Vocation as the priesthood of all believers

John Kleinig inGrace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today understands that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is carried out in VOCATION:

“There are two hidden sides to our secret vocation. First, we stand in for others before God the Father together with Christ. We represent them before the Father by identifying with them and their needs and by praying for them.” (Page 64)

“Second, as holy priests we take God and His blessings with us to every person that we meet. We are, if you like, ‘christophers,’ carriers of Christ, bearers of Him to others.” (Page 65)

“These two sides to our priestly vocation interact and enrich each other. By bringing others to God the Father in prayer, we are equipped to bring His blessing to them as we go about our business. As we engage with people in our work and leisure, we discover their needs and so are prompted to help them by praying for them. Thus we serve as secret agents, priestly people who lead heavenly lives on earth by remaining in touch daily and weekly with our heavenly Father.” (Page 65)

This puts forward a simple spiritual exercise: When you interact with people in your calling–on the job, in your family, in your citizenship (as you read the newspaper, for example)–and become aware of their needs, pray for them. Intercede for them. Be their priest.

The table as altar

Columnist Sally Quinn , writing about entertaining guests, tossed off a provocative comparison:

When you think about it, there is a sacred quality to the sharing of a meal. Just think of Jesus's last supper as an example. The table can be a kind of altar, with a cloth, candles, wine and bread.

This, I believe, is a valid connection. As we exercise the priesthood of all believers in vocation, we serve at different altars, where we perform sacrifices of ourselves in love and service to our neighbors. We present our bodies as living sacrifices at these altars–which may be a computer, a desk, a diaper-changing table–and they are also places where we can offer up the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. But a table is especially a kind of altar, and it is fitting to adorn special meals, such as the Thanksgiving Feast, with cloths and candles and offerings.

In a meal, we receive the benefit of life sacrificed for us so that we may live–the turkey gave its life for us; so did the vegetables on our plate–life being impossible without the sacrifice of other life. Every time we eat a meal, we experience that truth, which points to the gospel of Christ, who, in turn, gives Himself to us in a meal.

Preach about Hell to improve the economy

Here is a fascinating article on the influence of specific religious beliefs on economic growth. It’s too long to do justice with excerpts, so I will give you this teaser from The curious economic effects of religion – The Boston Globe:

A pair of Harvard researchers recently examined 40 years of data from dozens of countries, trying to sort out the economic impact of religious beliefs or practices. They found that religion has a measurable effect on developing economies – and the most powerful influence relates to how strongly people believe in hell.

The research goes into far more than this sensationalistic tidbit, finding, for example, that Protestants were involved in greater economic growth in the years after the Reformation than Catholics. Why? Some still suggest Max Weber’s hypothesis that the “Protestant work ethic” came from the need to prove one’s salvation through attaining earthly prosperity. The problem is that PROTESTANTS DIDN’T BELIEVE THAT! A more convincing reason is that “mass education was a Protestant invention.” A peasant taught to read the Bible could then read anything, giving him access to all kinds of information, and opening the door to prosperity. Even more fundamentally, I would argue, is the DOCTRINE OF VOCATION, which gave economic labor a new value and spiritual significance. The article also shows strong evidence that Christianity builds trust, honesty, and other virtues necessary for a strong economy.

HT: Joe Carter

THE book on Christian spirituality for today. . .

. . .has to be Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John W. Kleinig. Dr. Kleinig is an Australian theologian, Bible scholar, and Lutheran seminary professor who is one of the most illuminating teachers I have come across. Many Christians today have gotten interested in “spirituality,” with some exploring Eastern meditation and arcane mysticism without ever being introduced to the distinctly Christian approach to the spiritual life. This book explores the unique “receptive spirituality” that is the life of the Gospel of Christ. Christian spirituality find its expression in prayer, the Word, the sacraments, struggle against Satan’s temptations, and VOCATION. It has to do above all with receiving “grace upon grace” in Christ.

I can hardly express you just how good of a book this is. You may think that you know what there is to know on this subject, but you would be wrong. It’s one of those paradigm-shifting, life-changing books. It deserves the treatment we gave Lars Walker’s book–buying it on Amazon so as to boost its ranking (currently #227,924) so as to attract more attention to it and help propel it to bestsellerdom. If that should happen, we would see a revival of true Christian piety. Towards that end, I will be posting excerpts from time to time, passages that I have underlined as I have read and re-read this classic in the making.

Have any of you read this already? If so, I’d welcome your testimonial about Dr. Kleinig’s teaching.