This past Sunday, January 10th, the Practice tribe reconvened after a Christmas break with a deep dive into a new series on Vocation. For many of us, this might have been the last topic we wanted to dwell on, with the pressures of work seeming the very reason for sacred moments of retreat into the Chapel on Sunday night. Though that may have been the way we entered the chapel, I think it’s safe to say we were all at the very least challenged to consider how our vocations might matter to God.
As we once again worshiped together, the new section of the liturgy on prayer for enemies caught me dead in my tracks. Kellye invited us to consider, whether it was a face or a group, both a global and local enemy. I was surprised to realize my indignant resistance (“Like I have enemies!”), only to then begin seeing faces of imaginary foes, realizing that of course, this practice was for me.
As if prayer for enemies was not enough of a disruption, we then had the delightfully profound Steven Garber share a theology of vocation. You can listen to his message and the Q&A from the night here below, or through The Practice Podcast.
Steven’s stories ranged from the extraordinarily large (economists at Mars thinking through how to see M & M’s) to the intimately personal (a student getting ready to graduate and wondering what purpose there is to her job). As Aaron mentioned in his introduction, I couldn’t help but realize that Steven had given his whole life to help people like you and me think about why our vocations are integral and not incidental to the mission of God. It was almost as if you could feel the wheels turning in people’s minds as we each began to ponder, “Could my work actually matter to God?” or better yet, “Is the way I live my 9:00-5:00 actually part of the mission that God is inviting me to participate in?”
These are obviously deep, complex but important questions, which is why I was so thankful Aaron gave us a few minutes to breathe, to contemplate, and to invite God in to what was being stirred up through Steven’s sharing. We then followed those minutes with a wonderful Q & A. If Steven’s vision was immense, then the questions asked were correspondingly honest and heartfelt. “What does this mean for my work in the food service industry, where everything is fast all the time?” one asked. Another said, “Why is it that I struggle to connect the joy and worship I feel on the weekends with the job I enter into on Monday morning?” To each question, Steven’s eyes met the gaze of the inquirer, as he knowingly would begin his response, “ Oh that we could go on a walk, to discuss this further,” and only then offer forth a story or idea in response.
I commented to my wife Jenna last night after the service, that it felt like something beautiful and needed took place last night through Steven’s sharing and our community’s questions. The practices of rhythm which we explored last fall (Silence, Examen, Sabbath) are at the heart of what our community believes will transform each and every one of us more and more into Christ-likeness. However it can be so tempting to separate our “spiritual” formation from the daily pragmatic grind of our lives. For me, something clicked into place last night as Steven shared, that vocation is integral not incidental to the mission of God. It is in the very fabric of our lives, our relationships, our roles, responsibilities, and occupations that God wants to live, move, and have His being among us. That means that our jobs, far from being irrelevant, are actually the integral place in which God is working among and through us. Though there is so much left to explore, and likely many questions more that Steven has evoked, I conclude this reflection with a prayer for you my dearly beloved brothers and sisters, from the benediction last night, as we each enter into the vocation of our lives this Monday afternoon:
God of heaven and earth,
we pray for your kingdom to come,
for your will to be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Teach us to see our vocations and occupations
as woven into your work in the world this week.
For mothers at home who care for children,
for those whose labor forms our common life in this city, the nation, and the world,
for those who serve the marketplace of ideas and commerce,
for those whose creative gifts nourish us all,
for those whose callings take them into the academy,
for those who long for employment that satisfies their souls and serves you,
for each one we pray, asking for your great mercy.
Give us eyes to see that our work is holy to you, O Lord, even as our worship this day is holy to you.
Amen and Amen
Grace and peace,
John and the Practice Team