What Is Your Vocation?
Pastor Jim Kniseley preached this sermon at Resurrection on September 1, 2013, the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The sermon text is Luke 14:7: “When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.”
Tomorrow is “Labor Day” in our nation, a day in which we nominally remember the contribution of all who help this nation prosper through their everyday work life. We in the Church have a perspective on work that might be a bit different from the common understanding. The word “vocation” is very useful for our thinking today. “Vocation” means “a calling from God”. The Protestant Reformers expanded the word “vocation” from what Roman Catholic teaching had been. For Roman Catholics the word “vocation” or “calling” was used just for those who were called to full-time service in the Church, particularly priests and monks and nuns. Martin Luther said that we all have callings that come from God. Our various vocations include: marriage, being parents, being children, our careers, our hobbies, and our community service.
Here is something we believe sincerely: God is interested in what we do with our time and energy every day, not just on Sunday. Some questions come to mind as we think of our everyday lives: Is your job a vocation or just a means to earn an income? Would it make a difference in your life to view your work or marriage or family or your participation in church as a vocation?
Next Sunday is a very special day for our Church. You already know that across the United States, ELCA Lutherans are participating in “God’s Work. Our Hands. Sunday. I can’t think of another time when we were called to simultaneously offer participate in such a worthy endeavor. What is this endeavor? It is making a difference in the lives of hungry children and adults in our area. We are partnering with the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank and the Wilderness Food Pantry.
What we are asked to do is so simple, but provide a great witness for the Lord. After worship next Sunday, we will be heading to several local grocery stores. We will be passing out lists to folks as they enter the grocery store to shop. Also we are asked to personally bring food to church next Sunday. Also, we are asked to donate money by check to support purchasing of food items. I pray that many of us will sign up today at the display table next to the main door in the narthex.
Next Sunday, please wear your God’s Work. Our Hands. tee-shirts. And be prepared to answer when someone asks questions, like: Why are you doing this and what is a Lutheran? The best answers might include: We are doing this to help folks in need as we think Jesus wants us to, and a Lutheran is a Christian who believes that everything we have is pure grace from God.
There is a theme in today’s scripture readings. That theme is “humility”. Humility is an attitude toward faith and life that is admirable in the eyes of God. In our gospel reading we see Jesus observing guests at a meal in the home of a Pharisee. He especially notes how they eagerly chose place of honor at the table. Jesus takes the opportunity to tell all of us through the ages, to be humble, to help folks in need, to not puff ourselves up so much, to remember that we are no better or worse in the eyes of God, that all of us are equal and loved in God’s eyes.
Historians tell the story of the funeral of Charlemagne. He was the greatest Christian ruler of the early Middle Ages. After his death a mighty funeral procession left his castle for the Cathedral nearby. When the royal casket arrived, with a lot of pomp, it was met the local bishop, who barred the cathedral door.
“Who comes?” the Bishop asked, as was the custom.
“Charlemagne, Lord and King of the Holy Roman Empire,” proclaimed the Emperor’s proud herald.
“Him I know not, “ the Bishop replied. “Who comes?”
The herald then replied, “Charles the Great, a good and honest man of the earth.”
“Him I know not,” the Bishop said again. “Who comes?”
The herald then announced, “Charles, a lowly sinner, who begs the gift of Christ.”
To which the Bishop, Christ’s representative responded, “Enter! Receiver Christ’s gift of life!”
The point is this: in the eyes of God, we’re all equally needy. Charlemagne, Mother Teresa, you and me. So we humble ourselves. We heed God’s call. We receive God’s grace. We respond with gratitude and thanksgiving. We remember always: It’s God’s Work, using Our Hands.