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I’m in awe of the scholarly and thoughtful work by my colleagues Theresa Latini and Debra Rienstra. I feel grateful for the vibrant conversation that many of you have participated in with your comments. I have learned a lot from my colleagues and you. I am swimming in reflection wondering, what is God moving me/us to/from as we wonder about vocation?
Currently vocation carries a lot of energy for me as I am surrounded by boxes waiting for the moving company to pick up, so that the JKK household can relocate to New York City. The Holland Classis will be ordaining me as a Minister of Word and Sacrament this Sunday as I have accepted my first call as the Associate Pastor at West End Collegiate Church. As I mentioned in my last post, this is what I’ve been called to/lead to since the days of my first stuffed animal congregation when I was a little girl.
A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste.
In my first post on vocation I raised the question if the conversation of vocation was only for the privileged. Those who are fortunate enough to have the means to get the right education and know the right people in order to land the right job have experienced privilege. It is for that reason I will ofer three personal reflections of how I understand my privilege in this vocation.
- For the Christian, privilege always translates into responsbility.
- As an almost ordained woman in ministry I carry a huge weight on my shoulders to make sure the women who come after me know they have a place in seminary and in ordained ministry. I watch my spouse, who is even more privileged as a male in ministry, and I’m in awe of how responsible he is with his gender
- I have a responsibility because of my privilege as a white woman in a heterosexual marriage, to partner with people whose voices are not always welcomed in church. This includes the voices of children, the elderly, the LGBT community, people of color, immigrants, and the economically disadvantaged. I must be listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the correction/wisdom/encouragement from these communities as I help shape and lead the ecclesiological world.
But Latini’s and Rienstra’s post have got me thinking. What if vocation, as we talk about it in our colleges, is not about landing the right job but it is instead “the work of love” that is both personal and communal as Latini reminds us. Vocation is about love that chooses to stand “where the Lord stands, against injustice and the wronged” as the Belhar Confession reminds us. Rienstra proposes that we “use the words vocation and calling in only one sense: discipleship. We are called to be disciples of Jesus. That is our vocation. Period.” At which I say, Amen!
This weekend I added to the artwork on my body and got the word pilgrim tattooed on my foot. Pilgrim means one who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons. Since I believe that this world is enchanted with the Spirit of God I happen to believe that each step I take is a holy place because God was there even before my foot touched the ground. To live into our vocation as disciples of Jesus we are called to uncover/discover/call forth/recognize the Holy One in each step and in all communities around us.
So maybe vocation is not solely focused on our occupation but it is instead about the type of people we are going to be in this world. The type of people who call themselve disciples of Jesus. As disciples we choose forgiveness over and over again, we choose to stand in solidarity with those who are not privileged, and we choose to be a pilgrim people always testifying to God’s presence in this world. This is our vocation.
Those who would valiant be 'gainst all disaster,
Let them in constancy follow the Master.
There's no discouragement, shall make them once relent
Their one avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.
Maybe all 12 bloggers should get a common tattoo
No tattoos for me, thanks, but I will offer this verse from the Psalms: "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage" (Ps. 84:5). The pilgrimage metaphor for the life of faith is very ancient and, sadly, somewhat neglected in our day. It's still there in our popular mythologies, though: think of all the hiking in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example. In my church, we recently spent several weeks reflecting on the Psalms of Ascents with the theme of pilgrimage. It's a rich metaphor and worth pondering as we try to revitalize our thinking about vocation. Since long journeys entail obstacles, patience, wrong turns, and even changes of direction on the way to the ultimate destination, this metaphor offers helpful correctives for our unrealistic notions about a neat life centered on a single career or even "station." Anyway, thanks, Jes, for these reflections. It must be possible to "purify," shall we say, our definition of vocation and still have plenty of room for a robust theology of work that considers the value of different types of work–from meaningful professions to not-so-meaningful forms of unchosen labor–with keen attention to questions of justice and exploitation. And we need some consideration of special "callings" such as ordination to the ministry and Catholic-style vocations, too.
I think about some persons in my congregation who feel called to certain kinds of artistry, and who have to fight hard to keep up their perceived calling, working odd jobs, low-paying jobs, difficult and distracting jobs, because they can't make money in their chosen artistry. What sense of calling and vocation keeps them going against such disincentives?
Jes's start of a new venture has me thinking about the role of time and vocation. When vocation and purpose get put together then vocation would seem to have a forward cast to it, something pointing me in a direction or to a destination. In that sense, vocation is mine, a keel if you will for my sailing forth.
From the perspective of 60 years, however, I wonder about that. Vocation also has a sense in which it is discovered, or uncovered in a life; this would be of the order of "vocation as meaning." As with Providence, I look back and see how God has been at work, how the path I've taken is not my own, that it's twists were not accidents.
Thanks, Jess, for your thoughtful comments! (And FYI . . . I'm so thankful to God for your recent ordination and your many-dimensioned vocation.)
Pilgrim is a compelling metaphor and one that may have significant traction today and (as Deb points out) and continuity with the tradition.
And Steve, I'd consider getting a tattoo, as long at it doesn't have the word "Reformed" anywhere in it. 🙂
One more comment . . . I find the connection between vocation and time to be very interesting, since I believe that we live in an era in which space and time (and how we exist in space and time) have been radically reconfigured. For instance, to be so radically future future-oriented and to assume that we can project a particular future for our own lives, create that future, and even reconstruct our past are late modern (western) assumptions that both free and constrict us simultaneously.