Stages of Faith: Vocational Grace Luke 4:14-30

I have a cousin who pursued his desire to be a history teacher on and off for years.  Virgil spent most of his adult life slugging away at a job he never enjoyed or found fulfilling. When I saw Virgil this summer, he is doing something truer to which he is.  He told me he has never been happy.  I wonder what would have happened if he had followed his heart and felt like he lived up to his purpose in life.

It is not unusual for any of us to keep doing what we are doing in our adult lives because of some kind of psycho-therapeutic reaction to our childhood.  We think we will be happy if my mother or father approves what we are doing.  Some ministers hear a pseudo call to ministry to get approval from their earthly father, rather than hearing the voice of their heavenly Father.

This matter of vocation is one of the toughest and most important challenges in life.  Another way to speak of this pursuit is to talk of knowing our purpose in life.  Plans without purpose can leave us unfilled because we end up doing good things, but never the thing, which were made.  A golf club can make a good walking stick, weed chopper, pot stirrer, and even a weapon, which we saw this week.  But it until it is used to feather small white ball inside ten feet on a plush perfectly cut swath of grass it is not fulfilling its purpose.  A golf club like a person is made for a purpose. How do you find your vocation or know your purpose?

We have been looking to Jesus for a pattern to follow from womb to tomb.  Our assumption is Jesus was no alien from another world whose life was so foreign to ours we cannot relate.  On the contrary, Jesus was the true human, the one who struggled through the passages of life like all the rest of us and he too had to find his calling.  Let’s look how Jesus received vocational grace to work through this most important stage of faith.

First, he stayed in the precincts of the temple; the shadow of the steeple, so to speak.  Jesus was saturated with scripture and a Jewish worldview from his earliest days.  Jesus could draw on Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah as his guides when he thought about the purpose of his life.  His life among the community faith gave his life purpose in the world.

In this text, we see Jesus goes to the synagogue, as usual.  The president of the synagogue calls the hometown boy up after the Torah reading and asks him to read from the prophets.  Jesus seems comfortable with the request.  He stands, asks for the Isaiah scroll, unrolls the parchment to the 6th chapter and reads, “I have come to bring good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and to declare the year of the Lord’s favor.”  He then sits and tosses off a few words of commentary saying that what Isaiah once prophesied to returning exiles from Babylon is now his life purpose too.  He could claim his purpose because Jesus had been shaped throughout all his life orbiting around the hometown synagogue and engaged in the annual rituals of the temple.

If we are to hear the call of God and discern that voice among the many voices, we have to listen to the grammar of God and cadences of the Spirit.  A level of competency is needed that exceeds being acquainted with the story of God’s salvation history in the world.  That can happen to some extent on our own or among conversation partners.  Nothing can replace the life of a faith community that strives to live the law of love among each other and in the world.  This means being in relationship with flesh and blood that we love and annoy each other all at the same time.  As we press of the flesh week after week in the church we learn about each other, which helps us know our purpose unlike anything else we can do.  The practice of living among those who practice faith is where we hear, discern, and claim our purpose in the world that extends our lives beyond this world.

A California Federal court ruled in August 2010 a call in show where people talked about matters of faith with a clergy person “did not give congregants opportunity to associate with each other in worship”; therefore it was not able to claim a nonprofit status.  AUScourt confirms what God expects.  Any association that does not include people in spiritual relationship doesn’t constitute a way to fully know God.  It is within the precincts of a faith community that we are schooled, so we can best know and live our purpose out in life.  All of us have a purpose in life, and we will hear and answer that call by keeping ourselves faithfully among the faithful.

It may be tough to discern the particularities of our call.  There is no secret to the nature of the call; God’s call is not novel.  God is consistent; so there is only one call.  Our call will connect with what God has been up to before we showed up on earth.  God’s mission in the world has not changed.  God’s purpose is the same for Isaiah, as it was for Moses, as it was for Jesus and the early church and for us too.  God’s consistent work in the world is captured in these words from Jesus first sermon, “to bring good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and to declare the year of the Lord’s favor.”  This aptly describes in one sentence what God has been up to from the Garden to the Exodus; from a people and a land to a temple to an exile; from a reformed nation to being reborn in Christ, from a Spirit that blows into person to a church that proclaims the good news.  The song is the same.

While the call of God has not changed, the call of God is different for different persons.  Everyone is not Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul.  Nether is everyone a, prophet, messiah, or apostle.  Whoever we are we are citizens of the kingdom of God, which operates on the principles of bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and to declare the year of the Lord’s favor.

Each person must ask how this agenda fits into our lives.  Some might be thinking they are going to have to quit our jobs and go into the ministry.  Yes, and no-yes, we are all in the ministry already, every last one of us.  We are serving someone or some constituency, whether we acknowledge it or not.  But no, we don’t all have to work for the church.  Yet, we need is to reestablish the connection between our essential calling as children of God, which we all have in common and our particular work.

We thank God for people who do that every day.  There are business owners who chose a loss in order to share the burden of a difficult year with their employees.  There are lawyers who decide the interest of justice for a client is more important than billing hours.  There are doctors that refuse to hide behind any limitation health care rules create in order to provide the best possible care to a patient.  There are teachers who work seven days a week for low pay, so students may be prepared with both the knowledge and experience needed to engage this 21st century world.  There are many ways to accomplish the agenda of extending thekingdomofGod.  The all include in one form or fashion Go’s universal purpose.

I believe people are well intentioned, but sometimes they get caught up in their own interests.  They want to do the honorable thing, but they succumbed to pressure; thinking jobs, kids, property, or something temporal is the most important thing in the world.  They befall to the temptation of self and lose their purpose of bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and to declare the year of the Lord’s favor.  Churches can lose their way too, when they become so obsessed with building, budgets, potlucks and their own people that they set aside God’s purpose for the church.

God doesn’t care whether we are an accountant, tax collector, missionary, politician, homemaker, therapist, butcher, baker or a candlestick maker.  God knows we will find joy when we live into God’s purposes.  Be confident God wants us to know our purpose and will work harder to clue us in than we will ever know.  It is possible for one to be a writer of deodorant commercials and live into Gods purpose.  It is equally possible for one to be a doctor in a leper colony and not live into God’s purpose.  It all depends whether we are engaged in God’s overarching purpose.

That doesn’t mean we have to be happy in your work.  Jesus didn’t sashay down the road to Calvary, carrying his cross and whistling while he worked.  He had a deep sense of purpose, which was affirmed by the indwelling Spirit that anointed him at baptism, sustained him in the desert temptations, confirmed him in his faith and graced with real purpose, a vocation.  How about you can you name and claim all of God’s graces in your life, so that you hear deep within your soul when you lay your head on your pillow at night, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Published in: on February 12, 2012 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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