Vocational

As I talk with colleagues and interact with parishioners, the issue of vocation is constantly on the radar.  Vocation in the narrow sense of how I make a living, but in the broader sense of what is the role I play as part of creation and a child of God?  How am I loving my neighbor as an outgrowth of loving my God?  In an age where we have culturally deconstructed meaning of almost any kind and from any source, how is it that we can continue on without slipping under the dark oily waters of existential nihilism, from which so few return?  

The Biblical idea of vocation is a powerful life vest to keep one’s head afloat as we are cut loose from moorings and anchorings of any kind for the “freedom” of self-discovery.  What I do each day matters.  What I do contributes to the well-being of my neighbors.  It allows them to live each day, provides them with things that they need, services that they benefit from, and therefore is an expression of my love for them.  I needn’t work simply for a paycheck, I work to love my neighbor.
Traditionally it was thought that only those dedicated to the Church were truly living out the Christian life – monks and priests and nuns and such.  Martin Luther & Co. turned that idea around, arguing vigorously that every vocation (that doesn’t violate the natural order created by God) is just as valuable and sometimes more valuable than the role of monk or priest.  As job markets are ravaged and outsourced and more people find it difficult to find work commensurate with their training or experience, we need a way to feel good about who we are and what we do, even when what we do isn’t what we’d prefer to be doing, or what we expected to be doing.
I’ve blogged a lot about vocation over the years – feel free to use the “Advanced Search” option on the right side of this, The World’s Ugliest Blog, to see how many times vocation has come up in conversation here.  More and more folks beyond the Lutheran Pale are beginning to recognize this as well.
This is a beautiful meditation on vocation and the beauty in loving our neighbor in any and all circumstances.  This book looks like it might be an interesting read on the topic (though be careful – some people take the idea of vocation and spiritualize it, ultimately arguing that your work only matters as a means of witnessing the faith to others.  Not sure if that’s the case with this book or not – I haven’t read it).  
So whatever it is that you do today, thank you.  Maybe you’re a home-schooling mother, in which case thank you for raising the next generation of leaders and thinkers and workers who will invigorate our society and (hopefully!) deal gently with old farts like me.  Maybe you’re finding ways of providing nutrition to malnourished folks in a third world country.  In which case thanks for improving the lives of those people and witnessing to a greater and deeper love than the shallow caricatures that so often pass for love.  Maybe you’re slaving away in a cubicle at a computer screen, in which case thank you for helping to ensure that I have water, or that my tax dollars are allocated appropriately in a variety of budgetary bins.  Thanks to those of you who take away my trash every week, who ensure that fresh produce is stocked for us to purchase and eat, who prepare meals or clean the dishes when we go out to eat.  This world is better because of all the good things that people do day in and day out.  Yes, they are paid for this – and it’s only fair that they are!  But hopefully we each see that we are more than the numbers on our paycheck.  We are the way that God the Father continues to care for his rebellious creation.

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