Definition of Vocation

You are going to come across the word “vocation” a lot in this portfolio. Therefore, it’s important to spend some time defining this word here at the beginning of your experience with the v-Portfolio.

There are three steps to this assignment:

  1. Read “An Attempt to Explain Vocation.
  2. Reflect on how you agree and disagree with what you read below.
  3. React by uploading your own statement on vocation and what it means for you.

An Attempt to Explain Vocation

You have probably heard the word vocation used to talk about one’s job. It is sometimes used to describe post-secondary educational institutions designed to train individuals for certain trades such as electrician, welder, plumber, carpenter, mechanic, etc. We use the term differently at Augsburg. It can be associated with your job, but it is also much more than that. Vocation is the way you are equipped, empowered, called, and driven to make our world a better place for all living things.

The History of Vocation

Vocation comes from the Latin word “vocāre” which means, “to call.” It was originally used hundreds of years ago in reference to Christians who believed they had been called by God to serve God through full-time ministry as monks, nuns, priests, etc. So, at one point in human history only those who work for the Christian church were considered to have vocations, which meant they were the only ones who were help God do God’s work on earth.

In the 1500’s, a Christian monk named Martin Luther challenged this notion. He believed everyone had a role to play in the work God was trying to do in our world. This work was believed to be the work of healing, forgiveness, and redemption – making the world a better place for all living things. Vocations weren’t the privileged positions of those who worked in the church and they weren’t intended to serve God. Instead, according to Luther, vocations were intended to serve our neighbor and were therefore roles each and every one of us had to play. Our vocations are not for the church or for God, they are for the world and our neighbor.

The History of Vocation at Augsburg University

Augsburg University is university of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This is a Christian denomination named after and rooted in the theological views developed by Martin Luther, the same monk who challenged the church’s understanding of vocation in his time. Martin Luther is known as the father of the Protestant church movement. This was a protest movement against the traditional establishment of the Christian church which, in Luther’s opinion, had become corrupt and oppressive. Martin Luther was a radical, the Lutheran denomination can be thought of as a radical protest movement at its origins, and Augsburg University should continue to see itself as part of this stream of radical protest seeking to reform both the church and our society into systems that are more just and equitable.

The Present of Vocation at Augsburg University

Martin Luther’s understanding of vocation has always been at the heart of Augsburg’s mission and identity as a seminary, a college, and now a university that seeks to develop leaders for the sake of a better world. We want our students, faculty, and staff to develop a deeper understanding of how they are equipped, empowered, called, and driven to make our world a better place for all living things through the work we do in all the roles we play in life (sibling, colleague, student, parent, child, friend, neighbor, etc.).

Why Should this Matter to You?

This idea of vocation – that each person is equipped, empowered, called, and driven to make the world a better place for our neighbors – is not limited to Christianity. Therefore, at Augsburg we are committed to helping each student learn how to discern the way in which they are being called to serve their neighbor. We want to help you identify the issues in our communities and in our world that concern you and break your heart. We want to help you recognize the gifts and the strengths you already have that will help you address those issues.

We believe you are called – equipped, empowered, driven, and responsible – to make this world a better place for your neighbor. That’s the essence of vocation.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What, if anything, did you find compelling and exciting about vocation as you read “An Attempt to Explain Vocation” above?
  2. What, if anything, did you find confusing or maybe troubling?
  3. Summarize the way you think vocation was being defined in “An Attempt to Explain Vocation”.
  4. Write your own statement describing or defining vocation. Feel free to agree completely with how it was presented here or to disagree with it entirely. Articulate a way of thinking about vocation that works for you and explain how it is similar to and different from the way it was presented in “An Attempt to Explain Vocation.”
  5. Upload this statement in a creative way to your V-Portfolio. Feel free to simply upload it as an essay, or a video of you sharing your statement, or a poem, song, piece of art, etc. Make it a meaningful statement and contribution to your V-Portfolio.