Labor Day is a timewhen some congregations lift up the importance work. In recent years, the Presbtyerian Church, USA, Office of Vocation, has invited seminarians to develop resource materials that congregations might use with this event.This year they are doing something a little different.
Earlier this year, Martha Miller, in the Office of Vocation, and I met and she learned of my passion about the area of vocation. I was asked what I, an elder, might create for such an event and would I be willing to take on this project. I jumped at the chance.
I've answered this project in two parts. The first is a short essay distinguishing human vocation from Christian vocation. The second part is a liturgy for commissioning people to the work they do in daily life. The draft below shows you what I've come up with so far.
What do you think? What changes would you make? Are their hymns/songs you would suggest? Are there any selections from the Book of Confessions you can think of that would work?
The idea is that this liturgy will give people a starting point for putting together their own service. It will hopefully help congregations begin to think seriously about human vocation. I'm not saying any or all suggestions will be incorporated but your input would be welcomed. While this is for a PCUSA context, input from non-PCUSA readers is certainly welcomed as well.
Commissioning Service for Human Vocation
Human vocation involves much more than our occupation. Yet for many, our occupation is a significant on-going expression of human vocation that fills our days. The commissioning service gives public recognition of a call an individual has answered and sends that individual with the support of the worshiping community to fulfill that call.
Few people have experienced a commissioning service for human vocation. It might be desirable to spend a season preparing the congregation for such an event before inviting people to be commissioned. (It is possible that much of the congregation will want to be commissioned the first time this is done. Adjustments need to be made to the liturgy accordingly.) Once such a service has been held, it might be appropriate to schedule an annual (or more frequent) service in which previously noncommissioned people may participate or those who have changed jobs in the intervening period may be recommisioned.
Commissioning is typically done within the context of the service for the Lord’s Day, although the liturgy may be used alone. When done as part of the Lord’s Day service, commissioning should follow the sermon and precede the Lord’s Supper.
Sermon passages might include:
- Genesis 1:26-28
- Genesis 2:15
- Psalm 8
- 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
- Hebrews 2:5-9
- Revelation 21:1-5
- Confession of 1967: 9:53
The emphasis should be on seeing all of work as part of God’s mission. While it is certainly appropriate to lift examples from the “helping professions” (ex. education, social service, health care) as part of God’s work in the world, it is important to lift examples of laborers, service workers, businesspeople and professionals. Ideally, Illustrations will emphasize how specific work connects with directly with God’s mission in the world (versus, say, seeing work primarily as means to earn money to give to missions.)
Suggested hymns and Songs (Numbers are for the Presbyterian Hymnal):
- Here I am, Lord 525
- How Clear is Our Vocation Lord 419
- I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me 369
- Son of Man, Thou Madest Known
- Servant of All, To Toil for Man
- Take My Life and Let it Be 391
- Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples 434
When it comes to the time of commissioning, the Minister, the people to be commissioned, and any others invited to be a part of the ceremony should gather at the front, possibly at the baptismal font.
Commissioning Liturgy for Human Vocation
Sentences of Scripture
The minister addresses all present:
[Leader] I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
[People] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.
[Leader] Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
[People] So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
[Unison] God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Call to Service
The minister continues:
[Leader] We are called by God
to be the church of Jesus Christ,
a sign in the world today
of what God intends for all humankind
[People] The great ends of the church are
the proclamation of the gospel
for the salvation of humankind;
the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship
of the children of God;
the maintenance of divine worship;
the preservation of the truth;
the promotion of social righteousness;
And the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven
to the world.
The minister continues:
We are created in the image of God.
We have been called by God,
to serve as stewards of God’s resources
and to live as tenants upon God’s land.
We have been called to bring all creation and humanity
to flourishing fullness.
We have been gathered by Christ
into communities of discipleship,
and sent in mission,
praying and working for the reconciliation
of all things and all people
to God through Christ by the power of the Spirit.
The minister or other appropriate people shall relate the form(s) of service to which persons are being commissioned.
Those being commissioned may express their hope in accepting the call and commission, and give testimony as to how they came to their call.
The minister addresses those being commissioned:
the grace bestowed upon you in baptism
is sufficient for your calling.
By God’s grace we are saved,
and enabled to grow in the faith
and to commit our lives in ways that serve Christ.
God has called you to particular service.
Show your purpose by answering these questions.
Do you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? I do.
Do you sincerely embrace the teaching that that the triune God was in the beginning creating the world, that God is at work sustaining the created order, that God is Lord over all creation and that we are called to be stewards of God’s resources and tenants upon God’s land? I do.
Will you as God’s image-bearer, answer the call to exercise godly dominion over creation and to pursue the shalom of the world, bringing all creation and all humanity to flourishing fullness? I will, with God’s help.
Will you bring the reconciling and redemptive work of Christ into your occupation, seeking the transformation of your particular sphere of work into that which gives honor to Christ and witness to his coming reign? I will, with God’s help.
Will you encourage, support, and pray for your sisters and brothers in Christ as they undertake this mission in their own lives? I will, with God’s help.
Will you, in all your work, serve with energy, intelligence, imagination and love, not as one working for human favor, but as one offering daily worship to God? I will, with God’s help.
The minister addresses all present:
Do you the members of [Name] Church,
confirm the call of God to our brothers/sisters [Name(s)]
as __________ in service to Jesus Christ? We do.
Will you support and encourage them in this ministry? We will.
in baptism you claimed us;
And by your Holy Spirit you are working in our lives,
empowering us to live a life worthy of our callings.
We thank you for leading [Name(s)] to this time and place.
Establish them in your truth,
and guide them by your Holy Spirit,
that in your service they may grow,
as faithful agents exercising stewardship over all creation
pursing the reconciliation of all things and all people.
To the Father, the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
be all honor and glory,
both In the creation that is now
and in the new creation that is to come.
[Name(s)], your are now commissioned to service as ________.
Whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God through him.
May the God of Peace
make you holy in every way,
and keep your whole being,
spirit, soul, and body,
free from every fault
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.