...at least of Chapter 3. As I begin to editing of my third chapter, the systematic theology that I carry as a framework into my congregational research, reflection on which will then drive me back into my systematic theology, I thought it fitting to post the end of the chapter. I draw together here the role of public Christian worship in centering vocational identities, including the weight of Atkins' neurobiological findings and Kolden's insight of the unique Christian vocation. Your thoughts would be most appreciated.
Vocation, Vocation, Vocation
Everyone has multiple vocations and thus multiple vocational identities because everyone has multiple relationships. The brain tries to order and structure the information we encounter and our experiences. It can be said that our brains try to order our vocations and our vocational identities, or at least tries to relate them to each other in some way. Public Christian worship, through sacramental practices, can help the brain in developing the relationships between vocational identities by providing a central axis, a central vocational identity, around which the others can move and through which they can relate. The unique Christian vocation to be Jesus’ witnesses gives us an identity through our baptism—God’s relationship with each person—that is directed into the world by communion—God’s relationship with all of creation into which we are called.
The unique nature of Christian vocation can center our vocational identities because the promises of Jesus change our relationship to the law. All our other relationships create, to use Benne’s word, responsibilities. Demands of work and marriage, of being a neighbor and a citizen, of having children and being someone’s child, can and often do conflict because they demand of us tasks and time that require some kind of balance, some kind of decision-making. It is only through the promises of Jesus that we receive our death as good news that frees us from ourselves so that we might receive the demands and responsibilities that are laid on us in our relationships as good news.
The sacramental practices of public Christian worship form our brains in a way that can expand our perceptions of the presence of the trustworthy, reliable Jesus so that our brains might find a way to relate and deal with the conflicting demands of our multiple vocational identities. Because of the relationship God establishes with us in Christ by the movement of the Holy Spirit through the waters of baptism, all of our vocations can become part of the unique Christian vocation to be Jesus’ witnesses in the world. Through the sacramental practices of public Christian worship, we learn how to attend to the presence of God in all our relationships. Theological education has the chance to form public leaders of the church in such a way that they can help others learn how to center their vocational identities on the ultimately trustworthy, reliable Jesus through public Christian worship.