Being called out means having attention focused on you, usually alone and apart from others. If you are lucky, being called out means being uplifted and honored. Not too long ago, a young soldier visited the White House to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor from the President. He had displayed bravery, facing danger in combat by running into the face of enemy fire more than a dozen times to carry wounded comrades to safety. Being called out from the ranks, he received the highest honor a member of the military can receive, and he deserved that honor.
Being called out can also have negative connotations, particularly when our behavior is less than appreciated. We might have exceeded the allowances of community norms. We might have ruffled one too many feathers. Whatever the case might be, being called out in that sense of the phrase means a consequent subjection to probity, accusation and even rejection. Not too long ago, a young performer on a video awards show pushed the limits of propriety, indulged in teasing the "shock factor" of the crowd and attempted to assert herself as a "grownup" artist after having been a child star. She may have been attempting to "just be herself," but in the end-at least to attend her critics who have called her out-she wound up only pushing buttons and not the limits of her art.
These are the dramatically disparate poles of a process that we humans both dread and desire: the attention of the Other for what we undertake.
In scripture, we want God's attention. Particularly speaking, we want God's favor. We assume that things will be better if God is with us. We look for those who are apparently experiencing the benefit of God's mercy and we seek to emulate them. The danger in this is that we assume that if we are good, and God is pleased then we will be successful and happy. We assume that is the result of fidelity and trust in God: blessings and success.
Just read Paul today. Clearly, his ministry is blessed. His teachings and witness formed our understanding of "Church." Would you call him blessed? He is not ending his run, and his life's work and term, with a tour to receive the applause and laudatory honors of this world. His only champions crown is the one he aspires to wearing in heaven, a heaven he will soon arrive in if the Roman Empire and his detractors in Jerusalem have any say in it. Being called out, for Paul, means a long journey to Rome and a "witness" before the Emperor. He will not survive it.
Being called out in Isaiah is not a particularly desirable estate, either...as Babylon is now being called out for its arrogance and indulgnces. Once, they were God's scourge. Now, they face the examination any earthly kingdom dreads: being found wanting when it comes to justice, steadfast faith and equity expressed as a result of God's favor. Now, they face judgment-God's judgment-and there will be no appeals process.
Being called out means that our lives become our testimony. As people of faith, it is up to us to learn from the examples of the people around us-and from those of scripture to whom we look for examples of how to live lives worthy of repentance and reconciliation to God and to each other. Being called out means taking responsibility for more than just our own well-being. It means connecting to a vocation that will impact others long after we are gone, and to pray for a legacy that will give glory to God in the end.
No small challenge...