Sunday, February 8, 2009

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 8, 2009
Mark 1:29-39

The three most important words in real estate are location, location, location. If your real estate agent shows you a gorgeous house that’s in a dumpy neighborhood you might think twice about buying that house. On the other hand, you might be willing to live in a house you’re not crazy about because of the area you’ll be living in.

Buying a house isn’t the easiest thing in the world. There are a lot of factors involved, more than just the location. Your financial situation, the economy, your plans for the future—all these things play into your decision to buy a house and whether or not you can do it. At the same time, it’s not the hardest thing in the world either.

Living the Christian life is, though. We often wonder, don’t we, why it’s so hard to be a Christian? We seek guidance in how to live a God-pleasing life. We look for practical advice—specific things we can do to live in the way God wants us to live.

So as one might give this advice to someone buying a home: the three most important words are location, location, location, let me give you this advice: the three most important words in living as a Christian in this world are vocation, vocation, vocation.

What is vocation? Vocation is not a job, although your job may be your vocation. Vocation is not a theory, although it’s not as easy to pin down as the location of a house or a particular job. Vocation is not theological jargon intended to side-step so-called practical advice on how to live in a godly way, although it is rich in theology and ultimately deeper than notions such as, here are ten practical ways to love God more, or to be a better spouse.

Vocation is a calling. It is what God has called you to. Vocation is not just a job, it’s a way of life. It’s who you are because of Christ. Vocation is service. Vocation is living in such a way that you’re not living for yourself but for God. Where you are serving God by serving others.

It’s too easy to discount the simple and ordinary things people do. Often when people are doing simple and ordinary things they are doing the greatest things. Because they are doing what God has called them to do. There is nothing higher than that. It is vocation. When Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, she got up and served them. This shows us that Jesus healed her. But it also shows us that He healed her in order for her to carry out her vocation. Her serving them was every bit as much much a holy work as was Jesus healing her.

Location is as important to Christianity as it is to real estate. God had called her to serve there, where she was. Jesus Himself healed her there, where she was at. Not every Christian is called to serve in a “spectacular” way. In fact, most Christians are called to serve in very simple and ordinary ways. But we should never think that just because they are simple and ordinary that they’re not important and not as faithful of ways of serving God as the ones that look spectacular. In getting up and serving Jesus and her family Peter’s mother-in-law was carrying out her vocation. This was a blessed sight in the eyes of God.

When you watch a sporting event, you want to watch the players play. There are other people on the playing field with the athletes, though—the refs. But you’re not there to watch the refs. You want to see the game. You want to watch the players play. If the refs are doing their job, you won’t notice them. When they blow a call, that’s when you notice them and begin yelling at the TV. But every once in a while, I actually like watching the refs. I enjoy watching them do what they do, which is their job. They do their job very well, and I love to see people doing what they do when they make an effort to do it well. This is vocation. When you do what God has called you to do. Refing a game is an example. Playing a game is another. Mopping the floor is one. These are not spectacular things, they’re ordinary things.

After He healed Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus went out and healed a bunch of people. Jesus is doing what He had done in Peter’s home, healing. The people He is healing are also doing what they have been called to do, receive what Christ gives to them. We’d normally think of vocation as something we do, but God calls us to receive before we give. That’s what happened with Peter’s mother-in-law. She was unable to carry out her vocation until she had first received help from Christ.

The carrying out of our vocation as Christians is not just doing good works. It is receiving from Christ what He wants to give us so that we may then serve. This is what the people were doing. They were receiving from Christ. This is what Satan does not want to happen. He tries to prevent us from receiving from Christ. He was hard at work with his demons when they were getting in the way of Jesus healing the people. But since this is Jesus’ vocation He would have none that. He made clear that the demons were not to speak.

There’s a lot of healing going on in today’s Gospel reading. That’s, after all, Jesus’ vocation. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law, He heals all the people that come to Him, He goes out from there to other towns to heal people. We saw what happened when Peter’s mother-in-law was healed—she got right to work carrying out her vocation. We don’t hear what happened with all the crowds. Did some of them get right back to work, serving where God had called them to serve, carrying out their vocations? No doubt some of them did. Did some of them just go back home and never give it another thought that Jesus had called them also to Life? That is, eternal life, and were therefore free to serve others? No doubt there were these, too.

That’s the way it is with Christ. He calls you. He gives you life. He gives you to a place where you may serve. He calls you to carry out a vocation that is specific to you. Nobody can make you do it. God’s not going to bash you over the head if you’re too lazy to serve others. But He does call you. And with the call comes the reward. Think about this. If you reject His call, you are rejecting the reward. If you don’t want to go to heaven, you won’t. If you want to be eternally in hell, you will. God simply gives. He doesn’t force.

That’s what vocation is all about. It’s about your Lord carrying out His vocation of saving you. He heals in the ways we need the most. The Gospel reading speaks of fevers and diseases and demon-possessions. The healing Jesus brought to these people was a present manifestation of His healing of souls. He forgives your sin. He heals your sinful condition. His disciples brought the message that people were looking for Him. No wonder! But He moved on from there: “‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’ And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” And He kept on going, all the way to the cross.

This is the way God works. He carries out His vocation—which is to save us. How He does it is often through very simple and ordinary ways. And it has everything to do with where He locates Himself. For three years, it was in the Person of Jesus Christ, walking the land to heal and teach and finally to suffer in the place of every person. This salvation is yours, where you’re at. Where you’re at is where He has located you. Where you’re located is where you serve, where you carry out your vocation. Don’t worry, He’ll never tire of His vocation of serving you, of giving you what you need in His Word and Sacraments. That’s where He locates Himself so that when you draw your last breath you will find that He has called you Home. Amen.



Anonymous said...

Can you recommend some good online resources for Christian vocation?

rev.will said...

I'm not aware of any. I have never looked before. Gene Veith has a blog that he calls Cranach. He is big on Christian vocation and might have some good resources at his blog:

If you don't find what you're looking for there, you could drop him a note and he'd be able to steer you in the right direction better than I could. God's blessings!