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Lutheran Carnival IV: No Vacation from Vocation
When I suggested the topic of Vocation for the Labor Day edition of the Lutheran Carnival
, I realized that many readers, whether Lutheran or not, might not have a clear understanding of this article of faith. So before introducing this week's bloggers, I'll provide a bit of background.
The Cranach Institute
includes a well-linked page on vocation
. Here is the introduction by Dr. Gene Edward Veith
, Institute director and World Magazine
"When we pray the Lord's Prayer," observed Luther, "we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And He does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal." We might today add the truck drivers who hauled the produce, the factory workers in the food processing plant, the warehouse men, the wholesale distributors, the stock boys, the lady at the checkout counter. Also playing their part are the bankers, futures investors, advertisers, lawyers, agricultural scientists, mechanical engineers, and every other player in the nation's economic system. All of these were instrumental in enabling you to eat your morning bread.
Before you ate, you probably gave thanks to God for your food, as is fitting. He is caring for your physical needs, as with every other kind of need you have, preserving your life through His gifts. "He provides food for those who fear him" (Psalm 111:5); also to those who do not fear Him, "to all flesh" (136:25). And He does so by using other human beings. It is still God who is responsible for giving us our daily bread. Though He could give it to us directly, by a miraculous provision, as He once did for the children of Israel when He fed them daily with manna, God has chosen to work through human beings, who, in their different capacities and according to their different talents, serve each other. This is the doctrine of vocation.
I would pick one nit with this introduction: Strictly speaking, it is better to speak of one
doctrine — Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ
. Every other bit of Christian teaching is an "article of faith," flowing from, normed by, and pointing to this chief and necessary Doctrine. We are less than Christian when we divorce any
of our teachings from its secure anchor in Justification, falling into works righteousness, antinomianism, and other shameful errors.
Misunderstanding Justification vis-à-vis Vocation may lead us to undervalue our callings, to set false priorities ("my calling is better
than yours"), or to falsely elevate human works at the expense of the divine work of the forgiveness of sins through the merits of Christ. Following the list of participants in this week's carnival, I append more information on Vocation, that you might have a greater appreciation for this remarkable gift of God.
Wearing "masks of God" this week are the following servants He has provided you as He works to strengthen your faith, guide your footsteps, open your minds, sharpen your wits, focus your studies, and otherwise grant "all that [you] need to support this body and life (Small Catechism
, Explanation of the First Article of the Apostles' Creed)" while preserving you "steadfast in the true faith until life everlasting. (The Lutheran Hymnal
, Communion Dismissal)"
- All Christians have the calling to care for our neighbor, especially for our fellow believers: "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10 ESV)" With this in mind, I ask that you please read Hurricane Assistance and respond as the Lord moves you from the storehouse of blessings which He has granted you.
- Dan at Necessary Roughness offers his reflections on how his life was redefined through decisions made by his employer in reaction to an economic situation as he asks, False Choice Leads to Vocation?
- The Masks God Wears from Be Strong in the Grace opens a window on many vocations as she observes the sickness and death of her pastor's young son.
- Pastor Todd Peperkorn, The Lutheran Logomaniac, offers the Word of the Week: Mercy. Mercy is one of the chief characteristics of God and is how He "shows His power." But what does mercy mean for a Lutheran? In part, I'll venture that it means that God exercises His "vocation," hearing our prayers and answering them out of love.
- "Random Dan" is a geologist as well as a Lutheran, a blogger, and an instigator (with Intolerant Elle) of this Lutheran Carnival. In Random Thoughts of a Confessional Lutheran, Dan puts on his geologist (hard-) hat and reminds us that New Orleans Is Sinking. Sometimes being true to one's vocation means voicing unpopular thoughts and Dan opines that it might be a good idea if New Orleans is never rebuilt.
- And speaking of Intolerant Elle (we were, weren't we?), she says, I’m Going on a Field Trip: A Preliminary Report. She then outlines how her well-catechized Lutheran self will compare and evaluate "the biggest and fastest growing church in Alaska." Certainly this fits our vocation as Christians: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1 ESV)
- The Life of a Pastor's Wife at Lonesome Grove is one of understanding and living out her vocation. We Believe, Teach, and Confess allows us to see through her eyes as wife of a pastor and mother of a twelve year old daughter who's entering her father's public catechetical instruction.
