“In faith in You, and in fervent love toward one another”

We conclude our series on The Narrative Commentary to the Divine Service by John Pless with what he says about the conclusion of the service:

POST-COMMUNION CANTICLE, PRAYER

Having received the Lord’s Body and Blood for our salvation, like Simeon who held in his arms the Savior of the world, we go in peace and joy singing Simeon’s Song from St. Luke, Chapter 2. Another song of thanksgiving based on 1 Chronicles 16:8-10 may be used instead. Before we leave the Lord’s Table, we give thanks, asking that the salutary gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood would have its way in our lives, strengthening us in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another. The Sacrament draws us outside of ourselves to live in Christ by faith and for the neighbor by love.

BENEDICTION

The Name of the Lord is the beginning and the end of the Divine Service. We are now marked with the Lord’s Name in the Benediction-that word of God’s Blessing from Numbers 6 in which He favors us with His grace and peace. With the Lord’s Name given us in Holy Baptism we were drawn together. Now with that same Name, He sends us back into the world, to the places of our various callings to live by the mercy we have received as living sacrifices to the praise of His glory and the good of our neighbor. To this benediction you add your Amen, declaring blessing received.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – April 2010.

Notice how many allusions there are to the doctrine of vocation.  I have heard Prof. Pless explain elsewhere that the closing prayer about “faith in You and in fervent love towards one another,” which was Luther’s phrasing, is a direct reference to vocation.  At the close of the liturgy, in which we find forgiveness for our sins and grow in our faith, we are sent back out into our various callings to live out that faith “in love and service to our neighbors.”

What’s new?

Did you get anything out of the vocation essay  (below) that you never thought of before?

When your vocation makes you miserable

T. Webb wrote this in a comment on the article:

Dr. Veith,

How I wish, oh how I wish that what you are writing were true. I hear of people who have a “dream” of doing something or other people who get up every morning excited to do whatever it is that they do, and I have no context for such things, I just can’t understand it. I have a paper pushing dead-end job, and I have nothing to look forward to. I have no dreams or aspirations. I feel like the living dead.

I replied:

T. Webb,  the doctrine is true.  But vocation means far more than “job.”  What you describe is “bearing the cross.”  Vocations do not come without trial and suffering.  But do you have a family (even if you are single do you have your parents, siblings, cousins, etc.)?  Do you have a church?   You are part of a culture.  As the article says, we have multiple vocations in the family, the church, and the culture.  And your deadend job is a calling (one many people would want in this age of unemployment).  Sometimes learning about vocation can change how you look at a job.  Does it bring neighbors into your life to love and serve?  Do you see how God is working through what you do to bless others?  (What good or service does your job provide?  Can you see that as a blessing from God?)   If you hate your work so much, though, perhaps that discontent is part of God calling you to some other line of work.  But consider the other points I’ve just raised first.  (T.Webb, this is so important and your comment so plaintive that I want to put this before the other readers of this blog in our discussions on Monday.)

What counsel could you give T. Webb?

How to love someone you don’t love

If the purpose of all vocations is to love and serve the particular neighbor that vocation brings into your life, what do you do when you don’t really love that neighbor?  (George Marquart raised this question in his comment on the article.)  I’ll take a stab at the question and then let you.  Faith in Christ, we are told in Scripture, bears fruit in love (though we often fall far short, which is why we need to continue to confess our sin).  As we love Christ more and more, this overflows into love of our neighbors.  What has helped for me is the realization that just as God is hidden in vocation, Christ is hidden in our neighbors.  (“Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brethren”–or “did it not”–you have done it [or not done it] to me.”)  Thinking vocationally makes me realize that God is masked in those who do things for me; that same mindset–realizing that God hides Himself–has helped me to realize that Christ is hidden in my neighbors, which makes it easier for me to love them.

Church and ministry

The nature of the pastoral office and how that fits with the priesthood of all believers has vexed many Christians, especially Lutherans, for whom it has become a divisive issue.  What do you think about this line of thinking, drawing from my essay on vocation?

A priest is someone who performs a sacrifice.  Before God, we need no sacrifices, since Christ is our great high priest who sacrificed Himself once and for all for our sins.  But Scripture speaks of different kinds of sacrifices, presenting our body as a living sacrifice (mortification, FWS?), the sacrifice of thanksgiving, bearing the Cross, the sacrifice of dying to self for our neighbor.   All of these happen in vocation.

Protestants usually don’t call their pastors “priests.”  Catholics do, since they believe the priest offers up the sacrifice of Christ again in the mass.  (Anglicans do, but they consider the term to be related to “presbyter.”)  Instead, Protestants use “pastor,” “minister,” “preacher,” etc.

Could it be that a pastor is a priest in exactly the same way laypeople are?  When they present their bodies as a living sacrifice in serving their parishioners, when they bear the Cross in the frustrations of the ministry, etc.?  Nevertheless, being “called” into the ministry is a high office and vocation from God, so that the pastor is the means Christ uses to proclaim His Word, to baptize, and to convey His Body and Blood to His people.

The priesthood of all believers would thus NOT mean that “everyone is a minister,” or that pastors are not necessary, or that pastors do not occupy a divinely ordained office, or that there is no distinction between pastors and laity.  All believers, though, including pastors, are nevertheless priests, an office they exercise in whatever vocations they hold.

Other

Is there anything about vocation that my article either leaves out or gets wrong?


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