A Musing in Baking Bread
I once heard the story of a baker who ran a small but successful bakery. He was committed to the church. He taught Sunday School with his wife, served on committees, and attended services. But his passion was still in baking pastries, breads, cookies, and cakes.
Once while serving on a committee, he found out about a soup kitchen being formed by several churches. It would serve meals in the evenings and at lunch and dinner on the weekends. It had been determined that this was when families needed help as schools could help with breakfasts and lunches during the week.
Even serving a limited number of meals, the budget would be tight, but the committee decided to join the cause and secure volunteers and funds for the program.
On the way home it occurred to the baker that he could do more, so he decided to provide the bread needed out of his bakery. He would also provide a cake anytime one was needed for a birthday celebration. He quietly did this for years, making sure all of his bread and cakes arrived in plain brown paper wrappings. His goal was service to God with the gift he had been given, not publicity or advertising.
A few years into this service he was called away on a trip to Chicago to visit an ailing relative. He arrived by train to the city and as he went through the station, he was confronted by an overzealous woman he’d never seen before who was trying to evangelize people.
She asked him, “What work do you do for God?”
He replied, “I bake bread.”
She said, “I don’t mean your trade, but what service do you do for our Savior?”
“I bake bread,” he said.
She tried again, “I mean, how are you seeking to glorify Christ and spread his gospel?” “I bake bread,” he said once more.
Exacerbated she yelled, “Repent and testify to the power of God.”
As he walked away, he said almost in a whisper, “Oh I do…I bake bread.”
Because of the way he viewed his calling, his answer was exactly right.
The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare meaning to call. Thus, one’s job is their calling, or vocation.
For Christians the doctrine of vocation is central to the belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life. In our reformed theology it is based on the idea that each individual person has unique strengths and gifts with which they can make a positive contribution to the good of the community.
Every one of us has activities, interests and desires that drive us and fuel our passions. By living life in response to these passions, one finds meaning which gives purpose. The idea of vocation lies in the belief that life is about more than just what many consider to be their personal trinity of me, myself, and I. A “vocation” or “calling” by its very definition says that one lives life as a response to something more than just myself. And for the Christian that something is the will of God.
The reformer Martin Luther noted that every vocation was a calling. Luther wrote, “Through the human pursuit of vocations across the array of earthly stations, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sick are healed, the ignorant are enlightened, and the weak are protected.” In other words, by working a Christian participated in “God’s ongoing providence for the human race.”
In 1995, the General Assembly of the PC(USA) approved a statement entitled Principles of Vocation and Work. The statement included this powerful paragraph: “Vocation is a lifelong response to God in all aspects of one’s life. Work, paid and unpaid, is an integral part of the believer’s response to God’s call. One’s vocation may include multiple careers, volunteer opportunities, and should involve continual spiritual growth in every step of the life-journey to which God calls us.”
And the apostle Paul declared, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-7.)
Friends, every part of our life including our work – paid or unpaid – (and even our life after our careers are over) can indeed be a gift given to build the kingdom of God in response to all God has given us.
Friends seek your call – find your passion - live your vocation and no matter what you do – be it butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, it can indeed be testimony to the glory of God.