I’m the luckiest guy I know. I pop out of bed and can’t wait to get to work. I absolutely love my job.
Well, job isn’t the best description for being a pastor. Vocation is a much better word. Vocation comes from vocare, a Latin verb meaning “to call.” I feel called to my work.
The dictionary defines vocation as “a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation,” and it lists as synonyms calling, life’s work, mission, and purpose. I love the classic definition for vocation offered by Frederick Buechner, that vocation is “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Everyone has a vocation, because God calls everyone. Ideally, Christian disciples are those lucky people who have paired gladness with hunger and can’t wait to jump into it every morning.
But, truth told, many people aren’t all that content with how they spend their days. Lots of people spend their days in ways that do not feed their souls. It’s always been that way, I suspect.
The Reformation made a serious stab at convincing people that the path to spiritual wholeness was claiming God’s intentions for one’s talents and then using them with passion and gladness. The priesthood of all believers, we called it. This old idea – that God gives us what we need in order happily to give what the world needs – has fallen on hard times and deaf ears. There’s an internet site which records the use of words in print over time, and the word vocation is now used less frequently than any time since the 1830s.
That’s telling. What a shame. The church has fallen down on the job. We have neither preached nor taught that spiritual wellbeing presumes seeking God’s call and following it. We have stood silently by as other voices have called to our fellow disciples, muses singing of less noble and unsatisfying options.
I’d like First Pres to be more intentional about celebrating the truth that God creates each of us with unique gifts, specific abilities, and special insights, and then inspires us to their use in the world. What a glorious and hopeful message! And, we should teach this not only with children and youth, though we certainly should be intentional with the young. No, this message of call and claim is as useful at 85 as at 15.
That’s why we’re planning a September church retreat at Mo-Ranch where we’ll explore this very theme. To what end has God dreamt me? What am I for? Where will my gladness join the world’s hunger?
Which leads to the point of this column.
The words vocation and vacation are curiously linked. Vacation comes from the Latin vacare, meaning to “be unoccupied.” And catch this; vacation is now in print more than it ever has been.
Vocation is falling into disuse, and vacation is more popular than ever.
Maybe you’re taking a vacation this summer. I hope so. I’m looking forward to mine.
And might our vacations serve also the lovely purpose of reconnection to our vocations? Maybe, just maybe, being unoccupied for a time could offer the uninterrupted chance to reattach ourselves to God and to God’s purposes for our lives.
Hope to see you in church,