- Cyberstones, Pastor Petersen's labor of blogging love, casts a stern eye upon those who misunderstand vocation and who covet or usurp those vocations not granted by God as he asks, Everyone a Minister: Re-cooked Vocation?
- Sean's Hot Lutheran on Lutheran Action includes constructing a ceramic shrine to Martin Luther's words, And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer … the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. In his new beer mug, Sean provides humorous insight into the certain truth that it is not our work but the work of God which brings people to faith in Christ Jesus.
- Jeremy Abel certainly seems to enjoy Living Among Mysteries. In Loyalty: Our Stories Define Our Duties, he critiques a book by George P. Fletcher and examines how we remain faithful to our vocation when challenged by disagreement from within an organization with which we are allied.
- Pastor Greg Alms of incarnatus est offers Incarnation, Vocation and Certainty, wherein he expounds on Luther's understanding of vocation and incarnation and sacraments. He shows how vocation is similiar to the sacraments in that both have a word of God attached to a place or thing to direct us where God would have us be.
- Mike Benoit of Amor et Labor ponders a change in vocation. He's been asked for a Statement of Faith from an Anabaptist seminary in order to teach a course in their counseling department. He would love your quia comments.
- How do women in the workplace jibe with our understanding of vocation? Does voluntary sterilization and intentionally removing all opportunity to conceive and bear children run counter to God's calling in marriage? Pastor Walter Snyder of Ask the Pastor answers Questions on Working Women and Birth Control.
- Last, and certainly not first of our vocation-tinged samples is my own Consider Your Place in Life. Here I attempt to emphasize to the centrality of Justification as lived in our vocations by examining the emphasis the Small Catechism places upon preparing to confess our sins by examining ourselves according to our vocation.
- A final offering comes from dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos Theophilos. Richard Anderson speculates on the Origin of the Christian Doctrine of Atonement. There always seems to be at least one submission which leads the host to strongly debate its inclusion in this Carnival. While not flatly denying a quia subscription to the Confessions or the veracity of Scripture, the style and substance of the post certainly differ from the understanding of the synoptic Gospels normally held in Lutheranism. That (plus the fact that it deals less with vocation than any of the other blogs included) leads me to place it at the end of the list. I didn't want to omit it, however, since it certainly provokes thought and invites us to reconsider the theological perspective of each of the Evangelists.
In the years since Luther, others have studied and taught in greater detail on the article of Vocation. A summary
of some of their work is available through The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod through its Board for World Relief and Human Care. That item links to the following essays (all posted in PDF).
- God at Work (Gene Edward Vieth) provides an overview of the topic, "Every Christian has a particular calling from God."
- Called by the Gospel (Gene Edward Vieth) discusses our place in Christ's body, the Church. It shows how Christ "hides Himself," not only in the pastor through the forgiveness of sins, but in all members of the body as we gather around Word and Sacrament and practice what Luther preached concerning "the mutual conversation and consolation of the brothers and sisters. Matthew 18:20: 'Where two are three are gathered together....' (Smalcald Articles, III.4.)"
- Called to Be Citizens (Gene Edward Vieth) examines our life under government and the rule of law, including such topics as patriotism and nationalism.
- Called to Our Work (Gene Edward Vieth) discusses the heart of what most of us consider our Vocation; i.e., our jobs and careers. Of such employ, Dr. Vieth begins by saying, "We don't choose our vocations; God chooses them for us."
- Gustaf Wingren's Confession of the Doctrine of Creation for an Understanding of Vocation & Sanctification (Eric Andræ) translates Wingren's examination of the origin of Vocation in the origin of all that is. Andræ provides copious annotation to explain his translation and to aid understanding.
- Masks of God offers a close look at God "hiding" himself in ordinary people as He works His extraordinary grace and mercy among all mankind.
- Right and Wrong in the Workplace (Jim Truesdale) offers insight into the moral decisions we make as we live out our vocation in the marketplace.
- Vocation: Fruit of the Liturgy (John T. Pless) reveals "the liturgy after the liturgy" — the work we do for others following the work done in and for us during the Divine Service.
- Your Family Vocation (Gene Edward Vieth) reveals God working "through us in our callings as parents, spouses and children."
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)"Who was that masked God?