Musing for 1/20/2021
There was a man, a baker by trade, who taught Sunday school at his church and served on a church committee. One day, while riding a train, he was approached 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. Because of the way he viewed his calling, that answer was exactly right.
The idea that regular folks like us who are not in the professionally trained full time clergy having a powerful witness for Christ was a really important part of the reformation to which we are heirs. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin made this an important part of their teachings and writings. At the time of the Reformation these teachings on "calling" were freeing, giving status to the lay people and providing new motivation, guidance, and worth to everyday occupations.
Ironically, the issues found during the time of the Protestant Reformation seem to apply today. Increasingly I believe the idea of calling and vocation as part of our entire life is an important area of which our contemporary society needs to be reminded. The church’s teaching on vocation or calling, which shares that our daily activities constitute the entirety of one's Christian life and walk, does not seem to be grasped by contemporary Christians. More and more, our country seems to be full of people who struggle to see the relationship between their work, their daily chores and their recreation, and their faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, too many leave Jesus in the pews as they find our Lord’s call for justice, mercy, kindness, compassion, grace and love incompatible with daily American life.
Society jokingly calls these type of people “Sunday Christians.” The reality for the church, however, is these Sunday Christians are no joke, for they do real damage to the faith. I am continually amazed at the numbers of people who do abhorrent acts of violence and evil and then claim they are doing these things as part of the faith they have in Jesus. Others do things less publicly but just as damaging as their business practice or interactions with others fail to follow the teachings of Christ to love others as they love themselves. The words and deeds done by these “believers” provide far more ammunition to those seeking to hurt the church than any non-believer could ever do.
So how do we avoid falling into this trap—because we have all slipped into it at times? How do we live our faith not just from 11-12 (or maybe 12:10) on Sundays but 24/7 – 365.
First, I think we need to remember we all have been given a unique call—be it teacher or baker or cashier or truck driver or homemaker or student or retiree. In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus he states, “I (Paul) therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” We have all been called and we should all seek to bring honor to that call.
My grandmother (dad’s mom), who I called Mema, never gave a sermon to my knowledge. However, she preached far better than I do through her cooking, which she shared with anyone who was in need , whether it was from an illness, the loss of a loved one or simply to say, “you are loved.” Her cooking was a gift from God, and she shared it as her calling. We all have an opportunity to share the love of God with our lives. We simply must be stewards of those gifts and opportunities. Rev. Tom Are Sr. coined the phrase “Lifestyle Stewardship” to describe how we are to live and love. May we all be stewards of the life God has given us.
A second thought is that we need to be intentional in praying for both others and for ourselves. I know it sounds simple when we hear “to pray” but actually it can be incredibly difficult to do. Carving out time and clearing our mind of the clutter to pray in a busy and noisy world takes real intentionality.
Not sure what to pray? Let me give few ideas. First, pray that God would have you see others the way God does which is as God’s beloved child. Second – on my desk I have a taped slip of paper that says – “God help me notice what you want me to see.” And third pray that God will help you discern God’s will as opposed to your own.
Next change your mindset from “I have to” to “I get to.” Suddenly it is “I get to go to work” or “I get to go to church” or “exercise”. Every day is a blessing in which we “get to enjoy” or “have to endure” and most of the time the difference between the two is how we choose to go about the day. So as a principal I worked for said every day on the morning announcements – “make it a great day or not the choice is up to you.”
Finally, and I think most importantly, do everything you do out of love. Love is the first and most important of our calls. We may not be perfect in our lifestyle. We may misuse the gifts we have been given. Our prayers may be inconsistent, or we may not earnestly seek to hear God. But if we love…well 1st Peter says it best – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Friends be you a butcher, baker or candlestick maker may all you do be to glorify God. Because as many of us learned as we tried to memorize the Westminster Catechism that “our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.”