Doesn't everyone meet and know Jesus? I think everyone has, without exception.

But it recently occurred to me there is a difference between having met and having been introduced. I saw the guy at the track, and I'd heard of the company he works for, but what if he'd never shared with me about it, and never gave the invitation to come and interview?

I saw the young woman arrive at the meeting, but what if we had never been introduced in some fashion?

In the Bible's first book of Samuel, chapter three, the young boy Samuel, at the request of his mother, was being mentored by Eli, the old priest who had two grown sons of his own. They slept on opposite sides of the same great room.

One evening Samuel heard his name being called, awakened, and went to Eli to see what he was calling for. Eli said he did not call, to go back to bed.

Again Samuel heard his name called, and again to Eli, who again said he did not call, go to bed. Three times this happened, then Eli, prepared by his years with the church, discerned what was happening.

It wasn't Eli, or any man. This was a spiritual moment, and it was the Lord God calling. Eli told Samuel to go back to bed, but if it happens again, to consider that it could well be God.

God called Samuel by name a fourth time. Through Eli's spiritual mentoring Samuel now recognized the voice of God, and invited God to open the intended conversation.

This is a big moment for Samuel and for biblical history. It must have been a marvel to Eli too, given the seemingly small role Eli played in the story.

Samuel went on, like Eli, to hear God call many times. So have I. So have others. Even today it is not unusual.

When have you felt the presence of God, heard God call, felt the leading of the Spirit? These are big moments in life and worthy to tell others. Be a witness of today's callings and become a spiritual mentor.

Enjoy the excitement of being newly called, and the pleasure of the role the Eli's of this world sacredly hold.

Rev. John E. Flower, Jr., pastor of First United Methodist Church of Clarion.