Before I start, I need 4 volunteers to read clips so that I’m not listening to my own voice all
Several times this summer, we have looked at our vocation- the place where you see
yourself at the intersection of suffering and hope, the thing you have to offer your
community to make it better, but that also brings you fulfillment. Geoff asked me to share
mine several weeks ago- my vocation is to provide a platform for simple human connection,
to cultivate moments when two or more people can truly “get” each other.
Right now, I have the opportunity to do this by running a small business. Handing
someone a good cup of coffee and donut provides a moment of reprieve from a likely
hectic and rushed day before they race off to catch a train to their jobs. I also do business
in an overlooked part of town. Gateway isn’t cool, there aren’t many community parks or
coffee shops or nice dive bars where the neighborhood can come together. There are
potholes, gaps in the sidewalk, and chain restaurants. I didn’t buy a business at Gateway
to come in and fix a needy neighborhood, I bought a business to give me job security and
work I could be proud of, but in the process I found that I have an opportunity to really
stretch and use my vocation.
Take a moment, if you’ve done the vocation finding exercise, and hold it in your
mind. Crystal posted the vocation exercise on the Bridge’s website- “Sinners and Saints”
from June 25th. I highly encourage you to check it out if you haven’t yet, but for now,, take
a moment and think about a talent, gift, or passion that you find yourself naturally using in
your community. Hold onto that.
I love my life right now. I have a handsome fiance who treats me with kindness,
respect and adoration. I have an adorable puppy that wakes me up at night but makes up
for it with hours of adorable flopping, snuggling, and reminding me of the wonder in the
world. I’m 25 and running my own business, planning a wedding, and finding time to go
away for weekends. But then, I loose two employees in a month, hire two more and loose
them in the same month, hire two more and hope I’ve chosen right this time. I get up at
5:30 and find myself still at the shop at 6:30 that evening. I get lost in the beaurocracy of
dealing with the secretary of state and have to talk to people at the city, county, state, and
national levels to figure out what papers I have to report to whom. I have too many slow
days in a month and have to decide between making my car payment on time and fixing
the espresso machine thats leaking constantly. I have to learn how to be an accountant
before I can afford to hire one, I have to run to cash and carry then costco, and winco and
back again several times in a week when I forget to plan effectively. I get opportunities to
meet with people that are also concerned with the gateway community, but get lost in the
details that I don’t follow through. I have the seventh person in a day demanding a free
cup of water or change for their twenty without saying please or thank you, and I get short
and snappy with them, and cry and stomp in frustration at them and at myself for not
connecting, for falling short of what I know I have to offer.
I got busy, and soon sleeping in felt better in the moment than connecting with my
faith community. Staying in with take out sounded better than a night out with friends.
Every morning, I see the imperfections in my life- laundry undone, this months books not
reconciled, friend’s overlooked, weddings missed, bills unpaid, and it feels like I will only
thrive in my vocation if I can get all those details in order. I am stressed, and stretched, and
have hidden my treasure from myself.
A while ago, Mike and I were having a conversation about my faith. “I know that in
the past you have had the faith and power to separate Heaven and hell,” he told me, “but
somewhere, you lost it”.
When Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven, it seems awfully similar to this
concept of vocation. The kingdom of heaven is the reality of the divine intersecting with our
daily lives to bring heaven and earth closer together.
Our vocation is how we act out that kingdom of heaven hope. Jesus used a whole
pile of metaphors to show how this works. He talked about a bit of yeast, that works its
way though the a mess of flour and water to make the whole thing rise, he talked about a
teeny tiny mustard seed that, once planted, grows into a giant tree that gives home to
birds. He talked about a treasure in a field, that made a man sell everything he owned just
so he could have the field with the treasure in it.
In each of these metaphors, the object of metaphor has no chance of becoming its
potential unless something else partners with it to make it flourish. The metaphor of the
treasure in the field has really stuck with me,
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and
then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Once the man had the treasure, he hid it again. I pictured him actually hiding it,
losing it, and not being sure where. I pictured him having to buy the whole damn field so
he could find the treasure again. I know thats not what happened in this story, but it feels
like what I have done with my story. I have to do the hard work now of recovering my
vocation, my treasure. The kingdom of God, our vocations, aren’t easy or low maintenance
Lets look at these three parables and share with each other what it takes to make the
vocation grow. Can I get a volunteer for the overhead?
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Mustard is easy to grow, but has certain hints that help it. Think about your vocation in this context.
Mustard will grow well in most soils, but will produce the most seed in rich, well-drained, well prepared soil with a pH of no less than 6.0. It will thrive if given constant moisture. It likes cool weather; a light frost can even improve the flavor. Black mustard is the least fussy.
- What are the “proper conditions” for seeing your vocation grow? Think of a time in the past where your vocation was thriving and healthy in action.
- What was the “soil” like- the environment?
- What actions did you take to help that vocation flourish?
- What can you do now to grow a new plant of your vocation.
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Bread wouldn’t be bread without yeast and yeast can’t work without sugars. Yeast is alive—living organisms—and living organisms need food for fuel, in this case, simple sugars. But flour is mostly starch and table sugar (sucrose) is too complex for the yeast before fermentation. Amylase and invertase, enzymes present in the flour or created by the yeast, break down the starch molecules into sugars. Some of these simple sugar molecules become food for the yeast; others create the sweet flavor we find in a fine bread—even a French bread where there is no sugar added.
Generally, a long, slow fermentation makes for better flavor, texture, and moisture retention. Many
fine breads call for “retarding” or slowing down the growth of the yeast with refrigeration. If dough
is refrigerated, the yeast grows more slowly. Fermentation still takes place as the amylase enzymes
work within the dough and sugar is released albeit at a slower rate. When the dough is warmed
and the growth of the yeast takes off, there is plenty of sugar present for the yeast and an excess of
sugar to sweeten the bread.
When yeast grows more slowly, we find the richer, fuller flavor of breads made with retarded dough.
Have you ever let your vocation grow too quickly- so that it is not as good as you know it
could be- you jumped into a situation too quickly, or took too much on?
Have you ever let your vocation “slow down” in order to be more healthy, fuller, and richer?
What steps can you take to let it “actively rest” and become richer, fuller, upon being released
I need to practice gratefulness, use the resources around me to take the load off, and make
a priority of being with the people who are like minded in vocation for the Gateway community. I
imagine that at some point, moving into that neighborhood (as sad as I would be to leave N Po)
would be planting my seed in the right soil.
Providing moments of connection is not a low maintenance vocation. But it can be cultivated,
and it can grow, and I am ready to start coming out again and giving it what it needs to flourish. I’m
still scared and stressed out, but when I put it to this community over a year ago that God is
attentive to our most painful places of lost hope, I met Mike the next month. I’m trusting that planting
my seed in this community will give it an environment where it can grow. I hope that you find where
to plant your vocation to make it grow.