Finding our Vocation
Finding our vocation
…again and again and again.
Cityside, 23rd July 2006
Rom 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Buddhism begins with the story of an Indian prince, protected against the realities of life until, aged nearly 30, he went outside the palace and saw four sights that changed his life. He saw someone sick, someone poor, someone dead and then an Indian hermit.
Three of the sights were disturbing and the fourth somehow comforting as the hermit was the one person he saw who seemed to be at peace.
He left the palace and his family and began a life of searching for truth, until after a night of meditation, the truth broke upon him as he sat under a Bo tree – truths he taught as the four noble truths.
The fourth noble truth is that we follow the eightfold path
- so he saw three distressing sights, found four noble truths and an eightfold path.
As we talk this morning about Christians and vocation, that sounds like a useful guideline for what I want to say:
ïƒ˜ Three sights that distress me
ïƒ˜ Four truths that light up Christian vocation
ïƒ˜ And an eightfold path of advice about how to handle vocation.
Three distressing sights
ïƒ˜ People who don’t realise their potential – gifts and talents and natural opportunities
ïƒ˜ People who feel they are second class citizens in the Kingdom
ïƒ˜ People who don’t know what they are supposed to be doing with their lives and even though they search for significance and direction, never seem to find it – in terms of the real meaning of vocation, in endless confusion.
Four noble truths
ïƒ˜ All of God’s people are called
ïƒ˜ All of God’s people need to constantly check and re adjust their direction and sense of vocation – 3 careers and 15 jobs per lifetime is average for western economies today
ïƒ˜ God is deeply interested in how we use our lives and is keen to be involved in every part
ïƒ˜ It would make a huge difference to ourselves and to those around us if we lived in such a way that our gifts and uniqueness were used to the full.
The eightfold path
These are simply eight suggestions as to what we might do to line up who we are with God’s purposes and the world of vocation.
1. Accept in full that we are in fact called of God and that what we do with our lives, matters to Him.
2. Update on a regular basis, a checklist on who we are – the unique blend of personality, gifts, experiences, opportunities, passions and dreams
3. Every few years, maximum ten but better every five, set aside serious time and resources to explore what we see for the rest of our life – our dreams, opportunities, both our left and right brain sides.
4. Recognise that the community of faith is a resource to help in this process. Develop people around us who are honest enough and discerning enough to be able to speak into our lives and our futures.
5. Examine very carefully, probably about once a year, the relationship in our living between security and risk. Am I living like this because it is safe or because it is what I am meant to be?
6. Write ourselves an obituary every five years. Put in it what we are doing and what we have achieved. Is it what we would really like to be written about the outcome of our life?
7. Match our vocational output with our stages of faith. Our faith is a growing, organic thing, not a static tick in a heavenly box. And as our faith grows and natures, the way in which we serve the world around us also needs to grow so that there is a healthy match between faith and output.
8. Make sure always that we don’t let the doing dominate – in other words we are not simply the sum total of what we do but also need to be.
Who are you? I am me –a unique blend of characteristics under God, a one off sample of God’s creative genius – far more than just accountant, doctor, plumber, mother, teacher…
Keep making the adjustments that let our being match our doing, so that we truly know who we are.
And as I close, a couple of comments on ways as a church we might respond to all this, because I truly believe many of us agonise at times over the meaning and significance of our lives and especially what we do for a job and how it fits into the grand scheme of our lives:
a. Regular teaching in these areas
b. Resource kit available of the top writings in these areas
c. People available to help us explore these dimensions
d. Maybe a group that explores this every two or three years for those who would like to do this together
e. Affirmation of one another in our searching and our changes of lifestyle and vocation
f. Thanksgiving for the incredible freedom we have in this country to express our faith and explore our vocation – a whole smorgasbord of possibilities always before us in a world where so many don’t have that freedom.