Luke 10:25-37/Eph. 2:10
Nov. 19, 2017
“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Created by God to do good works. Called by God to do good works. Called by God to serve him where we are. Called by God to a pastor, a parent, a worker. Called by God to be a shoemaker, a baker of cakes. Wherever we are, we are there because God put us there and intends for us to serve him. And God intends to serve others through us. That is vocation.
Vocation: God’s calling. Luther wrote on vocation more than anything else during his ministry except for justification by grace through faith. Why would he spend so much ink on vocation? He had been a monk. People became monks because they thought monks were these spiritual athletes, serving God by studying endless hours, worshiping and praying for hours at a time, by punishing themselves by going without food or water, or blankets. In reality monks thought they were paying for their sin and guilt before God. Luther later rejected monastery life for God’s teaching vocation: God’s calling to the individual.
I suppose it makes sense to want to be a spiritual athlete, like what was assumed for those in monasteries. But look at the patriarch Jacob. There are times God led Jacob to lofty heights. One day he struggled with the Lord in prayer. At that time there was no time for milking of goats or tending sheep. There was time only for struggling against sin and death and conquering through faith and hope. There were other times when Jacob is nowhere near the lofty heights and he’s caring for his family, taking care of his flocks. God’s people aren’t restricted to one work, like those in monasteries. God’s people devote themselves not only to spiritual exercises, but also domestic and political concerns.
Abraham is called to Mount Carmel to sacrifice Isaac: to do the very thing that God would do! Would you have slept on that three day journey? Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead. But for Abraham, there must have been a lot of boring time waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Vocation: our calling in life. Employer/husband/father. Or employed/husband/father. Wife/mother/employed. Child/student/employed. Whatever station, or stations in life into which God has placed you, God calls you to be faithful. God calls you to do the good works he’s assigned to you.
What makes a Christian shoemaker? Is it because he puts little crosses on the shoes he makes? A Christian shoemaker puts his faith into practice by making good shoes. There is no such thing as Christian shoemaking. There isn’t a technique for making shoes only known by Christians. There are shoes made by baptized kings and queens, who make shoes because their neighbors need them. And when he makes quality shoes at a fair price he does the best job of meeting his neighbors’ needs. And he will make shoes cheerfully and with a commitment to quality and he’ll be convinced that God is delighted with his shoes because God is delighted with him in Christ.
If you are a Christian checkout clerk, you might have the ability to ring up 40 items per minute, but you’ll slow things down to chat with an elderly bachelor. A Christian checkout clerk sees his job as more than a bunch of items to be scanned. He sees a soul loved by Jesus.
Luther said, “He will work all things through you he will milk the cows through you and perform the most servile duties through you, and all the greatest and least duties alike will be pleasing to him.”
Luther said, “God milks the cows through the handmaides.” Then it’s true that God flips the burgers at McDonalds. God pours water at Bob Evans or Bonefish Grill. In food snobbishness you might say, “Eeuuww, I don’t like their burgers.” But God feeds hundreds of thousands that way. God carries the food to you through the waitress. God picks up after your meal at the country club through the busboy.
So, a Christian might be a common laborer, a shoemaker, a sweaty blacksmith. He might be dirty and smelly. But he can say, “My God made me a man. He gave me my wife, my house and my family and he has commanded me to love my family and provide for them. And this is how he allows me to do it. And he may stink outwardly, inwardly he is pure incense.”
We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” A pastor friend of mine put it this way: “Every day is Christmas for God.” A thousand opportunities contront the believer, all of which conform to God’s law. There need be no ringing of hands, God’s mercy being what it is, when the choice is between “good and good.” You choose one option when you know it is not a sin to choose another. It’s like going to a department store, looking at all that in the shelves until you settle on a particular item that catches you eye. You select that item, that good work, just for your Father. You crawl into his lap. He peels off the wrapping and exclaims, “Oh, and what a delight!” This is pure grace. And a mystery too because he you choose for him he chose for you.
A man was minding his own business, walking down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, about a 17-mile walk. “…he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” So now, all this man can do is be at the mercy of humanity.
A priest has an opportunity to be a blessing to the man who was beaten and left half dead. But when he saw the man he “passed by on the other side” of the road. He chose to not help.
How does a man of God not know this good work is sitting there for him? He, God’s teacher, would have known that the Bible says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18) You bind you own wounds, don’t you? So, you bind the wounds of your neighbor. Give him shelter. This priest was determined to not be a blessing from God.
Then along came a Levite, “…when he came to the place and saw him he passed by on the other side.” A Levite was someone who worked in the temple. How could he not know “Love your neighbor as yourself?”
There was a third man who was walking the same road. Maybe his didn’t even belong on the road. He was a foreigner. People who lived there would have viewed this man as a half-breed. He came across this who had been beaten half to death. But he did not cross over to the other side of the road. No, “he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Two silver coins were two days wages. Two days wages would have paid a this man’s inn’s expenses for two months. Pretty generous for a man who was considered a half breed and looked down upon.
Vocation is our calling in life. God’s calling to serve him wherever we are in life. Sometimes that calling takes us to the proverbial mountaintop; sometimes that takes us to dirt, sweat and tears. Sometimes our vocation moves us to just mind our own business, but sometimes our vocation calls us to not mind our own business, like the Good Samaritan, who could have walked away but was a blessing from God.
I’d hate to see a computer printout of the times I’d didn’t love my neighbor as myself. I’d hate to see the number of times I didn’t do for my neighbor what I would have done for myself. I’d to see the number of times I’ve known others needed help and didn’t lift a finger. There are many times I, we didn’t show mercy.
God has shown mercy. Jesus didn’t walk on the other side of road to avoid helping. He used the roads to get those who needed help. He turned water into wine and saved a wedding reception. He healed an officials son. He drove out evil spirits. He healed Peter’s mother in law. He cleansed a man with leprosy. He healed a man who was paralyzed. He restored a man’s withered hand. He raised two people from the dead.
God has shown mercy. Before Jesus healed the lepers, he didn’t ask if they were Lutheran. When he granted sight to the blind, he didn’t ask if they were card carrying members of the same political party.
And mercy of mercies: he took the punishment of body and soul for our sins, as if he had committed them. He becomes all that is bad and evil and pays with it for his life. So I can become all things that are good and pleasing in his sight.
All so I can go to the rack and pick out a good work and go jump on my heavenly Father’s lap and say, this is for you. I could have picked another good work just the same, but this one I chose just for him. And he says, “Oh, how delightful and it’s just what I chose for you.”
What do you have going on today? Do you have some good things to do for your Father? Some “good works prepared in advance” because you are “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus?” You may be hands that God uses to feed your family. You may be the one God uses to get someone out of a jam. You might be taken to a real spiritual mountaintop experience in His Word, or you may get dirty, smelly, grimy, and either way, it’s what God prepared for you.
I don’t think we can imagine the list of good works that each of us has already offered in service to our Father. Luther said, “Faith is active. Before it can ask what needs to be done faith is already doing it.”
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' (Mat 25:34-40)
Maybe the reason we don’t think about all we do as good works is because as we do our good works we are thinking about our Father. Have a wonderful day enjoying the many opportunities God prepared for you today to serve him. Amen.