Tag Archives: vocation

Right Timed Calls and Rightly Ordered Priorities

Biblical Text: Matthew 4:12-25 (Psalm 27)
Full Sermon Draft

The text is Jesus calling Andrew and Peter and James and John. I probably owe a few former pastors an apology as I use them as a straw man. Those sermons of blessed memory were never as bad as I put in hear. It was probably just my listening. But, the way this text is usually preached never sat well with me. In one stroke it tended to make Jesus unbelievable, ignore everyday discipleship and create lots of holy make work. (Most cries for “relevancy” I think fall into holy make work.) Learning to “walk humbly” is often enough. What this sermon attempts to do is to reimagine the situation that leads to “immediately following” as those disciples do, and to understand what that is. Not as a call to “do something- anything – for Jesus right now”, nor as a “only a religious calling is a true calling”, but to be able to hear the lifelong call as well as the more particular calls.

Worship Note: I’ve left in the hymn of the day, LSB 688, Come Follow me the Savior Spake. You might also notice a slightly different order (although my editing obscures it). Fourth Sundays as Morning Prayer/Matins days which have a massed reading of the lessons.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 16:23-40 and Luke 19:29-48

Numbers 16:23-40
Luke 19:29-48
The Holiness of God and What we approach in Communion
Recognizing when God is acting in our midst

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 16:1-22 and Luke 19:11-28

Numbers 16:1-22
Luke 19:11-28
Vocation & Faithfulness with what has been given
Lukewarm and our conception of God

Paragraph to Ponder…

“In an uncertain universe, some things are still for certain: Dirty plates, if you put them on a plastic rack and push them into the machine and press the button, will come out clean–every time. If you work hard at your job and do it well, even if it’s a [bleep] job, there is some kind of satisfaction in that, whether you’re stacking plates, chopping vegetables, or just setting out a plate of food. There’s this magnificent moment before a plate goes out to the dining room, for instance, when you know, and it’s just for you. You think, Hmm, that’s a pretty good [bleeping] plate. And then it’s gone.”
– Anthony Bourdain, here

Daily Lectionary Podcast – 1 Kings 1:1-4,15-35 and 1 Corinthians 12:14-31

1 Kings 1:1-4,15-35
1 Corinthians 12:14-31
The Bible’s habit of showing true humanity alongside God given office, the purpose of gifts for the good of the body

Daily Lectionary Podcast – 2 Samuel 11:1-27 and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

2 Samuel 11:1-27
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Vocation & Discernment, the Alien vs. the Proper work of God

Daily Lectionary Podcast – 2 Samuel 1:1-27 and 1 Corinthians 7:25-40

2 Samuel 1:1-27
1 Corinthians 7:25-40
The Lord’s Annointed, Sorrow or Lamentation, “How the mighty have fallen”
A social situation alien to us, discerning our proper vocation

Fishers of Men – Four Pictures of the Vocation of Following Jesus

12614wordle

Biblical Text: Matthew 4:12-25
Full Sermon Draft

The biblical text is Jesus calling two sets of brothers. It is sandwiched between a notice about John the Baptist and a notice about what the Galilean ministry looked like. So the theme is vocation or call. What does it mean to be called? What does this particular call – to follow Jesus – mean? This sermon looks at four pictures and hones in on one theme of all four. The call of discipleship must take primacy or it means nothing.

Kingdoms, Thrones and Broken Vocations

6913wordle

Biblical Text: Galatians 1:11-24
Full Draft of Sermon

We continue our reading and preaching from Galatians this week.

I can be fairly accused of being a grammar geek, at least with the Scriptures. For most writers, or speakers, the syntax of how they write gives you insight and information into how they are thinking. Now some texts don’t deserve such parsing because they are just stream of consciousness. But other texts, texts that border on art whatever their genre, scream for a close read. The author wants to get something across and has taken care to write it in the way thought best. Great authors are famous for being fastidious over words. In a 1000 page novel they will argue with an editor about a single word on page 251 as if the entire work depended on it. The scriptures might be written by the most fastidious of authors ever – the Spirit.

