Happy belated Cranach day!

Saturday, October 16, was the day the patron of this blog, Lucas Cranach, the artist of the Reformation, died in 1553, at the age of 81.  (His formal day of commemoration is April 6, set aside to honor him along with other Reformation-era artists, Albrecht Durer and Michelangelo.)  Read about him and contemplate his self-portrait in the sidebar to the right.  He embodies what we keep talking about when it comes to vocation. How should his day be celebrated?

See Commemorating and Remembering Lucas Cranach Today | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.

Maslow’s hierarchy has a new pinnacle of human achievement

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been a landmark of psychology, used in education and even church ministries.  Now some psychologists are revising his model, making the pinnacle not “self-actualization” but, in the words of a Christianity Today column by Elrena Evans, “something more self-giving”:

Psychologists are considering a shift to famed psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Long a fixture in the training of educators and workforce managers, Maslow’s pyramid argues that humans’ basic needs (food, water, air, sleep) must be met before they can begin to seek other, “higher” fulfillments. It makes sense: bereft of basic needs, people can’t concentrate on bigger goals. I saw this pyramid again and again when in college, minoring in education, used to stress that a child who feels hungry, tired, and unsafe is really not going to care about learning algebra, and with good reason.

Now, though, a team of four researchers headed by Arizona State University social psychology professor Douglas T. Kenrick is challenging the top tier of Maslow’s pyramid. They write in a paper recently published in Perspectives on Psychological Science that Maslow’s ultimate goal, the pinnacle of human achievement, is not “self-actualization” or the accomplishment of such higher-order functions as creativity, problem-solving, and morality. It is — wait for it — parenting.

via Her.meneutics: Why Parenting May Be Your ‘Highest’ Calling.

The reasoning is evolutionary:  Life’s biological goal cannot be self-focused, but has to be the perpetuation of the species.  Still, I think the re-focus is more in line with Christianity.   To get our moral thinking away from righteousness being just private conformity to rules and instead being an orientation to other people–loving and serving one’s neighbor– would be a big advance, and I’m glad if Maslow can help towards that end.

Indeed, the old hierarchy included “morality” but classified that as “self-actualization” rather than as loving and serving the neighbor.  Even non-parents can find the “pinnacle” of life in selfless service, since it  animates not just parenthood but all vocations.

“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:


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.


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.