12.5.16

Vocation and the Church of England

The day when the Church of England takes down an advert advertising for a Young Vocations Adviser from any belief background, Willesden clergy, on Inset, listen to Jane Williams on vocations. Surely, a Vocations Officer for Christian Vocations needs to be a Christian. They have since created a new advert. 


Vocation at the beginning

Jane asks that we see the church as carrying the human vocation: we are made in God's image. Being made in God's image is an unusual word to apply to the whole of humanity. Ancient near Eastern literature might have held this as possible only for kings etc. 

Genesis paints a picture of the human shaping of the potential hidden in the earth. We are to work with God to bear fruit, to promote flourishing. Interdependence is written into the story of creation in that the productivity of one day is grounded in what has come before. Human beings are an extension of God's care of the universe and are to respond to God as they 'image' God. 

We are the descendants even of the heavens and earth with the same word being used here to describe generational relationality. 

Genesis 2 builds on the big picture of Genesis 1 and takes a closer focus on humanity. Differences are now seen, God speaks everything into existence but human beings are made out of God's breath and out of something that already exists: the dust; the earth. We are earthly and heavenly; a bridge. 

Genesis 2:15 tells us we are to til and keep the earth. Earth is not in a state of perfection, it is dependent upon our care. Til and keep are those farming words also extended to our care of the temple in later scriptures. They are vocational activities. Holy work and daily work interconnect. Tilling and keeping is at this point, a joy. Only after rebellion does it become a challenge. 

The animals are brought to the human creature to be named. The human creature is naming and more importantly defining the creatures, exercising dominion, helping to create the creatures' reality. 

The human creature becomes two human creatures. No return to the dust but an act of recreation to form Eve, coming forth from Adam there is that sense of dependency again: connectedness. (Jane does not use the names Adam and Eve, she uses instead 'human creature, human being from which come two beings.)

"One creature broken into two to make a partner."

This is a theology of interconnectedness. The Fall breaks connectedness. All things were able to delight in their interdependence but after this 'relationship' breaks. This brokenness manifests itself in idolatry. 

'Turning created existence into an ultimate point of reference, is the form that the fall takes, but what lies behind it is that man refuses to refer created being to communion with God. In other words, viewed from the point of view of ontology, the fall consists in the refusal to make being dependent on communion.' (J Ziziolas Being as Communion p.102). 

Disconnected from God we become discouraged with one another. The fall is that state of broken relationships.

At the Fall we have the cunning and uppity animal (the snake). People in the image of God should not be told what to do by an uppity animal! They named it and therefore made it what it is. Now it exerts dominion over them. The order is cascading into reversal and now the God who calls the human creatures to walk with him in the communal walk through the garden, hide from him. They notice now their differences from one another which were once perfect in complementarity. The differences between them are now so frightening they are to be hidden. Tilling is now not delighted in, neither is procreation. "This is not God's punishment or curse." It's the story of the reversal of the good order; a descent into ignoring that we are 'gift' to one another, out of God's gift of communion. Babel highlights a mass disordering of peoples; a mass disordering which Pentecost comesto undo, setting us into good order again through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Vocation through family

God calls Abraham. 

God begins to restore human relationships. Abraham has to return to dependence on God who will create Abraham's new reality. Abraham had created a reality for himself and that is sacrificed now and given over to God. The word for land is 'earth' - synedochal. Abraham is 'type.' Here we have scripture working on its figurative and literal levels. 

Moses has to take people into dependence again on God. It took 40 years to have this people become community and depend on Him again. 

We now have to be told in the ten commandments how to live with each other because we've lost the original vocation through the Fall. The prophets then call people back to their original imaging in God. 

Our truthfulness in terms of our identity is inseparable from our loving one another and our attention to those weaker members amongst us. This is holiness. God renames people as he reconfigures them. It's God's invitation. You are to take your time over it. Human calling is to relate all things to God through our own relationship to God. 

Vocation through the Church

The church, as we hear in Ephesians, is to be the new humanity. To be those who know ourselves to be gift and to gift ourselves to others is the purpose of Church.  Jesus' vocation is to demonstrate utter dependence on the Father, he is the beginning of the new creation, this is what the 'Our Father' prayer makes us  - brothers and sisters and children. "Church is a school for the new humanity." it's hard work because we have to til and keep our relationships, community is hard work because community is broken.

Jesus is always going to insist on his relatedness to the Father. The disciples are encouraged to find their relatedness to the Father. Jesus is the true human being so that even the miracles show that order is coming back again, a right interrelatedness begins to break in through him (the Kingdom). Through human vocation (and divine intent) the miracles occur, nature cooperates again with humanity.

Vocation through the Spirit

The vocation Christ gives to us through the Spirit is that reversal of Babel: community. We are chosen before the foundation of the world and destined for adoption. The mystery is revealed: the intent to gather everything together in Jesus, restoring interconnectedness. There is the bringing together of all peoples. How we are to be family needs instruction (one of Paul's aims in his letters). Building the bond of peace through the unity of the Spirit is essential God-work because unity is not natural to us any more.

The Spirit calls us to be brothers and sisters. He prays in us, adopts us.

"The Holy Spirit makes you a connecting place for the people of God, to restore human beings into relationship with one another and with God."

The Church is to help people discern vocation. We accidentally assume that vocation is built in church but it is to be nurtured in the spaces God places people. People crave connection and community, but are often passive about it, this is problematic - why? Because we were built to til and to keep - this is our great purpose. 

"The ordained vocation is to serve this greater calling of helping others find their vocations."

Churches are to be places where we learn how to be 'gift' to others and to the world.
We are to delight then, offering praise, proclaiming the Gospel. We are to delight in the beauty of the church. "Creation was quite weird too!"

We are to sustain others through the ministry of Word and Sacrament.
"Not your flesh but Christ's flesh."
"Not your words, but God's words," (else you exhaust yourself).
We are to always point away from ourselves.
By this too may we be sustained. Amen.

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