I spend a lot of time considering how blessed I am to have ministry as my job. The vast majority of Christians have to work ministry and attending to their spirituality in around another job entirely. Yet somehow I get to spend my work hours thinking spiritual things, doing missional activities, and reading scripture. My occupation is my vocation. What I do to make a living is precisely what God calls me to, and it enables me to spend significantly more time than the average person thinking about God. Not just thinking about God, but working on my relationship with God.
Just as I get to thinking how amazing and blessed this is, I consider why it might be. Perhaps God, who knows me better than I even know myself, knows that I need something this big in my life to keep me on the path of righteousness. Maybe God knows that, if I didn’t have to be spiritual, then I wouldn’t be. Would I spend so much time and effort thinking about God if I had another full time job and a family to take care of when I got home each night? I’d like to say yes, but even I know that it would probably not happen for long, if it happened at all. It takes incredible effort to be in relationship with God. I wake up thinking about God. Spend all day doing what God calls me to do in ministry. Pray time and time again through out the day. Then I go home and think about prayers, sermons, this web site, and even more crazy ideas that I toss out to my friends and co-workers the next day. I wrap my evening up and I’m exhausted, but content. I am ready to recharge, but fulfilled. Do others have this sense?
I pray that they do. I’m not just occupied with my occupation. I am occupied with God, but my vocation makes that easy; it demands it. What about the doctor? The nurse? The teacher? How difficult must it be to embody Christ in spheres of our lives where people don’t just not invite Christ in, they prohibit him all together? I am expected to be a good Christian. So why do we have to worry about being a good Christian physician or a good Christian teacher? Why should anyone have to worry that they could lose their job, their livelihood because they are faithful? It’s a haunting thought that has preoccupied me as of late. I don’t know what it would be like if I had to keep quiet about Jesus or lose my job. I am not sure what that would look like, feel like. I can see how it can come down to that. We see it in the stories of the Apostles. They risked their very lives to testify to the truth of Christ, and almost all paid for it.
(Image courtesy of lamont-uphill.blogspot.com)
I guess that’s the scary truth of being a disciple. It’s not an occupation, or something we occupy ourselves with in our spare time. It’s a vocation, a calling from God. A call to a life of service and relationship. It just so happens that my vocation, like many pastors besides me, is two fold. I am called to be a Christian and into ordained ministry, but it is not without cost. The highest risk and the biggest personal cost is not in being ordained. I don’t care what anyone says. The greatest risk to be a Christian. As I said, people expect me to use religious language, to be a spiritual person because I’m a pastor. That’s not what makes people uncomfortable. It’s the congregation, this large gathering of Christians that makes people uneasy. The more their language reflects their spirituality, the more their actions convey love and justice, the more they change their way of life to reflect their relationship with God, the more people will become uneasy and even antagonistic. When your life looks less like an occupation and more like a vocation, then you discover that the world begins to look at you in a different way. Being noticed, being different is one of the crosses Christians bear. It’s the same cross Christ himself carried. When you follow Jesus you find that you evoke some of the same irrational responses that he did. The challenge in this vocation, this calling to be a Christian, is to do it for the long haul. Otherwise, we just occupying ourselves with Christ for a little while.