Vocation in a Time of Pandemic

Vocation in a Time of Pandemic April 2, 2020


Can this time of pandemic be a call to deepen our sense of vocation? In this time of sheltering in place, can we discern God’s call in our lives?

I believe that every moment is a vocational moment. Every situation is a call from God where our gifts and unique personality can be gifts to those around us. I believe that God gives us long-term as well as moment by moment visions and callings, appropriate to our time and place. This time of pandemic is no exception. We are alive, and our lives are fraught with possibility even if we never leave our homes. Indeed, as the experience of the prophets and Jesus’ first followers suggests, vocation often occurs in life’s most challenging times, when our personal and national survival is in doubt.

As I, like you, shelter in place, within a world whose dimensions encompass the route between my home, my son’s family 1.5 miles away, and the beach 1.5 miles away, with an off hour stop at the church, I have taken seriously the question of vocation under changed circumstances. What is my calling now that I can’t visit folk at the hospital or nursing home, meet folks for coffee, go to children’s sporting events and movies and plays, teach in-person classes, or lead live public worship in our sanctuary or on the beach? What is my calling now that my home and not the external world is the physical focus of my energy? What is God’s vocation for me in a time of sheltering in place and physical distancing?

I don’t have the answer for you. I can share my own path and my story. For me, vocation involves discerning God’s call in the materials available to me. I am sending lots of emails to congregants and church members; holding services and classes online (11 last week); spending a lot of time with my grandchildren, homeschooling and chillin’; writing a few lines whenever I have a spare moment; reaching out to friends; and discerning the path forward for our congregation and my professional life in the world beyond the pandemic.

Yes, we have a vocation during the pandemic. Finding your vocation involves looking at your life right now, your gifts and the situations and persons with whom you interact. Socrates never left Athens and yet he was one of the wisest persons in Western history. Jesus spent most of his life between Galilee and Jerusalem and yet he transformed the moral and spiritual arc of history. Anne Frank spent two years in a hiding place, yet her words are a source of timeless inspiration. Our vocation is to be a reflection of God’s love and wisdom within the limits and possibilities of our current pandemic context.

Jesus once counseled “ask, seek, knock.” If you ask God to show you what your calling should be, the answer will come. You will find the first steps of your vocational journey. Right where you are, God is calling you. And, then listen, for that still small voice, the sighs too deep for words, coming with each encounter and millisecond. As Frederick Buechner notes, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way into the holy heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”

You have a vocation. In your small way, listen and respond and discover your unique vocation as God’s companion in transforming our world.
Bruce Epperly is a Cape Cod pastor, professor, and author of over fifty books, including FAITH IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC; GOD ONLINE: A MYSTIC’S GUIDE TO THE INTERNET; and PROCESS THEOLOGY: EMBRACING ADVENTURE WITH GOD.

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