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As deans of Lutheran seminaries, we have many occasions to talk about and think about vocation. Indeed, this often is one of the best parts of our work: discerning our own calls and assisting in the discernment of others, and thinking about the task of theological education, the state of the church, and the role of a public minister in a congregation and society.

Kristin Johnston Largen, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.)

Craig Nessan, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa

Series editor’s note: To gain deeper understandings about Christian vocation, I turned to the deans of our ELCA seminaries for theological and personal refl ections on their callings. All were able to respond except Bradley Binau of Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, who is on sabbatical. They are donating the author stipend to the ELCA Fund for Leaders, which provides scholarships to the seminaries. —Michael Cooper-White

Jayakiran Sebastian, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

One of the best things about a Lutheran concept of vocation is that it continually reminds us not to equate it with occupation, as if we only live out our vocation through our employment. Instead, we understand that all Christians receive their vocation in their baptism, and the call is as straightforward as it is daunting: love God and love your neighbor.

When seen this way, every Christian has a vocation, whether she is 5 or 95. We live out that vocation raising children, studying, working retail, nurturing friendships, playing sports, volunteering and voting. In all we do, we are called to glorify God, serve our neighbor and dedicate our lives to the care and redemption of all God has made. We are invited to live boldly, love radically and walk alongside the Spirit in the path she sets before us. While a Christian vocation isn’t easy, it’s a gift and joy all the same.

42 MAY 2016

Just as each of us lives out baptismal vocation in the arenas of daily life—at home, school, workplace, in the community and across the globe—so an academic dean lives out vocation forming church leaders.

Theological education serves “to equip saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). In our time this means increased focus on equipping all the baptized for mission in their particular spheres of infl uence, with renewed attention on forming congregations as teaching and learning communities. Ministers of word and sacrament serve the gospel with its power to set people free from all that prevents them from being the people God intended. Ministers of word and service are both personally involved in and act to catalyze the whole church in its movement from sanctuary to the streets.

In our context, where we have created all kinds of hierarchies, talking about vocation is a challenge. Even as we speak of ourselves as dust, ashes and earth, we create hierarchies of class, caste and gender, and of race, economic, cultural, social, educational and national status, do we not? Does the propensity for violence and our complicity in the spiral of violence relativize who we really are? When it comes to the use and abuse of power; when we claim to have agency over the lives, destinies, bodies and future of others; when we deem others dispensable and disposable, we have denied their God-given callings. Do black lives really matter, or do we merely want to make sure the right people hear and affi rm our protests?

It is in this cauldron of sorting things out in everyday life where our vocations lie.

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