As we enter the Labor Day week-end, I am mindful of the various ways we labor. Our careers or vocations can dominate our lives, though we rarely take time to reflect on their significance. Yesterday I explored my daughter’s vocation; today I will reflect on my son’s. (Part of my vocation as a papa!)
I have written on Luther’s concept of vocation in the past (Light work and Deep Gladness). Luther’s emphasis was that our daily work was where we love our neighbor, where we make the world a more trustworthy place for all, Christians and non-Christians alike.
The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him.. . . When a prince sees his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor….The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living. “Sermon in the Castle Church at Weimar” (25 October 1522)
Recently I met my son, Jonathan, for lunch. He and friends are starting their own business which will be serving our neighbors by providing safe, non-skid floors for pools and bathrooms. The product is called Life Floor.
Often people think that the Christian ministry needs to be done in or through a church and that it must be tagged with the name of Jesus. That is too narrow. Ministry or service happens in our homes, schools, offices and community centers when we serve others. Our love of God is reflected in our love for our neighbor.
My son’s work is a form of ministry, of serving and loving our neighbor. He will soon install Life Floor in my mother’s apartment bathroom. This will be a true benefit for her since she recently fell while showering and made a trip to the emergency room. Life Floor will be a benefit to my mom. Seeing and addressing the needs of others in our complex world is Christian ministry.
How is your vocation serving your neighbor?
Lord Jesus, may my daily life become a path to love and serve my neighbor: at home, at school or work, or in my community.