Monday, March 3, 2008

An NHS Honor

On Monday, March 3, I had the distinct pleasure to address the newest inductees to Lutheran North's National Honor Society. It might be a paltry substitute for a blog entry, but here it is...

First of all, I’d like to thank the current members of NHS for asking me to speak this evening. It’s a pleasure to speak with such a fine group of young men and women. Secondly, Congratulations! To the newest members of National Honors Society. The privilege of being part of an elite group is extraordinary. I am honored to address you on a night where the gifts God has given to you are being commended, praised and acknowledged.

Growing up in Saginaw…I never understood why my mom would come home from work so tired. I mean she worked in a bank and did banking stuff. How hard could that be. Yet there would be days she would drag herself through the door, into the kitchen and begin cooking supper.

And I never understood why she would get so mad when I would ask her what’s for supper. She’d respond with “food” and I’d adolescently respond with “Is it good food?”. Man, I mean she’d snap and say any food we eat is good food. Man, lighten up.

And I also never understood why my mom used the board of education to “resolve” my disobedience. The Board of Education…ooh clever name. Simply put it was board with tape and across the tape was “Board of Education”. You know in case she had to use it to help teach me a “lesson”.

So one day… ( At this point I told an effusive anecdote about how my brother and I once took the Board of Education my mom used to “discipline” us, and glued it to the bottom of the drawer. Thinking it was funny, my mom did not laugh. Years later I understood why.)

I never understood any of that until one day, years later, I realized it was her job, her calling as a mother to raise her children so they knew right from wrong. It was her calling to be a dependable employee at the bank because people depended upon her. It was her calling as a mother to feed her family and it was this calling, this vocation that she took seriously and poured her life into. It’s this topic of vocation that I’d like to share some insights with you on this prestigious evening.

The term vocation comes from the Latin word for “calling”. The concept of vocation is that we have multiple vocations given to us by our Creator. My vocations include being a father, a husband, an educator. The narrow definition may lean towards our professional occupation, but it’s so much more than that. Our vocation is our calling. For me that certainly means my calling as an educator but it also means my calling as a father and a husband. We all have multiple vocations. As I look on the new inductees and the current inductees I see as many vocations as I do faces. The Lord has blessed you with so many talents – four of which are the reasons you are being inducted into National Honor Society. So what do we do with these vocations? What is our responsibility and how does that apply to the new inductees of NHS, but also to everyone gathered here tonight. Well, let’s turn to God’s Holy Word for guidance.

Ecclesiastes 2: 24 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

We can do nothing better than to find satisfaction in our work. Because of my adolescent immaturity, I never saw that in my mother’s various vocations. She was being the best employee she could be. That’s why she was working so hard, always showing up for work and one morning even walking to work in a snowstorm. That’s why, even though she was dog tired from working all day, she still fixed supper for her three children. She found great satisfaction in the work the Lord had given her.

Finding satisfaction in our work, no matter what that work may be is not always easy, but it’s a part of God’s plan for his people. This work, a gift from God, is the source of our satisfaction. Scripture is clear that man can do nothing better than find satisfaction in this gift of work

Even St. Paul alluded to the importance of our various vocations as he stated in I Corinthians 7:17: Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.

The Lord has assigned you, called you, to this life. He has also blessed you with many gifts. Now stop. If you think I am about to venture into a tirade about how vital it is that you do something with these gifts, I’m not. Oh, I could. Oh, I could talk about being stewards of all that God has given to you, including the gifts of scholarship, service, leadership and character – I could, but I won’t.

My focus tonight is to take stock of those gifts just mentioned, and all the blessings the Lord bestowed upon you, and I encourage you to use them to the best of your ability in your calling as a son, a daughter, a student, an employee, an athlete, a musician, a friend. The Lord has assigned you this life. He has empowered you to live this life with various gifts. God has called you to this life, to these vocations, and has given you everything needed to sustain it. In fact, the gift of cleansing our sinfulness and granting us eternal life through Christ’s atoning sacrifice also equips us to carry out our vocations on this earth. We know our greatest need, the need for a sinless existence, has been completely and unconditionally granted, through our Savior. This doesn’t shame us into action. It encourages and empowers us knowing we are redeemed children of God and that we are granted the opportunity to find contentment in all the gifts and blessings given to us.

St. Paul also wrote in I Timothy: 6: “that godliness with contentment is great gain”. Finding contentment in what we have, in our vocation, in our calling, in the life that God has granted us is great gain.

Even Christ shared several vocations. He was a son, a carpenter and most importantly our Savior.

William Powers, a nuclear physicist at the national laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, was asked how being a Christian affected his work. He explained how puzzling is his research into theoretical physics, how it consists mainly of working at a computer screen, analyzing thousands of calculations, tracking the behavior of obscure subatomic particles with infinitesimal half-lives. He said that while he finds this work fascinating and thought it is indeed useful in the field of nuclear energy research, he used to worry about the value of what he was doing. He wondered, what good is this really? He felt he should be spending his time doing something that was of more service to the Lord, such as evangelizing, instead. But ever since he learned about the doctrine of vocation, he feels a new satisfaction in his work. In his number-crunching and theory-testing, in exercising his abilities as a scientist, he knows he is leading “the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” He is confident that in his office as a scientist, in his vocation, he is doing God’s work.

In your office as a student, a son, a daughter, a member of NHS be confident that you are doing God’s work by taking the talents he has blessed you with and finding contentment in the life the Lord has assigned you and to which God has called you into.

I close tonight by returning to Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 2: 24 A man can do nothing better than find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God. Solomon continues in verse 25 with “for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”

Congratulations on being inducted into Lutheran North’s National Honor Society. May you find great enjoyment in the hand of God as you find contentment in all the blessings he has given you.
Thank you.


Andrew Fluegge said...

Great speech there Mr. Brandt, really inspired me to take part in, more, mischievous behavior. I was sad you left out one pressing factoid, we're all dying to know.

Alas, I speak in jest. I'm sure you made the right decision; blessings on your future whatever it does hold.

doesn't mean I'm not curious. . . . .

D. Rohde said...

I started to read what I am assuming was a wonderful speech, but it got to be too long.

I will see you on Wednesday.

JBrandt said...

The best writers make the fewest words go the longest way.

Had I met that objective, my speech would only be one word long. Congratulations! Perhaps, Congrats, would have even been better yet.

However, I had to bring out the varsity speech because I didn't want Fluegge or Curtice, who spoke before me, to think they could compete.

Andrew Fluegge said...

aha, watch it!
i think the intrinsic seed of leadership resonated with many in the room.
also the ralph nader quip.
oh wait, you were the only one to understand.
tough crowd.