The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Hearing faith in our everyday lives

Years ago at my college graduation, my father said something I’ve tried to keep in the foreground of my theological training. Shortly after I introduced him to one of my favorite theology professors, they shared this exchange:

Professor:  I hear you work in health-care administration?
My father: Yes, and you teach theology?
Professor: That’s right. I teach church history and on Martin Luther.
My father: Well, good. In my work we need more people like you. We could use a few more theologians.
Professor (with a startled, overjoyed look): Oh really?

You see, theologians aren’t accustomed to being told by those in the (so-called) “real” world that they’re especially needed in a person’s daily work.

My father went on to explain that his lifelong participation in the church had not particularly equipped him to confront difficult issues in the boardroom. Somehow his Lutheran faith ought to have something to say about what it means to live well, to die well — the very issues he dealt with as a health-care administrator.

Too often in the church we neglect our call to equip Christians in their daily vocations. This call is at the heart of the baptismal promises we make to one another. To tend to this task, we must listen to the stories of those trying to negotiate their faith in everyday life. 

Over the past few months I’ve been listening to complex stories young adults tell about their lives. Young adults today, argues sociologist Robert Wuthnow, live out their faith in an increasingly changing world. Amid those changes, they tell stories of resilient faith.

Carl Pierce, now 26, was part of campus ministry during his undergraduate years at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash.  A few months ago, Pierce, an emergency room nurse in Tacoma, left work shaken. He had spent hours cleaning and caring for a patient with cerebral palsy. His patient, who seemed to display signs of neglect, cried out that she wanted to die. It wasn’t a good day for the patient or Pierce.

“My faith informs my care,” he said. “Everyone is God’s child so I want to provide care with that in mind.”

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