Vocation or calling was the overall theme of the inspiring January 26th worship service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. Earlier posts have discussed two focal points of the first part of the service—Preparing for the Word. They were the Prayer of Confession and the Anthem based on “God Be in My Head” from the Sarum Primer of 1514.
The second and central part of the service was “Listening for the Word” with the reading of three passages of Scripture: Acts 9: 36-43; Acts 16: 9-15 and Romans 12: 1-8 and commentary on them in the Sermon “God Is in This Place” by Rev. Meghan K. Gage-Finn.
This post will discuss the third passage and the accompanying commentary. (A prior post recited the passages from Acts and the commentary that at least three of the four people had different gifts and vocations.)
Romans 12: 1-8 (New Revised Standard version]:
- “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
- “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”
The clear message in this familiar passage is everyone has different gifts and, therefore, different vocations.
Rev. Gage-Finn told us that she recently had heard “a retired executive . . . [say] that in all his years as a corporate professional and faithful church leader, he had never once been asked about his work and his faith and how the two either did or did not intersect for him.”
This comment had prompted Rev. Gage-Finn’s realization and confession that in her conversations with church members she had not asked such questions. And this realization motivated her to begin doing so and thereby expand her vocation as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. Here are some of the responses she received:
- “Many could identify that, though they weren’t directly sheltering those who are homeless or clothing the naked every day, they have gifts and skills from God that they feel they can put to good use. One person said, ‘instead of looking for all the ways my job and career weren’t worthy, I began to search for ways they were. I looked for ways, big and small, I could make a positive impact on those around me every day and started focusing on those things.’”
- Others said “they can see that God is at work in and through them, shaping and guiding them through difficult times and situations in their work. “
- Another member told her, “In my case, I believe experiencing or finding a sense of call is that time when one ‘comes to peace’ with the intersection of those things that bring you joy and lift you up, and those activities that you’ve had some success with, and those areas where society will actually pay you a wage. That to me is finding a sense of call. This exactly means understanding that something that I thought was my sense of call is not really in the cards.”
- Others “spoke of feeling that work and life away from Westminster can sometimes be challenging or in conflict with what they hear and learn about each week when they come to church. It doesn’t always fit.”
These responses prompted Gage-Finn to declare, “God is surely in this place [Westminster] while we are here, but in all the other places in our lives, at work and at home, in the boardroom and the cubicle, God is there.”
On the other hand, she said she had “learned from listening to you . . . that there may be a disconnect between what you do Monday through Friday and what you hear and experience at Westminster. Some are able to make that bridge, but for others it is hard and should be lifted up.”
“If we are people of faith when we are here and when we leave here, claiming that God is in this place and all places, then who we are and what we do is very much connected to our neighbors and our community. We know that Westminster is a telling presence . . . . At the same time, we are each as individuals working to be a telling presence, marketers of this Good News if you will, no matter where we are. We acknowledge that God is in all places and that we are all, as children of God–our most important title–ordained to the ministries of love, hospitality, and kindness, ordained as stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Here is “my hope for you today: what you do matters, not because if you are an architect or engineer we can use you on the property committee, or if you are in finance or accounting your gifts could be used for the budgeting process. Because you are created in the image of God, you matter to your colleagues, your family, your community, and to God. Your life’s work matters. In all that you do, find ways to live and work with faith and integrity, and when you feel the disconnect, know that we will keep asking and listening and supporting, with God’s help.”
 The Bulletin for the January 26th service is available online along with the text and an audio recording of the sermon and a video recording of the service. Another blog post discussed Westminster’s order of worship while clicking on “Westminster Presbyterian Church” in the Tag Cloud at the top right of the blog will give you all of the posts about the church in reverse chronological order of posting.