Vocation: God At Work In Your Calling To The Church

Today is the last Sunday in our series on Vocation.  The word ‘vocation’ means, ‘calling.’  We have been called by God to be citizens, we have been called to our places of work, and we have been called to a family.  God through his sovereign power has put you in a particular place and context with particular gifts.  God has prepared good works in advance for you to walk in and has laid them out in your vocations.  In other words, these vocations/callings are avenues or we could say, ‘lanes,’ that you and I get to walk in in order to serve our neighbor.  Keep in mind that our vocations are driven not by fear, guilt, and the Law.  Rather our vocations are driven from the context that we have been loved by God and served by Christ with the forgiveness of sins.  Our vocations are avenues that we have been ‘called’ because we are works of art created in Christ for good works.  In other words, your calling as a worker, parent, child, spouse, and citizen are divine callings in which God is taking care of and providing for his creation. Today, we are looking at the vocation of being a part of the church.

Text: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

When I was a child I would spend every weekend at the hockey rink skating.  As typical, we would line up against the hockey boards and a team captain would choose teams.  The team captain would call our name out in order for us to join his team.  We were called out of the group of the people to either the red team or the white team.  Now, as simple as this story is, it really captures the idea of being called out

Our text says that you and I are called out of the sinful world and into the church.  With the call of God, you who were once a lone sinner, an enemy of God, have been called to become a part of a holy nation, to be a part of the people of God.  You are called to be a member of a church. 

Now very basically, the word church is the Greek word Ecclesia and it literally means, ‘the called ones.’   Therefore, as people of Christ you have been called out of the world and have been called into the church.  As a called one, you join together with literally billions of Christians across the world.  You are called to the name of Christ with literally millions upon millions of people before you.  What this means is that you are called to something bigger than yourself.  You have a sense of belonging, a sense of being one of the called ones.  Being called into the church means that you have been grafted into the church by the blood of Christ, you have been adopted into the family of God.  Thus, your identity, your belonging, and your life are marked by being a chosen royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.  You once had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

What this means is that each and every one of you with all of your diversity have been called into the church and united together in unity.  You see the church is a real and literal community that lives here and now on earth.  The church consists of literally millions of believers that are called and united in Christ.  Think about this for a moment, we come from all walks of life, we come in different shapes and sizes, yet we are united.  We come from different social classes, different professions, different ethnicities, different backgrounds and so forth, yet our point of unity and the point of our calling is not around our culture, jobs, and personalities, rather we are called out of darkness into the church where we are unified in the person of Jesus Christ.    

Unfortunately, there are churches in North America that are doing the exact opposite of this.  They actually try and market themselves to specific demographics of the population.  While this makes sense from a business perspective, it is contrary to the historic church and the Gospel itself.  You see, we are not called into a church on the basis of our age, our profession, our background, our race, our social standings, or our likes and dislikes.  The reason being, we are called out of this world to be a royal priesthood, by the means of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  What unfortunately happens is that churches can gather around things other than Christ.  As a result of this, churches may end up promoting not unity but uniformity.  In other words, in order to go to one of these churches you must fit their social, economic, and cultural specifications in order to belong.  My friends, uniformity is not the same as unity.  For example, if our point of unity here at SLBC is Christ, then there is no need for uniformity.  In other words, whether you are young or old; blue collar or white collar; country or city; male or female; the point of calling and unity is Christ.  As I have previously mentioned, what can tragically happen is that a church can do the exact opposite.  Instead of being united in Christ, a church can express unity on mere external things, but when it comes to unity on theology and the person of Christ... anything goes.  No, may this never be!  St. Paul explains that even though the church has diversity, that there is a point of unity in the church. 

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so t is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:12)

All Christians, whatever their ethnic group or their social status or their vocations, share a common calling and common baptism into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You see, there is one and only one call into the Church, and that is the Gospel of Christ.  Thus, we are all unified at the point of Jesus for He is the way, the truth and the life.