What stood out to me about Paul’s autobiographical section of Galatians was the pronouns and the switch of pronouns. When Paul describes his life before the Damascus Road, the pronouns are all I and my. They are all first person. Even though on the surface his was zealous for Judaism, the way he expresses it tells the truth. He was zealous for himself expressed through Judaism. Like we can be zealous for ourselves expressed through owning an Apple or a Samsung cell phone. But when he turns to his current life, the pronouns are now mostly third person – he or him. The primary focus of Paul’s life shifted from me to Christ. Put in different terms which this sermon explores, Paul puts the Kingdom first.

He still has his place. Paul has a vocation, a calling. He is an apostle. But the living of that vocation is not about expressing my will, but about glorifying God. With a side trip through George Martin’s Game of Thrones, art can help us see truth that we don’t want to see, the Realm comes first and then all these things (our vocations) are added.

Boomers & Stickers

That title is a reference to Wendell Berry. A rough translation: Boomers = people who go where ever the opportunity is greatest regardless of the mess they leave behind. Stickers = people who stay in one place because the community is greater than the individual. As with all dualities it is immediately true and false at the same time. Berry’s deeper point I have taken to be that the rules of American society have become too tilted toward Boomers. Even if you were a sticker, the price is individually too high. But a society of all boomers lacks the social capital and cohesion to exist for any length of time.

There are a lot of Christians who have resonated with Wendell Berry. My guess is that many have read him on “place” and sticking and heard echoes of “running the race” and seen his virtues of “place” in the community called the church, which in most Americans experience is a local thing. Yes, in episcopal churches there are far away hierarchies, but even in the Roman Catholic Church in America, the religion of daily life is played out in the local parish. Nobody fears the coming of the inquisition. Coming from a Lutheran standpoint, and I would say Confessional Lutheran based on the Treatise of the Power and Primacy of the Pope (TPPP), that local nature of the church is a correct understanding. The church is found where the word is preached and the sacraments administered correctly. The entire church is present in that local congregation, or maybe said better that congregation is the church in that place. Anything “above” or outside of the congregation is not church although we might call it that. The church above or outside of the congregation is fine, but we should recognize it for what it is – de jure humano – a human construct. The reformers where fine with the Pope so long as he would admit his office was by human law.

Alan Jacobs questions if this resonance is misplaced or even reconcilable with Christianity. His primary evidence is Jesus and Paul who were clearly not “stickers” but in Paul’s case traveled “to the ends of the earth”. To make place a primary commitment is as Berry does is a form of idolatry.

I’d agree with Jacobs in so far as I think Berry’s place is a secularized form of the church. Christians who read Berry and make an equation of church and place are making a jump that Berry doesn’t. But Christians who make that jump are reading the deeper truth that Berry can’t or won’t make. The church is a place. The church is the proleptic or out of time appearance of the Kingdom of God in this dying age. In so far as the Christian is a sticker to the place of the Kingdom, the virtues of place in Berry are applicable. The deepest of those virtues in my understanding is simple the ability to stop coveting the greener grass on the other side of the fence and to recognize our vocations where we are. Some are called to be apostles which would mean a bunch of travel. But wherever they go they are still in the place of the Kingdom living out their vocation. They did not leave because of covetousness but because of call. And to do so is not to leave at all. Likewise the pastor called to the same place for a lifetime, or the layman who works quietly in the vineyard where they have been placed, are also living out their vocations. The world would say to them -“Boom, you are not getting the most out of life, you must go elsewhere.” The church and God instead would say no. There is honor and fulfillment in living your life in place, “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)” Berry’s form of place is idolatry because his place is literally a physical place in this dying world. But Berry, unlike many other forms of secularism, is sanctifiable with a better understanding of place. The Christian’s home is not here, but the Kingdom. And that Kingdom is in every place. One can go and never leave. Likewise one can never leave, but have everywhere in the communion of saints.