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Vocation-Serving God, Serving Neighbor

 

In the Ten Commandments, God gives His people what they are to do—love Him and love neighbor (Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 22:34-40).  God even commands His people how to love others (i.e. Honor father and mother, not murdering, not bearing false witness (gossiping), etc.), as well as how to love Him (having no other gods before Him, not misusing His Name, and using His Word rightly).  By doing these, the people of God serve Him and one another.

We do not have to invent or discover “new ways” of serving God and the church.  God has already given us what to do.

We serve God by keeping His Word (not despising it, but believing it), worshiping only Him—the Holy Trinity (not committing idolatry), and hearing His Word (going to church where His Holy Word is proclaimed and receiving and rejoicing in His free gift of forgiveness and life, given through the preached Word, the Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper).

We serve God also by serving our neighbor.  This kind of service takes place in our vocation, our calling(s).  This is where we serve God and our neighbor.  Parents care for, and discipline their children, in their vocation.  Children honor and obey their parents in their vocation.  Teachers teach and instruct in their vocation.  Students hear and learn in their vocation.  Pastors preach and teach and administer the sacraments in their vocation.  Congregational members hear what is preached and receive from the Lord what He speaks and gives through the Words and the actions of the pastor.

Serving God this way, in one’s vocation, does not mean that we necessarily like or will like those who serve us.  Pastors and congregations, students and teachers, parents and children, civil authorities and citizens, and others all have their weaknesses, their quirks, and their sins.  They do not always do, act, or speak as they should within their vocation.  But rather than using these shortcomings as excuses not to honor or recognize those whom God has placed to serve us, all the more ought we to “bear with one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  Also, concerning vocation, it is the office that we are to recognize, and to help the one in that office to do as he or she should.

Vocation is how God would have us serve one another.  “Discovering new ways of serving God and the church” is not of God, for God has already given us how to serve Him and one another.

The question then is, “how are we doing” at serving Him and serving one another in the calling to which God has called us? (1 Corinthians 7).  The answer for all of us is-poorly.  We are failing.  We do not do as we should and we do as we ought not (Romans 7).  God is not first in our lives, and we seek to serve ourselves first and not others.  Instead of encouraging one another to do as God has given us to do, we complain, tear down, bicker, and intentionally hurt our neighbor for what they have done or have not done.  We take the anger we have towards ourselves out on others.  In doing so, we do not love as God would have us love.  We despise and profane the Name of God among us, and demonstrate, not service to God, but service to ourselves and the evil one.

Yet God, in His service to the Father on our behalf, completely and perfectly demonstrated, not service to Himself or for Himself, but to His Father for us, and to us in obedience to His Father (Hebrews 5:8), that His Father declare from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  In other Words, Jesus fulfilled His calling, His vocation, before the Father, for you.

Jesus kept His Father’s Word.  He truly loved His neighbor (you and me), both in saying what the Father had given Him to say (the word of Law and Gospel), and doing what the Father had given Him to do (suffer and die on the cross).  Jesus did neither of these for Himself, but for us, for you.  He came to save you from your disobedience, neglect, and misuse of your calling, both to serve God and to serve one another.

Instead of inventing new ways of serving God and the church, all we have to do is look to what God Himself says.  In doing that, we will have more than enough “to do.”  In doing that, we will also recognize how we do not do as God would have us do.  But by God’s grace through His Son, we will also recognize how Christ has done all that His Father had given Him to do.  By God’s grace through Jesus, we will recognize that Christ, having done all that the Father had given Him to do, means new and eternal life, for Christ, in shedding His blood on the cross, shed His blood to cover all of our sins, all of our sins against God and against one another.

This means that those same sins no longer condemn us as guilty before God.  Those same sins against God and one another can hurt us no more, for in their place is Christ, the sinner of all sinners.

In return, Christ, having taken our place, gives to us what is His (called “the great exchange”).  His obedience and service to His Father is counted as our own.  Therefore, because of Jesus, God sees you as perfectly obedient and a faithful servant, not because of what you do, but because of what Christ Himself did.

Thus does St. Paul say, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).  Having peace with God means that all before Him is “alright.”  We have no need to fear for all that we have done and all that we have done wrong in our specific callings.  Before God, on account of Jesus, there is nothing but peace.  And because of Jesus, the Father also says to you, “You are My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

In contrast to taking these words as reason to “sit back and take it easy,” the Christian hears these words, and, in distinction from the sinful nature to serve nothing but itself, the Christian, according to the new man, seeks to all the more serve God and neighbor, faithfully and sacrificially, giving him or herself even in death for the benefit and well-being of those whom God would have be served.  Life begins to be focused on the other, on God and neighbor, not on self and ego.

As Christ lived, not for Himself, but in obedience to His Father and in service to us, so those born of God live, not for themselves, but in obedience to the Father in service to others.  This means that the Christian will seek, not his own benefit and gain, but that of others whom God has called to help and serve.

