I love this commercial from MasterCard ("Professional Fan" featuring Peyton Manning cheering on diner waitress, grocery store attendant and other hourly workers while on the job). Not only is it funny, but it is exactly what we in the church should be doing.
Vocation. Encouraging people in their daily work, their ordinary day-to-day tasks. And not just encouragment, but authentic God-given words of blessedness. When is the last time an accountant, plumber or engineer got props from the pulpit for their daily work? Or, when was the last time they heard in Bible Study, worship or fellowship that their work had value and meaning in the eyes of God?
The problem with so much of our spiritual regimens (both present-day and past) is that they depend on importing "Godly things" into our daily lives – a few minutes of prayer each day, Bible study, weekly worship, etc. But this "I have to bring spirituality into my daily life" attitude implies that our daily life has no inherent spiritual value. But what about the God-pleasing, neighbor-serving aspects of the various ordinary, unheralded vocations that turn the wheels of our society and world every single day? Daily work – even "non-religious" work – has significant and inherent spiritual value that gets little attention, support or notice from the pulpit and parish. Additionally, our holy-task orientation towards spirituality puts God into a clearly-defined spiritual box, to be opened (and closed) at our discretion, whim and convenience.
This is why as a youth director I spent youth ministry money to purchase advertisements in the local high school football and school play programs, giving full-page encouragement and blessings to all the youth involved in those activities. This is why as a youth director I encouraged kids to miss youth group meeting if they were using their God-given gifts in activities I couldn’t offer at church – making sure they knew that the church supported them as they pursued and developed their gifts at school and in the community. I didn’t see my job as one of convincing the youth to choose church over school or community activities. Rather, it was my job to let the kids hear, know and experience the love of God and support of the Christian community in all they they did – that their lives and gifts and passions and interests were God-blessed, God-given, and were avenues for faith formation. Being a Christian isn’t just about church participation. Too often we lift up the committee chairperson or the Sunday School teacher as the model Christian to the detriment of all the wonderful ways to serve the world beyond the church doors.
Sorry for my rant.
I talked about this theme earlier (and here too) but just wanted to come back to it. Eventually I’ll offer a less passion-filled and more articulate expression of this concept.
I’m not sure how vocation works with this Sunday’s text of Jesus’ first miracle in Mark, but I’m supply preaching and would love to bring Peyton Manning with me into the pulpit . . . (he, of course, has an open schedule ever since the Colts’ horrible loss last week)