I haven’t been this tickled since I got a signed picture of Bobby Abreu (Phillies All-Star right fielder, for all you non-baseball fans out there)!
Today D. Michael Bennethum signed my well-worn, much-underlined copy of Listen! God is Calling! Luther Speaks of Vocation, Faith, and Work (Augsburg Fortress, 2003). Pastor Bennethum, a long-time parish pastor, is now serving as assistant to the bishop in Northeast Pennsylvania. This is his first – and dear God, I hope not only – book.
In this book, he offers a slam-dunk Lutheran articulation of vocation and faith in daily life. Written for a lay audience, he brings a pastor’s love and concern for the spiritual welfare of church members whose daily work is outside the church. Too many of our church members perceive of their daily work as "secular," and that somehow their work is less important than that of pastors and other church professionals.
Pastor Bennethum, with Luther as his guide, turns that thinking upside down. Just a few quotes:
- Martin Luther’s bold claim was that all the tasks of one’s life, any Christian’s life, no matter how menial or mundane the tasks performed, provide an opportunity to express one’s faith. (page 45)
- Notice, it is not to special religious acts that people are called, but to an appreciation of the fact that their normal, everyday acts are means through which God is at work. (page 51)
- One does not need to escape the routine of daily living in order to be pious. (page 52)
- There is no divide between sacred and secular activities, because all of life is the locus of God’s activity. (page 65)
- Pastoral leaders must be convinced that the primary focus of the congregation’s mission lies outside its walls and activities. (page 73)
Read this book in your congregation. Read it with lay people. Make it a part of a new member’s class. Preach on it. Teach on it. It addresses one of the central elements of the pervasive spiritual malaise affecting our church – that daily life is disconnected from spiritual life.
Of course, daily life is not disconnected from spiritual life. And Pastor Bennethum clearly describes how our daily work can be and is blessed work. This is a must-read.