Vocation and work are part of God’s design and thus have the potential of serving divine purpose.
While this sounds right, I have to admit that I cannot vouch for its rightness for every vocation and everyone’s work. Because I am not an engineer, farmer, salesperson, or mechanic, I cannot say with personal knowledge or absolute certainty that this statement is true for engineers, farmers, salespersons, and mechanics. I am a teacher, and thus, can only speak as a teacher. And even as a teacher, I cannot speak for high school geography teachers or teachers of children in Montessori schools. I can only speak as a teacher of adults in a seminary. But as such a teacher, I believe my vocation and work are part of God’s design and serve divine purpose.
I say this not because of my specific vocation or my particular place of work but because of aim and intention. As a teacher my aim is for each class session to be a sacred space and a holy time in which I invite others by way of questions and discussion to partake in the sacraments of learning and friendship so that together we move toward transformation and witness. As you read these words, you may think – ‘Well, that it is super easy for you to say, since your job is about preparing people for ministry.’ And yet, it isn’t that easy or a given. I have the same temptation that others face in their work and vocation. I can easily default to seeing what I do as mundane, common, or just neutral work. In fact, the temptation is to assume the sacred, holy, and sacramental because of the subject matter I teach and its connection to the church’s mission. And such an assumption would be fatal. For my work as a teacher to be sacred, holy, and sacramental, I must work with intention and purpose toward ends that are sacred and holy. Without such intentionality, I will surely veer into actions and attitudes that cause me to view my vocation merely as job and my work as empty routine or drudgery.
Even though I lack personal knowledge and thus cannot speak concerning the vocations of others, I can hope for them. My hope is that a Christ-following farmer who tills, plants, waters, and harvests would be able to speak of his life and work in the same manner that I do – sacred, holy, and sacramental. Or that a Christ-following mechanic diagnosing problems and repairing engines in a competent, timely, and fair manner would speak of her vocation and work as sacred, holy, and sacramental. My hope for the farmer and the mechanic emerges from my belief about God and his mission. If mission is God’s mission and all the bits of life have a place in God’s created order, then every vocation has mission potential.
I do not live in Burma. Nor do I have the vocational title of missionary. My salary does not come from a mission agency. And yet, I intend to participate in God’s mission as a teacher, and my aim is to teach in ways that give witness to God’s transformational work. Likewise, I encourage you, as clerks, police, dentists, nurses, or whoever you are, to make your vocational aim a sacred intention – to make your work no less than the mission of God.