Vocatio: Summoned to Think, Choose, and Do

Work is a beautiful word and a satisfying action.You discover life’s positives often by tunneling through the negatives. If you have experienced debilitating illness for any period, you know the sadness (frustration, despair?) of not being able to work and the longing to work again.  Serious debilitation during one season taught me to appreciate batting my eyelids, expressing a thought, sitting up, standing, and taking simple steps. As strength and work progressively returned, I became attentive to little achievements,  smiling gratefully.

One could explore the topic of work from many angles. Work as employment for pay is a specific and crucial kind of work. However, I’m starting on a broader, more basic level of work as the ability to think, choose, and do, with restful intervals.

We’re nearly through the special season called the Christmas season or Christmastide. Christmas day has past. New Year’s day is upon us. Epiphany, a celebrative remembrance of the visitation of the Magi, concludes the season on January 6.  I hear over and over from so many that they are so busy, busy, busy. Work, work, work.

There is the scattered worker who has not organized work by determined priorities, thus becoming overwhelmed and frustrated, buried in a mixture of distractions, emergencies, and  . . . there they are,  the must-do’s of the given season. On the other hand, the highly organized, focused, systematic worker can become just as buried because organizational and performance disciplines offer opportunities to achieve even more! The luxuries of technology — efficiency and speed — present layers of temptations. Thus, the luxury of luxury is lost.  Infused with our own idiosyncrasies, most of us operate somewhere between the extremes.

God presents the perfect picture of work.

Work in thought (to design, choose, plan): choices made”before” or “from the foundations of the world”  (Eph. 1:4; I Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8;) and decisions made before action: “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26).

Work in execution (to do) : “In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. . .”, dividing His work into daily categories (Exodus 20:11a; Genesis chapters 1 and 2).

Finally, work at rest:  “. . .but He rested on the seventh day.” (Exodus 20:11b; Genesis chapters 1 and 2).

Maybe this is the work sandwich:

  • Plan/Design                    (Think and choose)
  • Work by steps/stages     (Do)
  • Rest/Refresh                   (intervals of rest)

While this divine example has no down side — no fallen element, no human limitations — nonetheless, it gives us a model and paradigm.

In 2005, I read (studied and marked up) a book that has impacted the way I view all of life and its work. (I have re-read parts numerous times since.) It’s entitled God At Work with the subtitle, Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. Dr. Veith’s book has its roots in Martin Luther’s teachings on vocation as systematized by the twentieth century Swedish theologian, Gustaf Wingren in his volume, Luther on Vocation.

We tend to think of vocation as one’s career, one’s occupation, one’s employment. Avocation then is one’s interests and hobbies, not a part of a paid career.  Over time, words change in meaning, often contracting or expanding in denotation and connotation.

From the Latin, “vocatio” (a summons), “vocare” (to call), and vox (voice), vocation means calling.  Vocation first came to be applied to religious callings (priest, monk, nun, ministry, missionary. . .). From the Scriptures, Luther saw a broader meaning than this narrow application. Interestingly, our secularized society employs the term (excuse the pun) in an opposite yet equally restricted direction as career/occupation/employment.

In the coming posts, we’ll consider a biblical paradigm for vocation/calling with the help of Dr. Veith and Dr. Luther.  Dr. Veith explains his initial expectation when he began this study. “I had assumed that I knew what the doctrine of vocation was; that, yes, one can do every occupation to the glory of God. ” He found so much more, so we will explore some of that “much more” in the next few posts.

In anticipation, I’d suggest that you munch on the title itself (if you haven’t read the book): God at Work with the subtitle, Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.  Hmm.

While this is my only December post (after a break for the season), I hope to post three rather than two times in January. As we launch into 2015, a study of vocation seems appropriate.

Let me conclude with a quotation from Luther for further mental munching and prayer:

 “Work and let [God] give the fruits thereof!”

Today this tractor pulls big eyed visitors at the Blazin' M Ranch in Arizona.  It used to work hard in the fields to the blessing of many.

Today this tractor pulls big eyed visitors at the Blazin’ M Ranch in Arizona. It used to work hard in the fields to the blessing of many.

Categories: Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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