With these Psalms & Laments, we join in with the nation as we all grieve the senseless killing of nine of our brothers and sisters in Christ from Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Rev Clementa Pinckney, Rev Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev Daniel L. Simmons Sr, Rev DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, our hearts go out to their families and loved ones and the congregation they served.
MIRROR, MIRROR – YOU ARE FIERCE WITH REALTY – SERMON RESOURCES
ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
Faith is a journey, it’s a stake in the ground that declares our hope in a God we cannot see but are confident is present. Blind faith is much better than despair. And informed faith is even better. Coupled with our faith is the space that is needed for our true self to emerge as we increase our trust and dependence on God. This faithful action, the lowering of our defenses, allows us to discover something significant about ourselves, just what we are called to. We have lots of names to label this activity, but only one is needed, vocation.
“When did Jesus know he was God?” I’ve always struggled with Jesus’ vocation and understanding of his divinity, let me just say that I believe that Jesus discovered his vocation much in the same way we all do. It unfolded. He struggled. He understood suffering. He was acquainted with pain. He had to trust and depend on God just like I have to. I’m willing to follow him because he has gone first through the narrow gate. This picture of Jesus struggling with his vocation is a perfect invitation for us, it creates space for us. Plus this picture doesn’t weaken Jesus or make him inept. In fact, it makes him stronger because he models what a life of faith, trust, and dependence looks like.
Fredrick Buechner says that vocation is “where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.” The “deep hunger” part is significant. When we come alive and see God at work in our lives, this often is accompanied by an increased awareness that develops within us. Simply put we start to care. There’s also a community aspect to this awareness and knowing, we discover something powerful about ourselves in the presence of others. Now there’s also a way that this is hard for us to enter into as we are trying to make ends meet everyday, and we often conflate and confuse our vocation with what we do for money. Our vocations can potentially include our jobs, but it is not limited to those.
We are created by a God who sees us, loves us, takes joy in us, and desires good things for us. Vocation is never about a blueprint that you have to get right or you’ll ruin your whole life. Plan A or Plan B. Vocation is never a list of specific tasks you have to complete, and if you miss one, you have permanently ruined your life. Vocation, meaning, and worth are not taken away from you if you feel you have disappointed, struggled, or missed the mark. We miss the meaning of vocation if we do not understand that our vocations emerge from within us.
Parker Palmer, in his book, Let Your Life Speak puts it this way:
“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
The way forward always starts with trust. All great discoveries begin with the same pattern: trust-faith-risk. A hopeful probing in the dark. Artists don’t invent beauty. They see it, hear it, capture it. Art is discovery, not invention. As we consider our vocations, we move from the unknown to the known, and we do that a step at a time. We don’t start the process knowing; we start the process trusting. We see it in Jesus’ story.
Many of us falsely assume that Jesus was born with an automatic, magical understanding of his vocation and calling. And like an actor on a stage having memorized all of his lines, we imagine his every step, act, and spoken word were ordered, expected, and ordained. To be human is to grow, learn, and develop; a human is a being in progress. Often, to know as a human being is to come to know, over time. We gather information and experiences over time, making connections – one moment of insight makes way for another. It’s a process, a discovery.
Jesus wasn’t born into a vacuum; he was planted into a community. And out of this community, he came to understand his vocation. Luke in his gospel, emphasizes the role of elders surrounding Jesus: Mary & Joseph; Elizabeth & Zechariah; Anna & Simeon — all surrounding Jesus. And it’s in community that we see Jesus’ vocation unfold starting with his birth announcement in Luke 2 through his baptism at age 30. His trust develops in community, surrounded by the elders, growing in maturing, listening to and asking questions of those a few steps ahead of him. In short we see Jesus in a posture of learning with his hands open: sitting, listening, asking.
And the questions Jesus asks are real. He’s pursuing insight. At no time do we observe anyone handing him a blueprint,or a script for his life. The community that Luke finds Jesus in is diverse too: prophets, women, elders, and teachers, each contributing a unique voice and perspective, speaking together, joining their voices to a larger tapestry: the unfolding of his vocation.
As we look to Jesus, I hope we see the same things, we was observant, attentive, open. How do you find yourself?
LISTEN TO YOUR LIFE SPEAK
Discover your vocation the way that Jesus did, by listening to your life speak.
Vocation does not mean a goal I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must try to listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live – but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.
Find a place and time where you can sit at peace in the presence of God, where you can ask your life some questions:
What are you passionate about? What do you love about your life? When are you at your best? If you had unlimited resources and unlimited time, what would you choose to do? What are you best at doing? What do other people identify in you that you do well? What are your strongest spiritual gifts?
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.