Teaching as vocation

July 8th, 2014

We are back at the educational questions about the way of Jesus. What does it mean to live that vocation? Here is a hint of what we will continue to encounter as we explore additional ways of seeking to understand and teach the way of Jesus. Where new life is proclaimed and embodied, redemptive communities are being built—redemptive communities that change individuals and whole towns and public spaces.

Congregations are teaching the ways of Jesus when they point to redemption occurring in their midst. They are teaching that hope, charity, mercy, and justice matter. Congregations (or communities) insulated from the world in “fear, reaction, and aggression” do not engage the gospel. 13 Redemptive mission is central to teaching the way of Jesus. Without teaching redemption and new life, the gospel becomes a facile, polite hope for civility, not the “good news of God” transforming the world.

The vocation we glimpse here is the power of the good news that is developed everywhere in the Gospels and records of the followers of Jesus. Actual people and communities were being transformed even in the midst of Roman oppression. People were healed, crowds fed, the blind given sight, and the possessed released. People were being freed to live and serve as new people with the possibility of life abundant. In fact, as healed people, they were welcomed back into community. Furthermore, awareness of the presence of God became a reality in the lives of people and communities. Intimacy with God (God’s claim that they were God’s children) freed them to live new lives. The caring for needs led to the celebrating of the love and power of God. This vocation is explicitly the vocation of Christian religious education. Moreover, the task of education is to teach people to live in this transformed, community-building manner. All of its practices and approaches point to this responsibility.

Finally, Jesus’ call to vocation gave new possibilities for the building of community where people could live responsibly with and for each other. The miracle of Jesus was that people and communities had the possibility of changing. By faith, people accepted this grace, and new possibilities were present in human living.14

How do we teach people to live the way of Jesus? How do we teach the way of Jesus?

We should pay more attention to the home community that welcomed Jesus, but resisted his efforts to teach them to renew and live their traditions. Were they so focused on their own needs that they could not hear the radical call for new life in Isaiah’s vision of God’s presence and call? They were scared and defeated. They took the definitions of the victimizers to heart. They lived as if the powers of the world determined life and meaning. They demanded a miracle, rather than living the joy that was present already in their midst. They focused on the scarcity in their experiences, rather than trusting in the abundance of God’s love.

We live the way of Jesus when we follow the vocation Jesus offered, when we seek to translate this vocation in the ministry and mission of the church. The vocation of which Jesus speaks is first of all grounded in God’s grace. When we know we are known by God, we look for God’s kingdom emerging in the world. Then we are called to live it: loving God and neighbor, inviting and welcoming strangers to the table of friendship and renewal, resisting powers of the world that would destroy life, and living expectantly and joyfully. Perhaps this is a good start to seeking to understand and live the way of Jesus.15


excerpt from: "Teaching The Way of Jesus: Educating Christians for Faithful Living" by Jack L. Seymour Copyright © 2014 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.


13. Martin E. Marty, “Jews in the Economist,” Sightings, July 30, 2012.
14. I appreciate the argument about redemption and redemptive community found in Marianne Sawicki’s two books on the educational development of the Jesus movement. Sawicki seeks to describe how the new life experienced in Jesus was communicated in the proclamation of the resurrection. Those after Jesus could continue to see the miracles of healing, sight, feeding, and release, of intimacy with God, and of new community occurring. The Gospel in History: Portrait of a Teaching Church (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1988); and Seeing the Lord: Resurrection and Early Christian Practices (n.p.: Augsburg Fortress, 1994). Sawicki asks: “How did the telling transform the quality of human living for ordinary people?” (Gospel in History, 7). Also, for a theological description of “redemptive existence,” see Edward Farley, Ecclesial Man: A Social Phenomenology of Faith and Reality (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975); and Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Places of Redemption: Theology for a Worldly Church (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007).
15. I particularly want to thank my colleagues Dr. Osvaldo Vena, professor of New Testament interpretation; Dr. Brooke Lester, director of emerging technologies and assistant professor of Hebrew Bible, and Dr. Dwight Vogel, professor emeritus of theology, for their questions, comments, and assistance. They raised important questions about the interpretation of Luke 4, about its relationship to the theology of the author of Luke, and about the translation of the Greek word translated “found,” as it is ambiguous.

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