Welcome to colorful Colorado! Last night I flew into a snowstorm, and made my way across the great expanse of metropolitan Denver, from the most northeast corner to the most southwest corner. It made me think of my Grandad Gilchrist’s life, for 50 years or so traveling across Colorado, from Brush in the northeast to Cortez in the southwest, buying and selling cattle.
In the year 2013 I am sure there are a lot of Coloradoans who don’t even know that cows are grown here, having little or no reference points to imagine anything other than the city and the mountains—and being a Broncos fan doesn’t really have much to do with horses or cows, and so that doesn’t count.
I gave a lecture today at Denver Seminary about vocation and the missio Dei. We are beginning a year-long project with the seminary, collegially partnering with them to do our best to recast the paradigm. Among other stories, I told them about my father and grandfather, and something about the work of their lives, the one a scientist and the other a cattleman.
As sure as I am that I was born in Colorado, I am sure that the congregations in which my father and grandfather worshipped did not see their work as a meaningful part of the work of the God in the world, never ever praying for them in their vocations, as if their vocations had anything to do with the vocation of God. The theological and pastoral indifference was a result of a deeply flawed theology— and the reframing of the paradigm is what our work is all about.
We have called the program “Integral, Not Incidental,” echoing off of our credo in The Washington Institute that “vocation is integral, not incidental, to the missio Dei.” For a year seminary professors, area pastors, and people from the marketplace across Denver will meet together to read and think and pray and work. The hope? That someday we will see a change of mind and heart, that the fathers and grandfathers, the mothers and grandmothers, of your life and mine, in your community and mine, will see that the ordinary things of life are marked by the grace of coherence.
In the words of Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot: “So at the end of our time as a band perhaps we will have only one song to sing — just one very long, rambling, eclectic song that touches on life, death, pain, sex, anger, joy, peace, politics, God and the other elements of a searching soul in the twenty first century. Maybe at the end of my life I will sing only one song, a song that has been refined and purified. A lonely group of notes that will be a sweet, sweet sound for an audience of one…”
Every one of us longs for coherence, for life to be whole, for who we are and what we do to be seamless, for what we believe and how we live to be the same thing. At our best at least, we want that.