This past Saturday, Sienna and I spent the day at a Catechism Convocation for the churches of our synod in Southern California. Being relatively new to Lutheranism, I’m like a sponge, wanting to absorb as much doctrinal information as possible. Sienna was just excited to spend a day with mommy! I brought along a dozen or so Bible story coloring pages so she’d have something topical to work on while listening to several presentations that were way over her head.
This year’s convocation was entitled “The Table of Duties: Your Life in Action.” The Tables of Duties is part of Luther’s Small Catechism. It comprises duties for priests, hearers of the Word, husbands, wives, parents, children, government, employers, employees, etc. This section of the Small Catechism is related to Luther’s doctrine of vocation. As a reaction against the Roman Catholic theology that elevated individuals in the holy orders above the laity in terms of closeness to God, Luther espoused that God works through all people to fulfill their individual calling within the Kingdom.
The most important doctrine of Lutheranism is justification by faith alone. In other words, there’s nothing that we have to do in order to guarantee our salvation. Indeed, there’s nothing we could do to improve upon the complete and perfect sacrifice that Christ made for us. Luther said “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” In essence, this is what our vocations are directed toward. It’s how we live and serve one another in our daily lives.
The first speaker of the day started with the simple question – is The Table of Duties a list of things we have to do in order to be good Christians? No, is the simple answer. Rather, it’s an account of how God wants us to live, presented in a way that we can easily remember. It’s not something we have to do but instead how we get to live – in the freedom that’s in Christ through his perfect grace.
Sienna and I migrated over to the youth session for the second presentation. All of the kids were at least 10 years old, most in junior high. The two pastors were very engaging and broke down vocation well for the kids. They drew a visual representation of us receiving God’s grace and love along a vertical axis and then sharing those great gifts with our neigh-bor along a horizontal axis. They cited Ephesians chapter 2:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workman-ship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10
We fulfill our vocations when God works through us to serve one another. We are not doing the good works, God is. We’re the instruments he uses to provide care and service to his people.
One of the youth speakers described a simple way that God provided for him that day. He announced, “While I was busy setting up for today’s event, God suddenly brought me coffee and a bagel with cream cheese!” He went on to explain that his teenage daughter (who was beaming in the audience) brought him his breakfast. The Lord worked through her to provide for her father. Pretty awesome.
This day just scratched the surface in illustrating what vocation is, but it has captured my interest and imagination. I’m eager to explore this concept more and pray that God continues to work through me to serve my neighbor and fulfill my vocation in his precious Kingdom.