I remember looking at my schedule my Jr year of college and chill went down my spine. The very first class listed was Greek 101 and it was at 8:00 in the morning Monday-Friday. I just knew this was going to be an awful combination. Not only would I have to learn an ancient foreign language, but I would have to do it at the earliest time possible five days of the week. I arrived to my class the first day half asleep wondering how I will be able to stay awake. However, I quickly realized that there was something different about this professor. He was extremely passionate about Greek, as most people are about the subjects they teach. But it went beyond that, Professor Kumpf was a great storyteller. He went way beyond participles and verbs of ancient Greek by telling interesting tidbits about his days in college or why this verse was his favorite or about his yearly pilgrimage to Greece. He clearly enjoyed being a professor and we loved getting him off on tangents about Alexander the Great. He did the impossible, he actually made an 8:00 Greek class fun. Professor Kumpf stood out as someone who was using the gifts that God has given him to the fullest. He was very clearly called to his vocation as a Greek professor.
Often when people hear the word, “vocation” we think of Pastors, or monks, or priests. We think about how God called them to their specific ministry. Or we think of vocation as our career. That no matter what career we have decided on that is our vocation or calling. But neither definition is quite right. I would say the definition for vocation is finding a purpose/passion in your life that meets God’s purposes/passion. God has given each one of us specific and unique gifts; therefore we have a responsibility to use these specific gifts in the world. Therefore, God calls each of us into our specific vocations in the world. The people who are able to use their gifts to the fullest stand out. Just like professor Kumpf. When we are able to use our gifts we are able to bring joy to God and God’s people. It sounds so easy on the surface, to have our purpose meet God’s purpose. However, in reality it is not anywhere near that simple for many of us.
First, it can be difficult to discern out specific gifts. There is a cartoon show on t.v called Futurama. The show takes place in the year 3000. In the show, each person is scanned and inserted with a career chip based on their specific gifts. The decision is out of the hands of the person, they don’t have to try and figure out how their gifts can be put to use in the world. That would be so easy! However, God’s call is not often experienced as an audible or miraculous voice that speaks to us in a deep voice and says, “Karl you are going to be a pastor…oh and you are going to root for a team that will never win the super bowl.” While both those things are true. Discerning our gifts and vocation often is much more difficult. We often wrestle and struggle to find ways to translate our specific gifts into our lives. What major should I pick in college? Should I take the better paying job even if I am not that passionate about it? Those are difficult decisions and ones that take much time in thought and prayer. We do not have a chip or a loud booming voice that decides for us. So, even though God gives us our specific gifts, it is up to us to respond to the specific gifts that God has given us.
Another difficulty is that even if we are able to figure out our gifts, it can still be quite difficult to decide how to respond to the gifts that we have been given. This can lead to quite a few dilemmas. Should I leave my mindless job to pursue something where I am better able to use my gifts? I know I am gifted in a specific area but I am down right afraid of the unknown. Will I find a job in the area of my passion? What if I don’t think I have the gifts that other see in me? I remember my mom telling me that I should become a pastor. Now keep in mind this is my mom. I tended to roll my eyes, because probably two weeks earlier she thought I could be a major league baseball player. That is just what moms do, they tell you that you can do anything. However, I remember my response on one occasion was, “Well, I think I would be ok at that but I just don’t think I could get up in front of all those people…what would I say for all that time…no way!” You do not have to look very far in the Bible to see people trying to avoid using the gifts that God sees in them. Moses tried to talk God out of talking to the Egyptians, Jeremiah wasn’t so sure about being a prophet, and of course Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh to talk the people over there. There have been times in my life when I have tried to tell God that I had other plans as well and tried to avoid using my gifts, as I am sure you have done as well. Sometimes it is just easier to say no, than to take the road less traveled.
However, if we decide to take the step toward fulfilling our vocation, toward living a life fully using the gifts that God has given us we experience freedom. We experience freedom knowing that we are using the gifts God has given to us to the fullest. That is when we are truly living out our vocation as Disciples of Christ. This is not something we just experience in this place. We live out our vocation at our jobs, with our families, with our friends. Our vocation is a gift that God has given to us. When we fully realize this gift and we are able to put it to bringing about God’s kingdom on earth we are able to accomplish amazing things in the name of Christ.
I would like to read to you a piece of the Psalm from the lectionary today. It is Psalm 139
You created my inmost self, you knit me together in my mother’s womb…? For so many marvels I thank you;? A wonder am I, and all your works are wonders…?You knew me through and through,? My being held no secrets from you, when I was being formed in secret, textured in the depths of the earth…”
Here we are able to see our lives as full of significance because when we allow God to use our gifts we are able to do God’s work in the world. We are able to create wonders in this world when we meet the needs of others.
So as we begin this month focusing on service, I pray that we are able to find ways to share our gifts and vocation with one another, so that we are able to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth. I pray that we stand out by sharing knowing that our purpose meets God’s purpose. Amen.