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An accountant or a pastor?

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by Cody Warren ’09

Cody Warren

Cody Warren was introduced to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writing on vocation in the seminar taught by Professor Lori Brandt Hale (see page 29). He developed his research into a departmental honors project, “More Than the V-Word: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Vocation at Augsburg College,” which he also presented at the Great Plains Undergraduate Theological Conference. Following are excerpts from his senior chapel homily on April 16, 2009.

We may certainly rejoice today! Tax Day has officially come and gone. … Many of us find taxes burdensome, confusing, and just plain annoying. But, I love them. I simply cannot get enough of tax season … .

A renewed fascination with the tax code began when I volunteered with AccountAbility Minnesota, a nonprofit that prepares tax returns for low-income individuals at no cost. I was amazed at the impact a simple tax return could have on a family. Many of the people I assisted received a refund of almost one-third of their annual income. This is much needed money to pay for housing, health care, and food. … This started a desire to learn more and continue to assist others.

… My first semester at Augsburg I was presented with the “v-word”—vocation. Not only was I planning for fun [in college], I was planning for my vocation. When I first came to Augsburg, I was 110% sure that my call, my vocation, was to be a pastor.

So, fast forward to AccountAbility Minnesota and enter crisis mode for Cody Warren. Could it be? Could my vocation actually change? Am I really called to be a pastor? Or maybe a tax accountant? I was lost, confused, and disheartened. Luckily, I was introduced to the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and now I am saved. I am exaggerating, a little.

For the past year I have been reading, writing, and at times it feels like breathing Bonhoeffer. Through my research I have come to appreciate a broader, more dynamic understanding of vocation that Bonhoeffer speaks to in his manuscripts. Bonhoeffer writes about vocation as the place of responsibility in the world. As Christians we have the responsibility to serve our earthly roles, like career and family. But we also have an ethical responsibility to serve our neighbor and take up the cross of Christ. When these responsibilities meet, liberated by grace, we find our vocation. And this, for me, this new understanding was life changing. Not only can my vocation be expressed as a tax accountant, my understanding is now expanded to know that this could change many more times in my life. My original understanding of vocation was too limited—it did not take into account the dynamic nature of faith or vocation. Maybe one day I will be a pastor, or a professor, or even a dad. Vocation is not about creating Excel spreadsheets, it is about faith.

Vocation is lived in the fullest through responsibilities but also through an act of faith—faith in the sense that we are called by grace to the responsibilities of Christ and the world. Our vocations may by dynamic, forever changing, and forever shaped by the call of Christ to serve.

So, as I acknowledge my love of tax, and wave my nerd flag, I also throw myself completely into the arms of God, knowing that through faith, my vocation is in the here and now, not two steps into the future and not solely expressed in one form. It is thus, with great joy, I proclaim: Here I am, Lord.


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