“Christian people, specifically Christian clergy must get it firmly planted in their heads that when someone is is called to a particular job of “secular” work, that is as true a vocation as if they were called to specifically religious work.” -Dorothy Sayers
“I wish I could do what you do.” -Cletis Storment (my dad)
Her name was Katherine and she was trapped in a convent, secretly writing letters to her future Romeo. She no longer wanted to be a Nun, but she couldn’t escape, so she wrote letters asking for help. Eventually Romeo rolls into town and packs up all the nuns into some empty wine barrels (like you do). He loads them up on his wagon, and takes off hauling the sisters as fast as his horses go. His name was Martin Luther, the original Protestant. He went on to marry Katherine, not for love, but in his words, “To spite the Pope.”
Nicolas Sparks eat your heart out.
But Luther did this because he was not just picking up a wagon-order bride, he did this to fight for a different idea of work.
Churches tend to overestimate their importance, and by doing so minimize their impact in the world. And history is no different than today. The Church at the time had bought into the ideas that there were some jobs that were more important than others. These were the Spiritual jobs, the ones that involved praying and studying Scripture or preaching. And then there was everything else.
But that isn’t anywhere near the story the Bible is telling.
The Fingers of God
When Genesis 1 tells us that God made humans in His Own Image, that’s royalty language of the surrounding culture. God is in effect, saying that everyone has divine blood pulsing through their veins. In fact, the Bible starts off with God shaping dirt and making it a person. It’s manual labor. And if that doesn’t convince you, think about the way Philip Jenson talks about the difference between the Judeo-Christian view of labor:
“If God came into the world, what would he be like? For the ancient Greeks, he might have been a philosopher-king. The ancient Romans might have looked for a just and noble statesman. But how does the God of the Hebrews come into the world?… As a Carpenter.”
On average, most of us will work 100,000 hours in our lives, the majority of our lives will be spent doing our job. And if the only thing you ever hear from church is about how you should work/serve/volunteer more inside the building, there’s a chance that you might miss out on how important God thinks your job is.
All through the Bible, we hear about how God does stuff like “strengthen the bars of the city gates” or how he “feeds every living thing” But one of Luther’s greatest contribution to the world was by asking the question…How exactly does God do that?
He uses blacksmiths and farmers and maids to serve the people around them. They are the “fingers of God” working in every section of the world, and they are not working secondary callings, they are the means by which God is blessing others.
They are priests.
God’s dream for the world is human flourishing. It is for us to create cultures that serve our neighbors, and helps each person live and flourish.
This is the calling of all Christians from the the banker who gives loans to the manager who flips burgers. It is the calling of the journalist who tells the story of one neighbor to another, and the teacher who helps a student understand what kind of world they live in.
The only difference between wilderness and culture, is work. And God’s call for our work isn’t to just one institution (the Church), but to serve the world in the way we’ve been called.
So When I was a kid, my dad was an assistant manager at Wendy’s. And he was great at his job. We visited him every day (explaining my pear-shaped body) and I loved watching him work. He was good with people, and his employees loved him. He was respectful and kind and he cared about the quality of food that he was serving customers.
When someone he worked with was sick, our whole family would visit them, and when someone died, we went to their funeral. He would give employees that screwed up second chances a dozen times. To this day, people still talk about the joy of working for him.
But about 2 or 3 times a year, normally after a sermon, my dad will come up to me, put his arm around me and say something like, “I wish I could do what you do.”
It breaks my heart every time.
Because I know what’s behind that. Somewhere along the way my dad heard a message that implied that his work was not serving God. That if he really wanted to please God he should work at a church, or be a missionary, but that his calling really didn’t matter.
And that’s why Martin Luther smuggled nuns out of a convent like he was James Bond. He did it for my dad and people like him all over the world.
Because God isn’t creating a community of second class citizens. He’s creating a community of priests.
My dad is a part of the priesthood of burger-flippers. God is feeding all living things, in part, through him.
He is the Fingers of God serving the world through his work.
I wish I could do that.