In a previous church community, a favorite hymn of mine (and most of the congregation) was Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness, a fairly new hymn (1978) by James K. Manley. (More about this hymn in the Resources section at the bottom.) With a lilting tune, the hymn tells how God's spirit blew over the eons, moving to create the mountains and deeps, calling and molding a people to be God's people, and punishing when necessary. And, continuing today to call us to be God's instruments.
Although it speaks of the Spirit as Gentle, the title and the tune are about the only things gentle. The Spirit in the hymn is mighty and wild: it sweeps through the desert, it stings, and it goads. It's an appropriate hymn for the roaring wind of Pentecost.
The Spirit hymn includes a phrase that always intrigued me and seems especially appropriate in this season of a New Year: "You call from tomorrow". We may have heard God's call at various stages in our past; we may have a sense of a Call today. But, do we slow down, spend time in prayer and meditation and just be quiet to hear God's spirit calling from tomorrow?
In our church, at the two ends of the horizontal beam of the large cross, hang the Greek symbols of Alpha and Omega: the Beginning and the End. In the book of Revelation, Jesus says: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (22:13) Often when I see that cross, I think of the Spirit of God calling from the beginning to the end. Not only God's spirit calling through the eons, but also the Spirit calling to me: calling me in the early years, calling me today, and CALLING FROM TOMORROW. Am I listening?
At my age, it can be tempting to dismiss any "calls from tomorrow." I've done a lot. I think I've heard earlier calls and I hope that more often than not I've responded to them. I don't know if I want anymore calls. Let me just bask in retirement! Many my age (and unfortunately some much younger) seem to be hearing only calls or voices from the past. They obsess on remembering what supposedly were the good old days. They avoid mirrors, hoping to remember what once was. Even in churches, some dwell on the long-past saintly "Pastor Fred," forgetting that they had criticized him just as they do the new pastor. Institutions can avoid any calls from tomorrow and stagnate, hearing only past calls or simply preserving the present.
But, our God seems to be a God who calls. And calls us from tomorrow. Wow, God kept on calling Abraham even when he was 100! Maybe it isn't so surprising that God called Abraham at that advanced age; maybe what is surprising is that old Abraham was listening for a call from tomorrow.
The Judeo-Christian faith seems to be one of looking forward. But, we do need to look back and remember. Remembering the past helps us see how God was not only with God's people, but also with you and with me. However, we seem to be called to live in the present and keep listening for a call that may be coming from tomorrow.
At this time of the New Year, perhaps we can pause from our busyness (or basking in retirement) to listen for a Call from Tomorrow. Maybe we can hear a call from God like the ancients did through Isaiah: "See, I am doing a new thing!" (Isa. 43:19) Perhaps we might hear that Spirit of Gentleness calling from tomorrow: "I am doing a new thing. Come, join me. Together we can do this new thing!"