Shepherd’s Care: A Vocational Perspective (3)

Living vocationally is not something abstract or detached.  When our ministry is rooted in God—when belonging to Jesus and listening to him is our primary understanding of vocation, we find that one of the first things he tells us is to pay attention to our location.

Vocation and location can never be separated without damaging both.

That’s why Eugene Peterson’s “pastor’s question” has become such a mainstay in my life and work.  I know I’ve shared it before, but it’s important for us to see it again in this series:  “Who are these people, and how can I be with them, so that they can become what God wishes to make of them by grace?”

This question carries the notion of surrender into our human relationships, not simply our relationship with God.  We need to ask it again and again.  Notice that it is actually a prayer to God—to the One with Whom we have established our primary understanding of vocation.

Imbedded in the question is the request voiced by young Samuel:  “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”  And again, that’s what living vocationally is all about.  It is listening with the intention to obey what we hear—oboedire—obedience.  Our obedience is always worked out in a particular time and place—the “here and now” which Henri Nouwen so often spoke about.

A vocational perspective accepts the place where we’ve been appointed as God’s assignment.  It accepts the life-cycle of the church as our “time” with the congregation.  It takes our intention to be servants of God and applies it to the service of people.  And it is in the life and ministry of servanthood where we find concretely what “vocation” means.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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