Pastor Mark's sermon on vocation really spoke to me, so I offer this posting as a response and/or addendum to what he taught us on Sunday. From What Color is your Parachute? to What Should I Do with my Life? society tries to guide us toward answers to these eternally persistent questions. As a Christian, I tend to go to the church and to God when I have questions that simply will not go away or that befuddle my brain. The church, and God too, sometimes provide more confusion than clarity or simply don't offer me an answer that satisfies my insistent desire for a clear, straight-forward, reasonable response-- NOW.
Vocation seems to be one of those questions. For all the language geeks, I offer that this word comes from the Latin for "vocare," meaning "to call." As Christians, we believe that vocation and what we do with our lives is more than simply "what do I want to do," but the answer from God toward a form of service and the response to our yearning to serve in a way that uses our gifts in service to our world and our Lord. To quote Frederick Buechner, "vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep needs." One of my confirmation pastors described it as "work that makes your soul dance more often than not." Rev. Kelli Skram, one of the pastors that guided me in graduate school, defined discernment as "the sometimes lengthy and often Holy Spirit roller coaster journey" that helps us find God and the calling for our lives. Spend any time with pastors or seminary students or wannabe pastors, and you'll here the word "call" fairly frequently as a way of describing what led them to the journey and decision of self-sacrifice and spiritual leadership that allows them to be servants for God and for our world.
For better or worse, vocation and call aren't limited to pastors, but to all who seek God and to obey His commandments.We have various guiding points for our lives from our Holy Scriptures, ranging from the Ten Commandments to our reading from this Sunday. In this text, Jesus tells us we are his "friends," rather than servants. He tells us we are "chosen" and appointed by God to serve in His name. Consequently, we are to abide in His love, and "bear fruit." Similar messages are repeated again in 1 Peter 4:10, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms," and Collosians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."
The Methodist hymn "I sing a Song of the Saints of God" lists doctor, queen, shepherdess on the green, soldier, priest, and "one slain by a fierce wild beast" as those who serve God. These too, along with thousands of other actions, can be calls from God. Call may change throughout our lives and may be downright confusing or frustrating at times. But above all, we know that we serve a loving God who asks us to abide in an unfailing, incomprehensibly deep love. We know we "can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), and that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
As the David Haas' hymn says, "we are called to serve one another, to love tenderly, to walk humbly with God." My prayer is that you may sense God's call for you in this moment, knowing God will use your efforts to His glory. May you have the courage to trust, obey, and follow whatever that call may be. Amen.