Each Sunday at worship, Naomi, an internationally renowned organist and musician, blesses our congregation with her gift of music. And prior to the pandemic, she regularly performed locally, nationally, and internationally. Music is not only her profession and passion – it is her vocation. Naomi’s faith radiates whenever she interacts with others, be they musicians, choir members, or parishioners. And the love for Jesus that she has instilled in her four-year-old son, both at home and in church on Sunday, is recognized by all.
With concerts cancelled because of the pandemic, Naomi discovered another way she could serve Christ in her daily life. Naomi has close contacts in her home country of Japan, which led her and her husband to become an aunt and an uncle to students at an orphanage school in Osaka. Once the pandemic has passed and it’s safe to resume gathering, Naomi hopes to do some fundraising concerts and events with the pastors at the church that runs the orphanage.
In the meantime, Naomi learned that the school had a need for masks. Without hesitation Naomi offered to make 100 masks for the children! Unfortunately, after sewing just a few masks, her sewing machine broke – at a time when inexpensive sewing machines were sold out everywhere.
And then Naomi experienced God’s work first-hand. A friend gave her a sewing machine – a super fancy one at that. And then, because she was a beginner seamstress and also making masks of all sizes, she realized she needed help – at a time when many people were tiring of making masks. That’s when the sewing saints appeared! Two women stepped up and, with their help, Naomi was able to send 100 masks to Japan in less than two weeks!
Now the kids wear them when they go outside and when they are in class. The principal wrote that the kids think their new masks are the coolest. Not only are they handmade, but their aunties in America made them for them! (And they came with American candies.)
The writer of Ephesians urges us to “walk worthy of the vocation to which you’ve been called.” (Eph 4:1) In the midst of daily life, that can be a challenge, especially in our daily work. In a recent blog, Bob Robinson offered six markers that distinguish a “job” from a “vocation.” He thinks the distinction is important.
Robinson founded the non-profit Reintegrate to equip “God’s people to reintegrate the Christian faith with vocation so that they can participate in God’s mission on earth.” He understands “vocation” to be “something bigger, something more meaningful, something that makes us want to get up in the morning.”
Robinson names six distinguishing factors of having a vocation:
We are responding to a “calling” from a power greater than ourselves.
We are tapping into our uniqueness, regardless of whether we’re paid for the work.
We can engage some aspect of that “calling,” wherever we find ourselves.
We are participating in a mission whose scope is larger than ourselves.
We are aiming to manifest God’s love in life-giving ways, both large and small.
We understand our mission to be increasing others’ experience of love at work in the world.
Participating in God’s mission of reconciliation can take many forms, expressing the nature of God whose name is love. Our vocations, sometimes manifested in our occupations, also show up in our home life, our hobbies, our service to others, and our relationship to the wider world:
While our job might be framing houses, our vocation might be creating homes.
While our job might be caring for children, our vocation might be shaping young people to be kind.
While our job might be driving a truck, our vocation might be safely delivering what people need.
While our job might be mopping the floor, our vocation might be providing clean, safe spaces for people.
While our job might be writing contracts, our vocation might be assuring fairness for all parties.
While our job might be serving restaurant meals, our vocation might be feeding the hungry, in body and in spirit.
Each of us, in our daily life and work, can touch the lives of those around us in ways that are liberating and life-giving, whenever we claim our vocation. In some ways, those of us in “ordinary” occupations are positioned to have even greater impact than those who are working as pastors and faith leaders, and not only because there are more of us. Often, seeing God at work through “ordinary” people speaks more clearly to those who are hungry for connection.
Find your vocation: change the world, starting from the inside out.
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks (Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18). And how do we answer? The response that we express through our daily life speaks more loudly than any creed or prayer or promise that we might read or recite.
And what might God say if we were to ask the same question? “Dear God, who do you say that I am?” That’s a question that launches many a quest and walks alongside us on the spiritual journey that is our life. “Who has God made me to be? How do I live into that calling?”
If you have been baptized, then you have a vocation! So what is a vocation? Some people think it must be something that you suddenly get. You’re walking along quite happily one day, and God suddenly “zaps” you with a vocation! I don’t think that’s quite right. I believe that your vocation is that which lies at the very heart, the very core of your identity. It is discovering who it is that you most truly are.
There are particular moments in life, perhaps when you experience something, meet someone, hear some words, which touch that deep core within, and it resonates. And you say – “Oh – that’s who I am,” or “That’s what I want to do or be in life.” Sometimes you forget it, or you try to put it out of your mind, if it doesn’t fit in with other plans. But it usually comes back, and deep down, you just know that it’s truly who you are meant to be.
The Creator’s call can be powerful and persistent. Some would even say that God calls everything and everyone in Creation – baptized or not – to walk God’s Way of Love. Baptismal living embodies our choice to live the truth that God proclaims in each person, so that through our God-given identity we are blessed to be a blessing.