“How clear is our vocation, Lord,
When once we heed Your call:
To live according to Your Word
And daily learn, refreshed, restored,
That You are Lord of all
And will not let us fall.
But if, forgetful, we should find
Your yoke is hard to bear;
If worldly pressures fray the mind,
And love itself cannot unwind
Its tangled skein of care:
Our inward life repair.
We marvel how Your saints become
In hindrances more sure;
Whose joyful virtues put to shame
The casual way we wear Your name
And by our faults obscure
Your pow’r to cleanse and cure.
In what You give us, Lord, to do,
Together or alone,
In old routines or ventures new,
May we not cease to look to You,
The cross You hung upon
All You endeavored done.” Lutheran Service Book #853
In honor of “Vocation Day” (known more popularly as “Labor Day”), I’d like to mention two people who, I think, have an incredible sense of vocation, even though that is probably one of the things they’re least recognized for: Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Her Majesty wasn’t supposed to be the Queen. Her father was the second son of the monarch, which means he should never have been King. But, his brother Edward, (who had a terrible sense of vocation), abdicated the throne, leaving his brother, King George VI (another man with an astounding understanding of one’s vocation), to clean up his mess, and become the ruler he wasn’t supposed to (and never wanted to), be.
Now, maybe he would have been King eventually, or at least his daughter become Queen, because there’s some debate over whether Edward ever would have had children. But, he did become King, and Elizabeth was his oldest child. She herself was never even considered the “heir apparent,” but rather “heir presumptive,” because, regardless of her place as oldest child, had a son been born to King George at any point before his death, because of the laws regarding primogeniture at the time, he would have ascended the throne. There was no son, however, and so Elizabeth dutifully took on a role that she never expected or wanted, and that had likely hastened her own dear father’s death.
Prince Philip is another fantastic example. It was fairly obvious at the time of their wedding that he was marrying the future monarch, so that wasn’t a surprise to him by any means. But they weren’t, of course, expecting King George to die so suddenly or so young, and Philip was expecting to have more time in his chosen career–the military. But that wasn’t meant to be, and so he dutifully took on a role that most men would struggle with–walking two steps behind his wife for the rest of their lives (over 60 years, to date). He gave up his career to solely support her in everything she does, and he’s done it well. It wasn’t the role he expected for the vast majority of his life, but he gladly set aside his personal ambitions to do the task which was given him, the task he knew would be his someday, but not so soon.
A lot of people don’t take monarchies seriously anymore; they think they’re antiquated and unnecessary in today’s world. But you can’t deny the sense of vocation a good, God-fearing monarch (and his or her family), has. Queen Elizabeth has always taken seriously her God-given role as Queen, and has lived her whole life to serve her people, as God expects her to do, even when it wasn’t what she personally wanted for her life.
That’s a proper understanding of one’s vocation.
I love Gene Veith’s understanding of vocation, and I am all for joining with him, and celebrating today, not Labor Day, but Vocation Day!
“This blog has, for a number of years, been engaged in a crusade to co-opt the secular Labor Day and to get it on the church calendar as a holiday that celebrates the Christian doctrine of vocation. I think it is working. I’ve been hearing people making the connection. (Did you hear that on Sunday?)
Remember that vocation does NOT just mean your job, which is important for the over 9% of Americans who do not have one. Our calling from God also and even more importantly has to do with our positions in our families (as son or daughter; husband or wife; father or mother), the church (pastor or “hearer”), and the state (ruler or citizen). All of these are estates to which God stations us to live out our faith in love and service to the neighbors that each office brings into our lives. “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17).
The reason we celebrate Vocation Day by NOT working, even though we are honoring economic labor, is to give recognition also to our other vocations: our families (by spending time with them) and our country (to share in a national holiday doing cultural-specific activities such as grilling out and thinking about sports).”