I just read about Joe Ehrmann. I doubt you’ve ever heard of him, and neither had I until I ran across a short blurb about him. Joe was the high school football coach of the Gilman Greyhounds, in Baltimore Maryland. Under Ehrmann’s leadership, the team went undefeated for a number of seasons and were the top-ranked football team in Baltimore.
The interesting thing was Ehrmann’s main purpose, he believed, wasn’t leading a winning football team. Ehrmann saw his main purpose as teaching his players a new definition of purpose. According to a profile of Ehrmann in Parade Magazine, he believed that true purpose was based on “loving relationships and living for a cause greater than yourself.”
Ehrmann taught his players the ethic of servant-leadership; putting others’ needs before their own. He created a rule that if any of his players saw a student sitting alone in the cafeteria, that player was required to join the student and eat with him. And seniors on the football team were required to present an essay at the end of the year with the theme being: “How I want to be remembered when I die?”
Jesus put it this way: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? (Matthew 16:24-26).
In those verses Jesus is not telling us to get a martyr-complex, but rather to make sure that we are living our lives for the right purpose.
Martin Luther made a distinction between our “jobs” and our “vocation.” He defined our jobs as those things we have to do in life to make a living, a good house, etc. In other words, our profession and our job as a neighbor, parents, spouse, whatever other responsibilities are laid upon us.
Luther defined our vocation as our “ultimate purpose in life.” He repeatedly told his congregation that their vocation was defined at their baptism saying, “We are called to be little Christ’s in the world.” Our ultimate purpose in life is to be servants of Christ, for the sake of Christ’s world.
Luther pointed out in very direct ways that our vocation is and always will be more important than our jobs. Now that doesn’t mean that he didn’t want people to take their “jobs” seriously. He was emphatic in stating that we are called to give our best in whatever situation we find ourselves in. He put it this way (I’m paraphrasing here): “If you are a farmer be the best farmer you can be. If you are a shoemaker be the best shoemaker you can be. Only make sure to bring Christ into your work.”
Luther was one of the first to emphasize the phrase “Priesthood of all Believers.” At our baptism, Luther proclaimed we have all been baptized into the ministry of Christ. That is our vocation (call).
I challenge all of you to do two things as you move into the future: First, embrace your vocation as a priest in the world, and a “little Christ” for the sake of the world. Secondly, as I look to our youth, let us replicate Joe Ehrmann, and help them learn what is the most important thing to live for.
~ God bless, Dan