Such service to others will not take a “one size fits all approach.”  Nor does it have to be sought.  Rather, the Lord Himself reveals how we are to live with and to love one another, even as He, in Christ, loved and loves us, forgiving our sins and giving life and joy and peace (1 John 4:11).   As God loves us, so do His people love one another.

 

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Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

The above words of Paul, written by Paul himself (Galatians 6:11), reflect what might seem to us to be at least a little arrogant.  Here, Paul is claiming to be called by God.  In essence, he’s claiming that His authority is not his own—that he’s not an apostle of himself—that what he writes and proclaims is in fact true.
Such apparent arrogance may remind us of those who claim a calling for themselves, but really don’t have one and only serve themselves and their own ego, not others.  And certainly there are enough of these to go around.

But Paul’s apostleship and his authority serve a far different purpose than those who seek to lift themselves up above others.  Paul seeks to serve Christ.  And in doing so, he proclaims the Word of the Lord.  He doesn’t seek to make a name for himself.  Nor does he seek to force anyone to believe his word.  Paul here is simply declaring what is true, that the hearers (readers) take him at his word and hear what he has to say—not because Paul says it, but because God has called Paul to so speak.

In a similar way, preachers today are seen as arrogant and prideful when they claim to have God’s authority to preach and teach.  But listen to what they say.  Do they say what God says in His Word, or do they say something else?  Should they say what God says, then him you are to hear, for our Lord Jesus says, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).

Therefore is it necessary to distinguish the true preacher (God’s called and ordained servant) from the false preacher (who is not called of God and serves himself and the devil).  Only the true preacher preaches rightly, calling to repentance and preaching Christ.  The false preacher preaches works for salvation and not the truth.  Those who do not differentiate between the two not only lack discernment in things spiritual, but are indicating to God that He and His Holy Word don’t really matter.

Luther

In opposition to (this) boasting of the false apostles Paul boldly and with great (openness) pits his apostolic authority, commends his calling, and defends his ministry.  Although he does not do this anywhere else, he refuses to yield to anyone, even to the apostles themselves, much less to any of their pupils. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p15)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you are faithful to Your Word and send preachers to declare it, that I repent and believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to discern truth from error, that I not be tempted away from Your Word and life everlasting, but remain in You alone.  Give me confidence in Your promises and send Your Word throughout the world that it may take effect as You so desire.  Amen.

Let each one remain in their calling…

Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.

1 Corinthians 7:20

Discontentment and dissatisfaction are rampant among us.  We are not happy with the way things are.  Things are not as we want them to be.  We don’t have ‘enough’ money, time, or resources to do what we think we should.  Even our ‘jobs’ sometimes (and for some, more than others) have the taste of mundaneness and even displeasure.

The Christian, too, struggles with such things.  They are not immune to the desires of the flesh.  And at times, they can be overwhelming, so overwhelming, in fact, that just doing anything becomes a challenge.  It is a blessing of God that one be joyful in his work, whether that work be inside or outside the home.  It is also a blessing of God that one delights serving Him according to His Word wherever he is and however God would have him serve within his calling.

Discontentment and dissatisfaction breeds contempt and does not come from God.  Rather does contentment and satisfaction come from Him who gives everything—freely and without a contribution from us (Ecclesiastes 3:12; 5:18-20).

Only the Christian knows such contentment and joy with the things of God.  Life is hard.  Being a Christian does not mean that things will get ‘easier.’  It may be just the opposite.  But the Christian has Christ, his “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  And it is because of Christ that the Christian has a confidence and zeal “for the Lord,” even as things don’t appear as he would like or as he thinks they should be.  It is because of Christ that the Christian has such confidence before God that God will not judge him a sinner because of his sin.  And it is because of Christ, who has done everything already, that the Christian joyfully goes about his work, fulfilling his calling as God has called him, whatever that calling may be, and however thankless that calling might seem.  One who has confidence in the Lord in His calling because of Christ will strive to serve to the best of his ability, and thanks the Lord for such work which pleases God and serves neighbor.

Lord, grant us such confidence.  Amen.

Luther

If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the saddened, I administer the sacraments. If I am a father, I rule my household and family, I train my children in piety and honesty. If I am a magistrate, I perform the office which I have received by divine command. If I am a servant, I faithfully tend to my master’s affairs. In short, whoever knows for sure that Christ is his righteousness not only cheerfully and gladly works in his calling but also submits himself for the sake of love to magistrates, also to their wicked laws, and to everything else in this present life—even, if need be, to burden and danger. For he knows that God wants this and that this obedience pleases Him. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p12)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Giver of all good gifts, forgive us for taking for granted all that you freely give to us, even the very callings to which you have called us as parent, spouse, child, citizen, worker, Your baptized child and member of Your Church.  Forgive us for resenting you for placing us where we are, for being frustrated with our circumstances, and for neglecting the responsibilities of our calling.  Help us to trust in You, and to do better, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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