Suggested Scripture(s): Romans 12
Almost ten days ago now, our nation observed Labor Day, unofficially known as the last day of summer just as Memorial Day is considered to be the unofficial first day of the summer season. But in addition to getting just a bit more time for some last minute summer leisure and fun, Labor Day is also a holiday designated to remember those who comprise our nation’s work force – those who transport, produce, manufacture, build, create, clean, rescue, heal, serve, etc. Today, these hard-working folk are referred to as “front-line” or “essential service laborers.” There was even a song in the 1980s, I think, by the country group Alabama that lauded our nation’s laborers as the ones who really keep the engine of our nation’s economy running.
But as people of faith and regardless of our “day or night jobs,” let’s be reminded that our first vocation is being a disciple of Christ that colors and frames everything else we do. Teresa Stricklen, in writing years ago for a national denominational mission yearbook put it this way: When we are baptized, hands are laid on our heads ordaining us for a life of service empowered by the Holy Spirit. One of our baptismal vows includes a pledge to offer our talents back to God in praise for all that God has given us. This offering is our Christian “vocation” – quotation marks mine – such that our work, our relationships, indeed all of life becomes a form of prayer.
And the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said to an audience that even if the way we earn our wage is being a street sweeper, we are to seek to be the best street sweeper we can be because we are first and foremost a child of God. Now we may not realize how God is seeking to use us in ministry in the places we work, play, spend time with family, friends, and the stranger, that are in addition to where we worship. This could even include part-time jobs that we may be doing simply because we need the money, not desiring or planning to work in all the time. Nevertheless, God may have us there to provide what we need for our daily living in order that we can also have the means to serve as a disciple and giver in Christ’s name to others, even if the setting or work place is only temporary.
When I graduated high school in 1975, in a letter written to me by my mother, one of the many things she encouraged was to, “never forget Romans 12” in both memory and practice. I was thinking of that the other day when remembering Stricklen’s words about a seminary in Pittsburg, PA used to invite young people to its campus in their junior and senior years of high school. The purpose of this special invitation was to begin exploring spiritual and theological issues in a theological education environment prior to college. Stricklen said these young people would also worship, have fun, and do a service project, …all while reflecting on what it meant to be Christian and how their faith wouldl shape their future education, work, relationships, and community involvement.
And according to the Apostle Paul, this kind of reflection is something any of us can do regardless of what season in life we find ourselves – young, old, student, laborer, or retired.
We are always being called by God to live out what Stricklen calls our “baptismal vocation” with thanksgiving to Christ our Lord. So what about you and me? Is our Christian faith simply something that competes for our time, energy, and resources like everything else, or, is it the frame and focus and everyday act of worship that influences everything we do and how and in what attitude we do it?
For in reading Romans 12, we realize that one does not have to be an ordained minister or a missionary for their Christianity to be their life’s vocation.