Thursday, February 24, 2011

Worship-full Work

            In my lifetime I have had a number of different jobs. In High School I bagged groceries for Furr’s Supermarket. I made hamburgers and breakfast biscuits for McDonald’s. I helped take care of children at the YMCA’s summer day camp program. I also sold flavored popcorn and had a few gigs as a professional clown.
            In college I operated remote cameras for distance learning through KENW-TV. As an intern at KOB-TV I co-produced television morning news. I also worked as a janitor for the Wesley Foundation.
Since my college days I have sold cars for two different dealerships and radio advertising for KSEL. Later I became a disk jockey for the station (back in the days when local radio station still played vinyl records and had real DJ’s on site).
             I enlisted in the US Coast Guard and spent quite a bit of time as a boat crewman, groundskeeper and janitor, and eventually trained as a cook and finished my military career on board the USCGC Midgett.
            All of that was before I entered seminary and started working in Christian ministry. Aside from my pastoral job, I also raise money for CARC and have worked in hospice chaplaincy and taught college classes. And those are just the jobs that I have been paid to do.
            In my life I have volunteered to serve on boards, cook food, care for the elderly, provide law enforcement and hospital chaplaincy services, and worked with several different clubs, civic organizations, and charitable causes.
            As with any job—volunteer or paid—there are times that I really enjoy the work I am tasked to do. Likewise, there are times when I really do not like it much at all. Yet, regardless of how much I may or may not like a particular task at hand, there is one thought that stays in my mind.
      Colossians 3:17 reads, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This simple command from the apostle Paul comes at the end of a larger section of the letter that speaks to the way we conduct ourselves while living the Christian life.
      I raise the raise the issue of my diverse work history in the context of Colossians for one particularly important point. I have never had a bad job! Don’t get me wrong, I have had to do work that I don’t particularly enjoy at times. There have been times when I have not been happy with my job. But on the whole, I have never had a bad job.
      The key factor is one of attitude. I find that attitude through my Christian faith. Yet the attitude determines the outcome!
      Perhaps the most important factor, for me, is the realization that if I am doing something “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” it is a sacred act! I don’t care if I am preparing to preach a sermon or scrubbing greasy gunk out of a galley pan on the ship. It is sacred work if it is being done in God’s name. Then, suddenly, the value, purpose, direction, and meaning of the labor changes for the better!
      Truthfully, God needs all of the labors that make up our world. There is no job too mundane to be done in God’s name because the one performing the task is created in God’s image, called very good, and called to be a beacon of God’s light in the workplace.
      Think, for a moment, about how this makes profound differences in the workplace. The list is much longer than what I have here, but these are the top 10 reasons why working in God’s name makes a profound, positive, and meaningful difference in the workplace.

1.      God’s priority for equality, justice, fairness, and affirmation becomes a guiding principle of the workplace
2.      God is a part of what we are doing so we have access to God’s wisdom in the process.
3.      Since God truly deserves our very best, it is easier to give our best at all times.
4.      When the stupid stuff starts to get us down, we are less likely to lose sight of the higher purpose
5.      Our work is no longer a separate and secular endeavor that cuts us off from worshipping God. Rather, our work becomes yet another means to worship and glorify God.

So, today as we engage the daily chores of our life’s work—paid or unpaid—let us all honor God in the labors of our lives!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who are We and What are we Supposed to do?

        Christians today need to be challenged with two questions.

1. Who are we?

2. What is God calling—or expecting—us to do?

They are not easy questions to ask or answer, but they are vital questions to consider.
        In writing about the ludicrous nature of some organizational statements of purpose, the late Peter Drucker said of hospitals that the very worst thing they could do is say that they are in the business of providing health care. The problem is, in Drucker’s analysis that hospitals should not be trying to take care of health. Instead, hospitals need to see themselves in the business of caring for people who are experiencing a crisis in health. It is people in crisis, not health care, that matters!
        When Jesus was challenged by those in authority that his disciples were not playing by the established rules and not doing things that were religiously appropriate, he countered their challenge by calling into question their assumptions of who they were and what their priorities truly were. The people had the outward appearance of dedicated religious individuals, but the thin façade of religiosity was inadequate to meet the challenges that come with living faithfully in the world.
        Drucker’s business analysis also looked at one of the most monumental failures in modern industrial and commercial history—the Ford Edsel. It was, perhaps the most thoroughly researched, engineered, and designed automobile of its day. On paper, it should have been the most successful product to ever roll off of a Ford assembly line. It’s failure, according to Drucker, centered in the fact that Edsel’s quality and cutting-edge technology existed only in the product, but not in the hearts and passions of Ford. A doom’s day mentality settled in at Ford and the greatest automobile ever designed, failed for lack of passion and devotion.
        So, as a person dedicated to the Christian faith, I must ask the questions: Who are we and what are we called to do?
        Who are we? First and foremost, we are children of our loving and living God as revealed in Jesus Christ. While that answer may seem trite to some and an oversimplification to others, it is perhaps the most profound statement we can make. We are part of God’s family. All we are and all we do reflects our understanding of what it means to be part of that family.
What are we called and empowered to do? We are a worshipping community of faith where all people grow in God’s grace, find acceptance and forgiveness in God’s love, are formed through Biblical witness, and are equipped for ministry in Jesus Christ.
It is important that we keep these points in the forefront of our actions for ministry. Rules, traditions, and customs have their place, but they are not the reason we exist as a congregation in Jesus Christ. Like the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day, the danger we face is that of worshipping the tradition and upholding the letter of the law without regard to the ministry the tradition and law were developed to support. Together, let us be about the ministry of Jesus Christ that has been laid out for the family of God!