Reformation 4: Sirach 38:1-4, 6-9, 12: Vocation

Doctor and Staff2Sirach 38:1-4, 6-9, 12

Honor the doctor for his services, according to your need of him.  For the Lord established him, and healing comes from God, the Highest, which is why the king rewards him.  The doctor’s knowledge will lift him up, and those in authority will hold him in high regard.

The Lord makes the earth yield medicinal herbs, and a sensible man will not despise them….  So we might glorify God in his marvelous works, he gave such skill to people.  Through a doctor, God heals and eases someone’s pain, and the pharmacist prepares his medicines.  So, the work of God continues, and from him, health spreads over the face of the whole world.

My son, do not be negligent when you are sick but pray to the Lord and he will heal you….  Yet, still give your doctor his place because God created him.  Do not let him leave you, for you need him.


From our Old Testament reading, Luther comments and reveals much clarity.

With our eyes, we can realize doctors are essential, and experience teaches we cannot do without them.  The Scripture shows us the practice of medicine is a useful, comforting, and worthwhile domain, but also points us to God because He created and established them.  In Sirach 38, the Scriptures devote almost a full chapter praising medical doctors….  Now, preachers should expand on this and show the people better than I can …  [See LW 46, pg.  253-254 for a more formal translation]

So, the Reformer praises doctors, medicines, and God, who does His healing work for us through them in this sin-sick world.  Still, Martin wants more, urging pastors to preach on this text.  Why the encouragement?  So we can value how God carries out His work, through means, through something in creation, helping His people.

The written Word honors doctors and pharmacists, to which we can add nurses, technicians, and specialists.  All “so we might glorify God in His marvelous works.”  So, when you go visit a doctor, you should not go because you lack confidence in God.  No, you go because you trust, through them, God will work in some way.

On this earth, as Jesus traveled from village to city, He healed people.  Most of the time, the Gospel readings only tell us this—He cured someone, not revealing how.  Now, when the Holy Spirit does show us how what do we learn?

On a few occasions, Jesus restored others by speaking (Matt 8:16, 15:28, Luke 17:12-14).  Other times, He used His spit (Mark 7:33, 8:23; John 9:6).  For some, recovery came through spit and our Lord’s hands (Mark 8:23).  For others, He placed His hands, or hand, on someone and spoke (Matt 9:29, 17:7; Mark 6:5, 9:27; Luke 4:40).  To give sight to a blind man, our embodied Lord once put mud into the man’s eyes (John 9:6).

So, these healings did not come straight from heaven’s throne.  No, Jesus gave health to others, often with touch, spit, or clay attached to His words.  The Doctor, divinity in blood, flesh, and bone, treated others through physical means.

The promised Messiah is pointing us to the reality of how He works, including His miracles.  The incarnate Healer uses some physical material, or some part of creation, to do His work.  Do you need proof?  The enfleshed Christ.  For you only receive eternal restoration because He wore our robe of physical flesh.

Now, a malformed faith may unmask itself through a person’s behavior.  How so?  A limited grasp of God may bring you to believe going to a clinic means you don’t think God can make you well.  So you stay home and don’t honor another for his expertise.   On the flip side, a weak faith can cause you to rush to the hospital since you don’t trust the Almighty can do anything.  So, you rely on your nurse or doctor, not God.

A proper understanding directs you to go to a doctor, trusting God does work in and through him.  For Scripture leads you to honor God by honoring your medical doctor, whom He calls to carry out His will for you in your life.  For God operates through His chosen, physical ways, proven by Jesus, who became a flesh-and-blood man for your salvation.

The doctrine of vocation tutors us on how God works, through people, in their callings, for your well-being.  So, when you are injured or ill, you go to the physician, but you also cry out to heaven.  Don’t presume medicine and prayer are incompatible.  No, they are complementary.  “Do not be negligent when you are sick but pray to the Lord and he will heal you….  Yet, still give your doctor his place because God created him.”

Nowhere else in the Word do you find such wisdom about health and healing and how our Father functions for the welfare of His creation.  No wonder when you read the writings of our Lutheran fathers, you will find Sirach quoted, preached on, and referenced more than any other book of the Apocrypha.

So, God listens to our prayers, while He is acting through the Emergency Medical Technician.  In surprising ways, He can also intervene—and if He does so, we thank Him for His mercy.  Through nurses and doctors, God is with us, performing His wonders, “hidden” behind them, using their skills and abilities.

