Witness & Vocation

God’s redemptive purposes extend far beyond the salvation of individual souls. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians reminds us that God has "made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (1:9-10), Likewise, Paul tells us that this cosmic salvation is with Christ the Logos as the head of the church: "God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (1:22-23). All things means just that—all things. There is no area of life and culture that does not belong under the reforming lordship of Christ.

In a world like ours, rift with cultural genocide, racial hatred, class divisions, and sexual abuse, what can we confidently hope for? And in what do we hope? Christianity holds out the promise of a better future, a time where perfect personal and social harmony and justice are carried out under the benevolent oversight of our Heavenly Father. It teaches that the eschaton, or the end of all things, is fulfilled in Christ's kingdom, in the perfect peace, or better said, the perfect shalom of God. It prophesies that our present disruption and decay will be revitalized by the work of the Spirit into complete newness. Furthermore, Christ has set up his church as an (albeit fallible) testimony to that future harmony and perfection. He has begun in us now what will be completely revealed only in the New Heaven and New Earth. We exist in between-time, between the creation and corruption of the universe and the eventual restoration of all things. That which had begun suitable, harmonious, and integrated will again be so. We should bear in mind the expansive borders of this. It is comprehensive. Every area of life is Christ's and will finally succeed in its purpose only in Christ. His peace, his shalom, will bring us again to all the universe was intended to be.

We who exist in this between-time must orient all our lives towards that future promise. All things in our work and play must again be suitable, harmonious, and integrated. The goal is lofty -- the complete sanctification of our minds, words, deeds, and communities. We cannot do this alone; rather, we are to work out the craft of our language within that divine fellowship, which he has chosen to model the vivid life that God will return to his world. The church, the people of God, are to overflow with these pleasant, enriching, loving words, for in speaking and singing, we enact Christ's shalom. Tragically, we too often fall short of this state, but when we do live up to it, we experience a foretaste of what a restored creation will be in full.

Frederick Buechner has noted that "the place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet" (119). Each of us has to consider how our life’s work impacts the kingdom purposes of God. A vocation is a God-given calling lived out in conjunction with God’s grand purposes for his world and within the church’s particular role as a sign or firstfruits of Christ’s kingdom in the world. For Christians, the task of making our words true, good, and beautiful is an act of faith and hope that God will make all things new. And it is a task carried out as witness in our larger world. What, then, is the purpose or calling of the poet, and how should Christians be poets? There are several models worth considering, each of which has something to teach.

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"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding