I grew up on a farm and one of the things I hated the most was during the summer was when my mom would make a list of chores for me to finish before I could do anything else. The thing that I wanted to do more than anything else was to go fishing but I knew I had to do chores first. Of all the chores that my mom could write down, the worst ones were cleaning. This wasn’t vacuuming or dusting, no it was cleaning up after animals. You see we had a fair number of chickens and horses and they would spend their nights in the coop or stall and they would make their mess inside. Someone, usually me, had to keep these buildings clean. It was a hot, dirty, smelly job. In the 1500’s, people would look at someone who did those kinds of jobs and think, only people who work in the church are really doing the work of God. Today I am going to talk briefly about an idea that Martin Luther brought forward during the reformation that was completely revolutionary for its time. It was the idea of calling. He insisted that the farmer shoveling manure and the maid milking her cow could please God as much as the minister preaching or praying.
When Luther talked about calling, he wasn’t talking about phones, especially since phones were not invented back then. Calling is the place God has put you. You are called to be a student. A teacher. A principal. A parent. A son. A daughter. These did not happen by chance. God has placed you in your family, in this school, on purpose.
So if God has placed you, then everything you do in that place, can be done to God’s glory. Colossians 3:17 says,
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Dan Doriani, professor at Covenant Theological Seminary wrote about Luther’s view of calling.
“Further, as we work in our God-given station in life, we become agents of his providential care: “God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid.” Through our hands God answers the prayers of his children. We pray for daily bread at night, and bakers rise in the morning to bake it. The same holds for clothing: God “gives the wool, but not without our labor. If it is on the sheep, it makes no garment.” Humans must sheer, card, and spin. Through our work the naked are clothed, the hungry fed, the sick healed. Through our work we please our Maker and love our neighbor.”
We are agents. Like secret agents. Living in the world but not of this world. Trying to change it and fight against the evil villains. We are God’s agents. His kingdom comes and His will is done, through our heart, hands, head, and feet. Through our work. Even in our play. Because not only are we called to do God’s work in everything we do and everywhere we live, but the other part of it is when we do that, we obey the second greatest commandment. We are loving our neighbor. We do God’s work and that blesses us but also our work blesses others. God’s love flows to and from us.
Think of it this way. When you work hard in school and do an assignment well, fulfilling your calling as a student. It brings joy to the teacher that grades it and you have the self-satisfaction of learning and growing in your learning, versus doing an assignment sloppily, with half-hearted work, you don’t really grow as a student and it is not fun for the teacher to grade.
Here is another example. On Saturday was the bookfair at Barnes and Noble. A worker came up to me after the choirs sang and she said thank you so much for coming. She told me she thought the songs were sung beautifully and it made her day. All the hard work and pursuit of excellence that you all put in not only gave you the blessing of doing something well but even a complete stranger was blessed. You were called to be a choir student and by working to do your best, you were blessed and you showed love for your neighbor, who happened to be a Barnes and Noble employee. Now imagine if you didn’t work hard. Didn’t try your best. Didn’t care how you sounded. Messed around and didn’t attend to the director. If you sounded like someone let a flock of geese loose in a bookstore. Would a performance like that show love to your neighbor?
What about at home? Or by yourself? It is easier at times to work hard in your calling when you are working towards a public performance but you are to work as unto the Lord in everything because essentially in everything you have an audience, an audience of one, and it is God. However, He does not sit back and leave you alone, no, He gives you everything you need and stirs the desire in your heart for you to do your best. He calls you to virtues of diligence, hard work, perseverance and grit, and to do it all with a cheerful heart.
A good way to see how you are doing is to ask yourself, am I the same person in the classroom that I am in the lunchroom? At recess? At home? At church? There should be no difference. You are called to serve God in each and every part of your life. Our quality of that work also shows how much we love our neighbor. A neighbor could be a complete stranger or it could be your mom, your dad, your teacher, your brother, your sister.
The idea of our calling, as Martin Luther teaches us, encourages us to go to school thinking, today, I serve the Lord. I will do my best in everything I do. There is no calling too big or small that I cannot give God the glory in how I work at it. We are called to serve in our place, not only that but to transform that place, to God’s glory. We will leave this chapel soon, to go back to class, go to work or whatever we are about to do, may we all have this in our mind,
today, I go to serve the Lord.