Originally posted Sept. 22, 2010 at http://normacookeverist.blogspot.com/. Excerpted and republished with permission of the author.
In this post I am going to share the first part of a forthcoming article for “Dialog” journal. I will post the remainder of the article in subsequent blogs.
Each of us is called. Each of us has a daily life. Although our lives may be long or short, each person has a 24-hour day.
Not everything we do is automatically ministry, but everything we do carries the potential for ministry.
Einar Billing wrote, “Call” is an “everyday word, with a splendor of holy day about it, but its holy day splendor would disappear the moment it ceased to be a rather prosaic everyday word.”
“Calling” also means Christians being called by grace to faith. “When it began to dawn on Luther that just as certainly as the call to God’s kingdom seeks to lift us infinitely above everything that our everyday duties by themselves could give us, just that certainly the call does not take us away from these duties, but more deeply into them, then work became calling…”
To Luther “call is primarily gift, and only in second or third place a duty.” Our roles and relationships in daily life are transformed in Christ; even though they seem mundane or problematic, in Christ’s cross we can now receive our work and each other not as burden but as gift.
Calling for Luther was rooted in forgiveness of sins, the ultimate transformation. “In the degree that our life becomes a life of forgiveness of sins, to that degree we receive a calling.” “Life organized around the forgiveness of sins, that is Luther’s idea of the call.”
These reformation breakthroughs provided radical new possibilities for all people to serve in the church and to make significant vocational contributions to society.
If our calling (our vocatio) is rooted in the forgiveness of sins, what does that mean for the real ways people live? What does forgiveness mean? How are we freed for ministry? These are core questions for living out our new life together in the Spirit.
Each of the baptized who are members together of the priesthood of all believers needs to hear the gospel, God’s grace, in terms of their own specific situation. Theologian Letty Russell wrote that Jesus did not say to the blind person, “You can walk,” nor to the person who could not walk, “You can see.” Christ met people on the road in the midst of their lives and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus cared about people and also about the societal problems related to human need in the world in which they lived.
We who have been transformed by the power of the Spirit each meet Jesus in our own need, and in the midst of society’s need. If the human problem is brokenness, the good news is that Jesus makes us whole.
If the human problem is alienation, the good news is God reconciles and restores relationships.
If the human problem is guilt, the good news is that God through Jesus Christ forgives.
If the human problem is being lost, the good news is that the Good Shepherd looks for and finds the lost.
If the human problem is death, Jesus Christ has brought new life.
If the human problem is judgment, the good news in Jesus Christ is unconditional acceptance.
If the human problem is being overwhelmed by the stress and demands of daily life, Jesus invites the weary to come to him and to rest in the caring arms of God.
If the human problem is bondage, the good news is that Jesus brings freedom. The second part of what Russell said is not to be forgotten.
If the human problem is hunger, the good news is that God feeds the hungry. God needs people working in society to carry out that gospel action of feeding the hungry.
Likewise, if the human problem is injustice, God will need whole societies working together for justice for all.
Luther’s concept of ministry is linked with his definition of the church as the communion of saints. The naked and the hungry are our neighbors. Every Christian is a priest in the sense of servant; all of the baptized, including children, are called to minister to the neighbor.
Our neighbors are everywhere. Luther wrote about our “stations” and “vocations.” We today might think about “stations” as the whole range of roles and relationships of our daily lives and our “vocations” as our callings to ministry to the neighbor.
We sit beside a “neighbor” at our work “station” or school desk. This neighbor is the person right here next to us and also people on the other side of the world. We may just sit there and do nothing to serve the neighbor, thereby missing our calling.
But if we regard the other as one also made in the image of God, as one for whom Christ died, then, by the power of the Spirit, whatever the service we do, it is our ministry.
We are freed in Christ for powerful serving ministry. How might we reflect on our other roles and relationships? Who might help us hear God’s word of law and gospel? What are some of the challenges for a faith community as they seek to become empowered and equipped for their vocations in daily life?
Find a link to the author’s blog at Lutheran Blogs.