From The Blog

Mission Monthly – February 2009

“We are Christ's own people; our vocation on earth is to be in history, in the course of our short-lived existence, what Christ has been: love divine incarnate; vulnerable unto death and unto torment; helpless because it is totally and freely given. And our vocation is to struggle within us against everything which is sin, everything which is evil, to free ourselves by faith and obedience, by love and ascetical endeavor, of everything which is not worthy of God, of everything to which God cannot unite Himself. And then, give ourselves unto life and unto death for the salvation of every person, of every nation and of the world.”

Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom)

It would be my guess that not many of us (myself included) have taken thoughts about the vocation of a Christian as far as described here by Metropolitan Anthony (a scripture verse comes to mind, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” [John 15:13]). For many, if not most, the Christian vocation is summed up in the question, “What is God's will for my life?” Unfortunately, however, this question, in my experience, rarely has any emphasis of service attached to it. Rather, it is a question seeking a fulfillment of those things which only concern the self. What job should I pursue? Who should I marry? Where should I live? Couple this with the anxiousness often associated with not knowing the answers to these questions and we see how far short we fall in understanding the true, sacrificial nature of our life in Christ.

Finding the will of God in our life is not something that we “figure out,” rather it is something we serve. St. Paul tells us that God desires, “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). In 1 Thess. 4:3 he tells us, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” Verses such as these help us begin to understand how our vocation has everything to do with substance and little to do with style. And while there are many and various honorable ways to live this life, “We are Christ's own people…” tells us that it is the essence of a man, not his job, nor where he lives, nor to whom he is married , nor the success of his children that makes a man who he is.

It is the sterilization of our spiritual lives that wars against our calling “to struggle within us against everything which is sin”, a sterilization which is a casualty of everything that is false about what we in this country know to be called, “the American Dream.” The freedom which we are afforded in this country is a blessing and I would not trade it for any other nation or political system in the world today. But there are many lies attached to this illusory freedom, and it is a great shame when Christians are deceived by these lies; and even worse when Christians close their hearts and minds to the Truth and are drawn into the sensual slavery and material baggage attached to the American Dream.

As Christians we truly have only one vocation: to be engaged in this life through the freedoms which we are afforded, not for the sake of material gain and comfortable living, but rather through faith and obedience, love and discipline, to be everything Christ has been. However, somewhere between sensual and material overload and a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) mentality many Christians today are content to simply be “a good person” and take care of one's own business. Would it be too strong to say that as a people this sterilization may be more of an emasculation, preventing God's people from entering more deeply into our manly calling as members of “the royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that [we] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9)? I think not! Why else would even Christians find it so easy to participate in those things our society proclaims as “normal” but really are things “not worthy of God” and “to which God cannot unite himself”?

Beloved, the strength of Metropolitan Anthony's words (should) strike us to the heart and challenge everything which we are afforded in this time of history. How do we see our vocation to this world in declaring God's “marvelous light”? Are we ready to give ourselves over unto life, and death, for the sake of “every person, every nation and of the world”? Maybe our readiness will only be truly tested in the day of direct persecution but certainly there are things we can do in sincere preparation for the readiness of each day's challenges. Our love for God, our love for our neighbor and our love for God's Church can be beautiful beyond description, when it is what we truly desire. Fr. Alexander Schmemann asked this question in his Journals, “Why don't the Orthodox 'hear' the melody of Orthodoxy, precisely never stifling, but joyful, light, free?” Oh, that we all might learn this melody, and our true vocation—to be “what Christ has been.”