Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Joy of Vocation

Labor Day Weekend 2009
When I was young I wondered, but not too much, about why a Monday "off" was called Labor Day. When I was in politics, and being a Democrat who had a heart for "laborers", I learned full well the history and significance of this holiday. Now, as a minister of the Word I am faced with the challenge of bringing theological significance to a strictly secular holiday. I think it is an important day, but how to connect this day with the church calendar?

What I was led to this year is a restatement of our understanding of "work" in the Reformed theological tradition. "Work" was taught by Calvin to be understood as the ordained duty of each person...a calling from God to "vocation." Vocation is not to be understood as only the work of the clergy or professional ministry (although it is certainly inclusive of our work), but it to be much more broadly understood as the work of all "lawful" occupations. (Spurgeon).

How do we redeem the idea of "work" for ourselves this weekend? Frederick Buechner directs our attention to the place where our greatest joy interesects with the world's greatest need. Others suggest that our call is found at the place where our spiritual gifts meet our happiness or joy in using them. So, perhaps we can think of a three way intersection as the picture where our understanding of God's call to us is found. God's call is certainly first that we love God and to seek to know God and be God's loved child. But, secondarily, we are to find a way to join Jesus Christ's work of inaugurating the Kingdom (Os Guinness, "The Call.")

Down one lane we seek to find our greatest joy: serving God...being the presence of Christ to the searching children of God. Down a second lane we see how God has given us gifts to serve in the Kingdom. Down a third lane we discover the world's greatest need. When we get in the middle of that three-way intersection we are in the place God has called us; we have found our true vocation.

This vocation may be at our "day job"...the job at which we earn our bread and shelter. And certainly God calls us to work at these jobs in a way which glorifies God. But our vocation may be found in volunteer work...or in a "hidden life" (Nouwen, "Bread for the Journey"), of solitary service.

We will gain a glimpse of the happiness toward which our future hope compels us when we find out true vocation. It may not be anything great or any act which will transform the world. It may touch only one other life...or perhaps it will transform only our solitary relationship with the God who calls us. As one writer puts it, when it comes to work, God is likely more concerned about quality than quantity.

So, off we go, looking for that special intersection. But be careful when you enter that intersection for you are likely to meet the Holy Spirit head on...and you will never be the same.