Sunday, December 15, 2013

Looking for Mr. Goodlife. . .

Our life's vocation is not some riddle to be solved.  Finding God's plan for my life has become a chief pursuit of many Christians.  From religious vocations to finding a spouse to job hunting, we approach the idea of vocation as a deep, dark mystery that must be found, interpreted, and followed as if it were a treasure map.  Indeed, for too many the pursuit of vocation has replaced vocation itself, becoming a calling to find a calling.  Walk through any Christian bookstore and you will find shelf after shelf of books that presume to teach you how to figure out God's code or discern His hints toward your future.  Some of them are financial but many, perhaps most, are about other things in life.

This is a danger to us and a grave misuse of what vocation truly means.  God has not give us a puzzle to unlock but a clear and noble calling to live out in the high calling of our daily lives who we are as the children of God by baptism and faith.  We seem intent on making something rather straight forward into something confused and mysterious -- something that ends up working against our faith and trust and undermining the confidence which His Word and promise seek to bestow upon His people.

Too many of us waste the opportunities God places before us by dwelling upon what is hidden instead of what is apparent to us.  In our efforts to prevent missing God's will or direction, we are left with doubt, fear, and even regret.  Surely it is a terrible fraud foisted upon Christians to live in fear of each day and each choice as if there was a grand plan for a grace filled life that we may miss, unless we can rightfully discern the markers and hidden messages of God that seek to point us on the right path. 

Every person, every Christian, lives with some measure of regret.  There is not one of us who has lived so close to the narrow way that we have never detoured, never lost our way, never wondered about this turn o that.  But that is precisely the point.  God has not hidden clues to a grace-filled life that are left to us to unearth but has promised to make all things work together for our good.  This means the mistakes and errors as well as the successes and triumphs.  God is not waiting for us to get it right.  He has come to us where we are and given us His Word and Spirit to lead and guide us in the living out of these days as His children by baptism and faith.  What a terrible thing to focus not on this confidence but to go through life guessing and in fear that we guessed wrongly and so missed out on the blessed and grace-filled life of success, happiness, and achievement that God meant for us!

The focus is not on us.  The focus always lies upon the Lord, upon the Word and Sacraments, upon the grace filled life that flows on from these sources of grace, hope, forgiveness, life, and comfort.  Do not waste your life practicing for something whose day will never come.  Do not live some virtual life you construct to prevent a mistaken path instead of the real life which is your call and gift in baptism.  Do not spend your life rehearsing what God has given to live out now, fully by grace through faith, until you live its life by sight in the heavenly glory prepared for you.

I well recall a person focused on "spiritual gifts" who could not teach Sunday school because her "gift" was hospitality -- but if we needed a hostess to greet people, she was up for it.  She has found here niche in Jesus and she was not going to screw it up by straying from the narrow path of spiritual discernment that had given her assurance and comfort in this spiritual gift and calling.  Hmmmmm.  I did not ever imagine that any language about spiritual gifts in the Scriptures was meant to insulate a person from service.  Just the opposite, I had thought. 

Our failures are swept up in the grace of forgiveness.  Our repentance met with the God who restores His lost, wandering, and error prone people.  Our confidence rests in His abiding and efficacious Word that does what it says and gives what it promises.  Our courage is the Holy Spirit at work in us through the means of grace that we might trust what is His pledge and promise to us.  Our calling is to receive this grace by faith and to live it out in high and noble calling of the Christian's daily life -- forgiving as forgiven, loving as loved, mercy shown as mercy received...  If we concentrate on what God has done for us in Christ, what we are called to do in Christ is no labyrinthine of possibility but the straight path of faith, contentment, and peace in Christ.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Thank you, Fr. Peters for a very good post.

I grew up in the "God's Will is Lost" morass. Added to all that you've said are the many voices of friends, family and pastors who know just what is your calling in life. I wonder how many have walked away from the Church frustrated and defeated by this.

Another problem added to the search is the "live your dream" or "live God's dream for you" schlock so many Evangelical leaders (I can't seriously call them pastors) spew. Everyone is special. Everyone is meant to do amazing or impossible things for Jesus. No mundane lives allowed in their churches! What a recipe for agnosticism or atheism.