Those in the health profession are not alone, for everyone is given a calling, including you.  In fact, your heavenly Father may give you many callings, which can change based on where you live, who is in your life, and how old you are.  Perhaps, your career first comes to mind, whether a fry cook, teacher, banker, or other.  For those of you who work in the home, a housewife (or househusband) is a vocation, as well.  All this, our Father is accomplishing through people, who are physical beings.

Still, I’m sure other vocations likewise fill your life’s resume.  Those places you serve involve your relationship with others.  So, father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, grandparent, aunt, uncle, and so on are also vocations.  Let’s not stop, for we find God acts in other areas through created matter.

Ponder Peter’s words, “baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).  So, this is nothing weird, for the God of earth and heaven is doing what is normal for Him—operating through something physical, water, to benefit His people.  So also with Jesus telling His Apostles to drink the wine in His Supper “for the forgiveness of sins.”  Again, this is true when a pastor absolves another.  For Jesus authorizes and empowers, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (John 20:23).

In baptism, God graces you with something, which becomes the foundation for everything else you do.  “By water and Spirit,” God gives you spiritual birth from above (John 3:3, 5).  Now in His family, He summons you into a life of love and living service.

Connected to Christ, the Father beckons you to follow in the steps of His Son.  Now, a follower, you are called to cherish Him with your entire heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself.  Of all your duties, this is your first.  In your chief calling as a baptized child, you live out the many other ways in which you are a blessing to others.

Over 500 years ago, Martin Luther’s first vocation came to him at his birth—being a son.  Soon, the saving Word and water brought him into God’s family.  Now a young man, he trains to be a lawyer, which pleases his dad.  Later, fearing for his salvation, Martin determined he needed a different calling—as a monk.

In the monastery, Martin delves into the Bible so he can to teach at the university.  In time, he becomes a doctor of biblical studies—a calling of lifelong importance to him.  Later, he will marry and become a husband to Katie and father to their children.  Another valuable calling became one of being a pastor, proclaiming the life-creating Word of new life, which someone receives from God.  Through his preaching and teaching, Luther comforted and delivered hope to the people he served.

These occupations of Martin will move him into areas of joyful service, but into conflict and suffering also, places our callings may send us.  For our locations of service take place where our heavenly citizenship and our earthly one intersect.

An intersection forms a cross-like shape, which is what we find.  For the coming together of heaven and earth turned into a cross, where Jesus fulfilled His greatest vocation.  On the joined wood beams of death, He took upon Himself the burden of our failings, becoming the beacon of divine amnesty.

Consider how well you perform your vocations.  Now, you can recognize why Jesus became your sin and guilt.  For you always fall short in some way, and so you never outgrow your need for forgiveness.  Only the self-righteous Pharisee thinks so.

A Christian or not, Jesus took your inability to treasure His Father with all you are and did what you can’t.  The same is true for your callings, where God sets you down to act.  So, each person comes before God as an equal—a broken sinner—or he doesn’t come at all.  For you can only be open to what Jesus brings you when you aren’t relying on yourself in some way.  A sinner needs a Savior; no one else need bother.

The Redeemer’s work of salvation included more than His cross.  So, He rose from death, never to die again.  Now, because of Him, the resurrection into life becomes your future calling, when Jesus will call forth your body from the tomb.

Like Jesus, the cross-shaped intersection of your dual residency, of both this world and also heaven, may bring hardship to your life.  In your various vocations, you may, at times, need to lift a burden off another, from family, friends, or co-workers.

In every vocation, past or present, Jesus sends you the Spirit from the Father to love God, and neighbor as you do yourself.  What does caring like this include?  Think about what you desire.  Like others, you want health, employment, peace, safety, and eternal deliverance.  So, in your God-given callings, you help others in those areas.

In simple terms, you wish for your friend, family, or neighbor what you want for yourself.  Such is your calling, your vocation.  Through those tasks, you are exalting God.  For He is working in, behind, and through you, caring for others and carrying out His remarkable works of love and service.

Listen to the Apostle Paul, reminding us about God sending us into the world to serve.  “All praise to God who can do far more than we can ask or imagine by the mighty power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).  Like the saints of long ago, so do we still serve to this day.  Amen.