Sanctification and Vocation

The estimable Anthony Sacramone has been carrying on a fascinating and helpful discussion (in two posts here and here on Jonathan Fisk’s  Broken) about the Lutheran view of the Christian life, how it perhaps doesn’t do enough with sanctification.  I think the missing link, so to speak, is the doctrine of vocation.  Here is a somewhat revised version of what I posted as a comment:

The doctrine of vocation is not just about our work.  It really is the Lutheran doctrine of the Christian life.  We are brought to faith through Word and Sacrament and then we live out that faith in love and service to our neighbors.  “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God  has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17).  And God assigns us and calls us to various and multiple tasks in the orders that He has created for human beings:  the household (the family plus economic labor), the church, the state, and what Luther called “the general order of Christian love” (the informal relationships of friendship, interactions with others,  as in the Good Samaritan parable, etc.) . Vocation is where sanctification happens, where we exercise our faith, where we battle with sin, where we grow “in faith towards you [God], and in fervent love for one another” (as it says at the end of the liturgy, when we are sent back into our vocations).

I wonder if the problem is the ordinariness of the good works that take place in vocation.  As Einar Billing says in Our Calling, “In all our religious and ethical life, we are given to an incredible overestimation of the extraordinary at the expense of the ordinary.”  [Read more...]

Finding Your Vocation in College

Anthony Sacramone asked me to write something on “How to Find Your Vocation in College” for the I.S.I. website he edits, so I did.  I also took the opportunity to answer the conservative pundits who are saying that college students should all go into technology so they can pay off their student loans and forget about the liberal arts.  Also, Mathew Block at First Thoughts linked to the post and added some perceptive comments of his own. [Read more...]

The vocation of garbage collectors

I have always admired garbage collectors.  Their work is hard and dirty, but essential, and yet they do not get the respect they so richly deserve.  They too are masks of God and without them, as Luther said in another context, we would perish in our filth. Now there is a book about them by anthropologist Robin Nagle: Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City.  These city workers have twice the fatality rate of police officers and seven times that of firemen.  [Read more...]

Morality and economics

Economist Steven Pearlstein has published an article in the Washington Post entitled “Is capitalism moral?”  It’s balanced and nuanced, giving the views of both conservative apologists for capitalism and its liberal critics.  I’ll give you a sampling after the jump and then raise some additional issues of my own. [Read more...]

Satan’s ordinary attacks

We often think of the Christian life in terms of spectacular events and experiences, but vocation teaches us that Christianity is to be lived in the most ordinary spheres of life.  By the same token, Satan also tries to attack us in those ordinary spheres of life.  Pastor Matt Richard draws on John Kleinig’s spiritual classic-in-the-making Grace Upon Grace to show how that works. [Read more...]

Lent and Vocation

Daniel Siedell, in the course of discussing the Russian film The Passion of Andrei Rublev (1966), about an icon maker who returns to his craft when he helps a child, makes some important connections between Lent and Vocation.  (Notice too how Luther’s doctrine of vocation–with his focus on loving and serving the neighbor–is different from that of other theologies.)

Lent is an observance that reveals our weakness and failure in remarkable ways. Each year we vow to “keep” it better, each year we fail, often in unexpected ways—either in the mounting sense of pride we experience in our self-sufficiency, dedication, and discipline or in the despair that our failures somehow reveal God’s true assessment of us.

And so it is appropriate to consider vocation during this most sensitive time of the year, a time in which are reminded that we are unable to set aside those things that so easily ensnare us, like food, drink, Twitter, and sin. Lent reminds us that the Christian, as Martin Luther says, “lives not in himself, but in Christ and neighbor,” in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Lent reminds us just how much we live in ourselves. And our work is one of the most explicit ways in which we do so. [Read more...]


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