Brothers and Sisters, we have been called out of darkness, called together into Christ.  As we are established in the unity of Christ in the church, we celebrate our diversity of spiritual gifts though.  We can celebrate the diversity of vocations in the church. You see, as Christians we are unified in Jesus, and our differences from each other are differences that are not detrimental, but necessary for the benefit of the church.  In other words each and every one of us has different vocations/callings in the church.  There are a variety of gifts in the church, and these gifts are not to be used in authoritative ways to rule over one another.  Rather, these gifts and vocations in the church are all about building up each other (See: 1 Corinthians 14:12).  For example, consider the following callings in the church.  We have ushers who serve us by handing out bulletins, we have people who serve us in the sound booth, we have trustees who serve us in maintaining the building, we have elders who serve you spiritually, we have a board of CE who serve us through planning the Sunday School curriculum, we have staff who serve you in visitations, programs, bible studies and behind the scenes.  We also have Sunday school teachers, coffee makers, and musicians.  We have prayer warriors, we have encouragers, we have tithers, and the list could go on and on.  The diversity of gifts and what can be seen as mundane vocations in the church are for the building up of the church, for the building up of you and me.   

All of these boards, procedures, and service opportunities in the church can many times come across as boring.  They can come across as routine tasks in the church.  Serving as an elder, teaching Sunday school, serving on the Trustee board, setting up tables for a funeral, mowing the grass before a wedding, making food for a Christmas dinner, practicing for worship and so forth can come across as routine, however, they are nevertheless critical areas of serve that are tremendous blessings to the whole congregation.  For they are not only ways in which we serve our brother and sister in the congregation, they are ultimately ways in which the Gospel is proclaimed. 

Let me give you a very practical example.  As many of you know we have MOPS meeting at our church.  The group is a gathering of moms who come together twice a month for support.  They come together to encourage each other, to share recipes, to share parenting tips, and to have different speakers from the community.  Now, as a pastor I am a big supporter of MOPS.  Obviously, I am a supporter of MOPS because it blessed Serenity when she used to attend and it also blesses several Moms here in this church.  For it is good to have good moms.  It is good for moms to have new recipes, to have parenting ideas, and encouragement.  All of this is good.  But do you know why I am really a supporter of MOPS?  What makes me praise God about MOPS?  What makes me praise God is what happens downstairs when MOPS is going on.  Downstairs 30-40 kids twice a month are hearing about Jesus.  They are hearing the Gospel.  Sure it is good that the moms are being blessed, but what really excites me is that the children are hearing the Gospel.  And in order for this to happen, many of you in this church serve in your vocations in making MOPS happen.  Trustees have allowed them to use the building.  Several people of this church have worked on the steering committee.  Staff helps give administrative support.  Arlen Price and Ryan Bell have cleaned out snow for MOPS.  All of this is good because it serves the moms, but more importantly it all serves the Gospel that is being proclaimed to these little children. 

Let me give you another example, when it comes to funerals it isn’t uncommon to have several dozen people making food in the kitchen, people working outside to freshen the church up, people working on the sound booth, people cleaning the church and so forth.  Not only are you walking in your vocation in the church to serve your neighbor, you are ultimately serving the Gospel… you are making it possible for people to come to the church to hear the Word of God. 

My friends, we have been called out of darkness into the church.  And what makes the church different from other organizations and other fellowship groups, is the Word and Sacraments.  In 1st Thessalonians 2:13 we read Paul saying, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”  Not only did the Thessalonians hear, receive and accept the Word of God, but that Word was at work in them.  The Word does something.  The Word is living and active. This Word is the power of God for salvation.  My friends, our vocations in the church are not just merely to serve our brothers and sister, which is good and true.  But our vocations are to serve each other in response and in context to the Word of God.  For it is by the Word that we were called and it is by the Word that others will also be called out of the darkness into this royal priesthood called the church.  

Note:  This sermon is highly indebted to Gene Edward Veith's book, God At Work.  Many sections of this sermon taken directly from his book.