Vocation in community
Sermon by Rev Allister Lane on 27 May 2018
Readings were Isaiah 6: 1 – 8 and Romans 8: 12 – 17
What an encounter the Prophet Isaiah has with God!
It has been seen by many as a shape of how we all authentically worship God – the way Isaiah sees God and sees himself before God. I’ll say more about that later. But first, I want to draw our attention to the outcome of this encounter with God. Look with me at verse 8. This is the final verse in this passage.
8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
Isaiah is called by God ‘to go for us’. And Isaiah responds: “Here am I; send me!” Although this is Isaiah’s experience in his lifetime, in his moment in history – it speaks to us also.
Many of us ask the question: what are we called to do with our lives? What is our vocation?
I reckon vocation is a wonderful word. And in our Christian faith it is a wonderful recognition that God has made us capable and compatible to play our part in the world. Fulfilling our vocation (what God calls us to do) is the most wonderful and satisfying experience.
The opposite can be true too: to not have a sense of your vocation can be painful and difficult.
So I want to say a bit about how we discern our vocation. How do we sense God guiding us? To know God leads us to want to know how to make the most of our lives. As we come to trust God more and more we want to understand what God wants us to do; what God has in store for us. We seek God’s guidance.
So how do we recognise God guiding us? Let me share some ways I’ve known God guiding me and seen God guiding others.
- Bible: The Bible is for Christians the supreme standard for knowing God. It’s the best thing we’ve got. And when we read it and listen carefully for what we are learning – even about a part of the Bible we may have ready many times before – we can sense what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. We read the Bible every Sunday together precisely because we trust that God has something to say to us.
- Prayer: Perhaps this seems obvious. But we need to remember to listen (e.g. visiting doctor).
- Impression: Sometimes we get a feeling inside us (a vibe/‘Marbo’) It’s a feeling that has a special quality. We may not be able to fully express the feeling, but it sticks with us and can be pointing us in a certain direction.
- Strong desire to do something: Similarly, we may have a strong desire to do something. It may not be something we can express so others understand, but we are driven by a passion that others may not have. Such a passion is a critical part of identifying our vocation,
- Common sense: There is also plain old common sense. God has given us brains and common sense to apply to our lives. And so we check our feelings and assumptions to make sure we aren’t going off in some mistaken direction.
When we seek God’s guidance using these ways together, we have a better chance of feeling confident about what God is saying to us. Further to this idea of checking our feelings and assumptions about what God is saying, I want to mention one more way God may guide us:
Participating in Church community.
In my own experience…
- Accounting, Banking, Insurance
- Got asked what is God doing in my life (by my Minister at the time)
- And talked with people (including my new girlfriend – to whom I’ve been married 16yrs this month!)
- Got a strong sense God was wanting me to apply for Ministry. (I was happy with what I was doing, but needed to check out this Ministry thing)
- And doing so means submitting the sense of God’s call to many, many others (local church, Presbytery, National Selection Committee)
- It was scary, but I learned a lot about what God was doing in my life through the insight and honesty of others. Submitting my sense of God’s call to me to my Church community gave me so much more certainty that God wanted me to serve the Church in this particular way.
Being part of the Church community is good for us in lots of ways, (it can jolly annoying at times!) but shapes and helps us in the long run, including helping us figure out how God is guiding us.
Talking and praying with others in community can help us express our deeper feelings and intuitions. Listening to others in community can get us to recognise what we are good at and have a passion for. Others can sometimes see things about ourselves we haven’t.
Paul (who wrote the letter which we heard part of in our 2nd reading) describes us all as God’s children. And he emphasises that we are a community where we all participate, by describing Christians in the plural:
“When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!”…
“bearing witness with our spirit” …
“that we are children of God”.
We are together because Jesus Christ unites us and gives us the experience of this life, not as individuals, but as a community that shares the journey of life together.
At the centre of our journey is our worship of God. As we worship God together, we come to know and trust God more, and come to hear more clearly what God is calling us to be and do. Together, in the context of our shared experience as a worshipping community, we are paying attention to God and to our responses – and together we are able to better understand how God is guiding us.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed that the shape of our worship on Sundays follows the pattern we hear in Isaiah’s encounter with God (If you look with me at the passage of Isaiah…)
- Adoration (‘Holy, Holy, Holy’)
- Confession (“Woe is me…I’m unclean before God)
- Forgiveness (lips cleansed… your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out)
- Listening to the Word of God (God asks ‘Who will go for us?’)
- Responding to the Word of God (Isaiah responds ‘Here am I; send me!’)
If you look at the Order of Service (and the Guide to Worship in the pews) you’ll see the same pattern in how we worship God together. Following this pattern each week in our worship…guarantees nothing. For God is God and cannot be manipulated to do anything.
But following this pattern of worship is also seen as authentic. To bring ourselves before God this way is to pay attention and open ourselves to an encounter with God together. To do this is to humble ourselves. We humble ourselves before God. And we humble ourselves before each other – in recognition that no one of us has a full grasp on God, but that together we know God better than we can on our own. And consequently, we can respond to God’s call better in community than we can on our own.
By gathering together, to place ourselves before God, to humble ourselves to listen to God and to each other, we can genuinely expect to hear God guide us to where God call us to be. I dare you to open yourselves to how God is guiding you; to deliberately listen for God’s call.
And may God give you the courage to respond to that call. If you do, it’ll be the best thing that has ever happened to you!
 It’s important to say this is not the ONLY way to serve the church (it’s not even the best way). We need to hear the specific call God has for each of us, because in our own vocation we complement one another and work together with what we have and what we are passionate about. So my vocation is as a minister. Your vocation may be as an early childhood educator, an engineer, a mother, a nurse, an artist, a policy advisor, a graphic designer…
 This community we commit ourselves to together is described as the Body of Christ. And we do ‘body building’ together, as we do the heavy lifting together in serving God and being God’s witnesses in the world; proclaimers of the gospel of salvation. Our life together is spiritual and also practical. And we see that in the way we have things like duty rosters for all the jobs that need doing to share life together. We see this in the need to undertake strengthening work on the building we use to meet in for worship.