Back in the nineteen twenties, a man named ìFrancoî left his native country and came to the United States ... He quickly took a job digging ditches. For Franco, who loved being outdoors and craved lots of physical exercise, the work was ideal. After he had learned to speak English, Francoís friends began urging him to get a better job and begin to come up in the world. Franco would have none of it. He was a happy ditch-digger. One day he received news that a rich relative in the old country had died and left him more than a million dollars. ìNow will you change your life?î a friend asked. ìOf course,î Franco replied. ìYou mean youíll stop digging ditches?î ìNo, I wonít stop,î said Franco, ìbut Iíll have my chauffeur drive me to work.î No doubt about it, Franco was a devoted, dyed-in-the-wool, certified blue-collar worker. While most nine-to-fivers wish their work week was a little shorter and the weekend a little longer, there is at least one executive who probably never exclaimed, ìThank God itís Friday.î In fact, a plaque hangs over the desk of this workaholic which reads, ìThank God itís Monday.î There is great Biblical emphasis on the reality that God often comes to us most clearly in the midst of our work. In the Old Testament, Moses is doing his job as a shepherd when God appears to him in the burning bush. And around that unique experience almost the entire Old Testament story is built. Some twelve hundred years later, as the New Testament begins to unfold, there are some shepherds out in the field doing exactly what Moses had been doing. They were at work tending their sheep when God sent them a not a burning bush but a sky full of angels. Those shepherds werenít in church. They were simply doing their job, trying to make a living. Peter and Andrew and James and John were working on their fish nets and tending to their boats when Jesus came into their lives saying, ìFollow Me.î Matthew had a government job working as a tax collector when Jesus came to Him. The Apostle Paul was a prosecutor-become-persecutor when the Risen Jesus appeared to him in a highly dramatic way. Scripture holds out for us the amazing possibility that our greatest experiences of God may come in the midst of our work. This can be hard to grasp because, for many of us, our job is not always something we enjoy doing. Often it is something we want to get away from. At the beginning of the work week we speak of ìBlue Mondays,î and at the end of the work week we say, ìThank God itís Friday.î Mark Twain defined work as the thing that we do when weíd rather be doing something else. But the Bible defines work as one of Godís original gifts to us. For our purposes here we are defining work in a broad sense. Itís the job that we do for pay. Itís the service we do as volunteers. Itís the work we do at home. Of course every mother of young children is a ìworking mother.î Think about your work. Can you begin to see it not as separate and distinct from what you do in church on Sunday? Can you begin to see praising God and worshipping God as not being separate and distinct from what you do on your job? ìBrother Lawrenceî has been the model for many who genuinely seek to understand this reality. He said that when baking bread and sweeping the floor in the monastery kitchen, he had as great a sense of Christís Presence as when he was kneeling in the chapel. Throughout the Scriptures, work and creativity are closely associated. This is what God did in the story of the creation of the Universe. He worked! Working words are used all through the Creation Story in Scripture. And, in the Book of Genesis, when we arrive at the seventh day of creation we are told that God rested from the work He had done. The Biblical authors depict God as ìworkingî when He was creating. Once when Jesus was talking with some people who were questioning His ministry, He said to them, ìMy Father is working still and I am working,î indicating that His work was part of the creative flow that goes all the way back to God as Creator. When we are working, we can identify with that creative flow. Life itself is a continuing, creative process, and we need to work at bringing it to its full potential. Focus, if you will, on the creativity in your work. Perhaps you are producing something useful. Perhaps you are creating something beautiful. Perhaps you are bringing order out of chaos. Perhaps you are performing a service for other people. Perhaps you are doing a work that says, ìI care!î In todayís Gospel Lesson, the Lord Jesus invites us to take part in His work of redemption ... ìI tell you most solemnly,î He says, ìwhoever believes in Me will perform the same works as I do Myself.î Then He adds, ìHe will perform even greater worksî (Jn. 14:12). Lord, when will Your Spirit of truth and peace and brotherhood finally reign supreme in the human community? We need only to ask and Jesus will answer: To carry on the work of redemption I have left behind a community of followers, a community of men and women who love Me. And they will not fail! We must not doubt that our works of love in the Lordís service are a necessary and valuable contribution to the fulfillment of Godís plan of redemption. Moreover, we must not fail! From a time long past comes the story of a country doctor who was summoned to respond to an emergency situation in the midst of a heavy snow storm ... He hurried to the patientís house and discovered the need for an immediate appendectomy. The hospital was miles away. No time for that option. Trying to get there in the blizzard would be too risky. The lighting in the house was poor, so the doctor tried to think of a nearby place that would be more fitting for the surgery. He remembered that there was a church not far away. He called the Pastor and explained the situation. The Pastor told him to bring the patient to the church at once. When he arrived at the church, he and the clergyman began looking for the best place for the doctor to do his work. Suddenly, they looked at each other and they knew: the altar. It was the perfect height, and there was room around it to set up some bright lights. The doctor performed the emergency operation on the altar. And when it was over, as he was putting away his instruments, he happened to glance upward. There, high above the altar, were the words, ìGlory to God in the highest.î And the doctor said he was overwhelmed with a new sense of appreciation that, through his work, he could experience and share the glory of God. ìI tell you most solemnly,î said the Lord Jesus, ìwhoever believes in Me will perform the same works as I do Myself.î Moreover, ìHe will perform even greater worksî (Jn. 14:12). Now, letís get to work!
Acts 6:1-7; Psalms 33:1-2,4-5,18-19; I Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12
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