Please, Stand By Me at Work

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Matt Milam II posted this fantastic video over at his highcallingblogs site. (Matt is also on blogger.) Matt and his folks are spending the summer having church in the Blue Sky Cathedral. I like the sound of that. The video got me thinking about What Luther Didn't Say About Vocation, an old article I found from Luther Seminary this week over at Word & World. (Once upon a time, I was Lutheran for a year when I lived in Germany. Good times. I went to the Church of St. Jacob.) I've fallen into a rut here at and of simplifying our mission down to "glorifying God in everyday life and work." But you know what? That's only half of what we do. Or at least that's the abstract "churchy" way of talking about what we do. Which brings me to the video (super cool) and the song, Stand By Me. Consider the lyrics for a minute.

When the night has come And the land is dark And the moon is the only light we'll see No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid Just as long as you stand, stand by me

We can talk about glorifying God through our work all we want, but if we're not also serving our neighbor we are completely missing the point. We can't love God without loving our neighbors. And loving our neighbors means showing mercy to them. After all, that is the point of the Good Samaritan story. Before I embed the video, I wanted to include these excerpts from Frederick Gaiser's article. Read them and see what you think.

  • Work, [we might say], is pleasing to God because God likes quality work. This would be the American work-ethic version of vocation, theologically endorsing work as an end in itself. In the hands and mouth of a modern boss, good craftsmanship and clean floors (or a clean desk or a signed contract) to the glory of God could be a potent and tyrannical tool to promote the bottom line.
  • ...what marks Luther’s doctrine of vocation is the insistence that the work is done in service of the neighbor and of the world. God likes shoes (and good ones!) not for their own sake, but because the neighbor needs shoes...
  • What Luther actually said about vocation: The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor....The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living.
  • Wrongly understood, [vocation] enslaves us to the boss, who now has divine authority to press us to produce cleaner floors. God may indeed like good craftsmanship, but Christian vocation is not finally about production (though production will result), just as it is not ultimately about my own satisfaction (though it will surely satisfy)...

Here are two questions for everyone to think about either in the comment section or your head:

What do you consider to be your vocation?

And how do you serve others through your vocation?