Hello again! I am Jim Jelinek and I serve the people and community of Trinity Church, Newport, with my friend and colleague, The Rev. Alan Neale. This is another in our series of daily meditations/reflections during the pandemic quarantine and this one oc-curs on the third Ember Day this week, when we pray for the ministry of the Church. Today’s collect is For all Christians in their vocation [BCP, p. 256].
Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Vocation comes from the Latin root “vocare,” “to call.” It is not that God is standing there with a microphone speaking directly to our ear buds announcing something to any and each of us. It is a matter of discernment, which means looking and listening deeply to our inmost parts to try to understand what that vocation might be for us. And I do be-lieve any job, any role, any position, no matter how exalted or how “menial,” or, might we better say, how “humble”—almost anything can be a vocation.
I will add here that if it is a “call” from God, that does leave out certain things, like being a thief, a drug dealer. If the call is from God, one dimension that must be part of it is that it will contribute to the common good. So that includes those jobs/roles that are easily seen in this light: medical workers (from doctors to techs), teachers, day care workers, therapists and social workers, lawyers and judges, and even politicians.
Perhaps a little less visible in this way are those jobs/roles that have to do with lifting the human spirit, like artists, singers, dancers, gardeners and landscapers, writers and poets and playwrights, composers and choreographers and accompanists.
Then there are the scientists who advance our knowledge and lead us to heal more and more quickly: researchers, physicists, biologists, virologists, nuclear physicists, ar-borists, etc. And we cannot leave out the builders who contribute to our shelter and the efficiency we need in our homes and offices and factories: architects, engineers, car-penters, plumbers, electricians, dry-wallers, masons, painters and their partners and peers.
Let us not forget those who serve us in many ways, and here we find “essential work-ers” whom we have just now come to realize how much we need them: grocery clerks, delivery people, warehouse workers, and those who work in (too close) quarters, like butchers and fish-mongers and vegetable growers and pickers, etc.
Even more, we have come to realize the value of the wonderful people who cut or dye our hair and/or our nails, waiters and waitresses, pet groomers and veterinarians, dog walkers and cat-sitters (I have a LARGE personal stake here, as you well know), and those who drive us to our medical or other appointments.
What about those “who pick up after us,” like maids and valets, highway maintenance crews, garbage and trash pickup workers, street sweepers, and so many more? They remove certain burdens from the rest of us.
And in our current circumstances, we need to consider with deep gratitude those who are protecting us: police and firemen and women, (both volunteer and paid), security guards, people in the military, rescue workers, and many subdivisions of all of these.
I think any of these roles can be a vocation, something we are “called to” and are willing to give our lives for.
I believe everyone has a vocation, or at least the possibility of having one. The cir-cumstances are these:
- 1) First of all, God has given each of us particular abilities or aptitudes, indwelling our bodies and brains. Let’s face it, whether a pianist, a physicist, a basketball player (etc.), there are some among us who have or are the raw material for something like this. I will never be one of those—and there are many other vocations that are not mine.
- 2) Our formation from our parents and teachers nurtures those gifts or aptitudes, and further hones and sharpens them, until we reach adulthood in our society.
- 3) Then we are presented with unique opportunities within which we might be moved to commit ourselves, because something in a particular “role or job” draws us in deeply. And then we are hooked, then we are “called.”
I like to phrase it this way: when the spirit of the person and the spirit of the work meet and become one, that is vocation.
Over 45 years ago, I heard a sermon from my rector/mentor in Memphis which opened my thinking about all of this immensely. He spoke about a train journey on a sleeper from New York to his home in Charleston, and how beautifully the car that he was traveling in was cared for. Near his departure, he said to the porter, “I really have to compliment you on your work. The brass on this car is so shiny and the beautiful wood just gleams.” The porter looked at him and smiled and said, “Yes, sir, every man has got to have his glory.” Every man has got to have his glory! That is a true description of vocation, when the spirit of the person and the spirit of the work become one.
One side note: I have known several people who were so good at something that could put bread on the table and educate their children, that they had to choose to work at that, even though something else was dearer to their hearts, an “avocation” that filled their souls. They were able to make peace with that circumstance, utilize their talents in the “job” without hating it or their work environment, and then go home and during their free time fill their souls with the great joy of working in that which spoke most to their hearts. I think they learned the satisfaction of doing something well and being helpful to others in the “job,” that they could do it so easily and so well. This is espe-cially true for those whose vocation is music or art or something similar but who know that they cannot meet their responsibilities in that vocation.
I want to repeat that wonderful line in today’s collect: “Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you.” Amen.
Have a great day, and look forward to a sermon from Fr. Tim Watt tomorrow. Stay safe, be well and God bless you. +JLJ