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The gift of hard work…

September 5, 2010


They should be happy and do good while they live. I know there’s nothing better for them to do than that.  Everyone should eat and drink. People should be satisfied with all of their hard work. That is God’s gift to them.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

I saw a conversation recently that went like this:

Status:  unloaded about 600 bales of hay this morning will unload about 450 tomorrow morning and if i would skip the first day of school i could unload about 800 Monday

Comment #1:  sounds like lots of fun call me if you need help

Comment #2:  that builds character! (and brings back memories for me). at least you’re not stuck up in the mow with humid 90+ degree weather… your dad, granddad and i used to like to cool off under the “shadow tree” with some of grandmom’s iced tea afterwards before starting the p.m. milking

Comment #3:  I’ve been running up to T.H. for $1 slushies to reward the workers! Mountain Dew is a favorite of the summer.

A conversation about the fun of hard work.

We could examine the topic of work from so many angles.  We could read verses which situate the conversation more in the context of personal character. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.  Don’t be lazy. Proverbs is full of these kind of teachings.  This work ethic is also found in the New Testament.

The Brueggemann prayer calls us to think about work in a broader context—the context of God’s work in Creation, the broader neighborhood of humanity.  We are called to think about work in the context of privilege.  We are called to think about the responsibility of wealth and the burden of poverty.

The Satisfaction of Work

In the reading from Ecclesiastes, the Teacher reminds us that we should be satisfied with hard work.  That is God’s gift to us (3:13).  This gift was given to humanity from the very beginning.  In Genesis 2:15 we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”  In this same story we see God taking satisfaction in the work of creation.  We also read in the Creation story that because we rebelled against God and ignored limits, our work became much more difficult (Gen 3).  This work of tending to creation is part of how we reflect the image of God.

One of the difficulties in preparation for this time of Dwelling in the word is that work reflects both God’s good creation and the brokenness of sin.  Everywhere we look there is work that reflects both goodness, redemption…work that reflects our sinfulness.  We are sometimes given to workaholism—an unhealthy relationship with creation.  Some of us know what it is like to want to work but not be able to find a job.  Some of us have done work and not gotten paid.  Some of us work in oppressive and unjust systems where work is either denied or dangerous.  Some of us have never had the ethic of hard work modeled for us.  Some of us have learned to work from an early age—so we have skills because of our community.  We find jobs because of our connections.  I couldn’t even eat breakfast this morning without a reminder that the cereal I was eating represented someone’s work.

The Rhythm of Work

Genesis 2:2-3

2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

After the work of creation, God rests on the seventh day.  God models for us a healthy rhythm of work and Sabbath rest.  In a 24/7 culture that carries us into non-stop activity….   A rhythm which makes Sabbath rest a priority will take intentionality and sacrifice.  It will require choices and boundary setting.  It will mean being different from others who don’t say no to work, play, work, play, at the expense of Sabbath rest.

Are you practicing Sabbath?

How is gathering for worship a part of your Sabbath rest—your rule of life?

The hard work of the neighborhood

So we do well to pray:  “give us fresh perspective on our labor, that our lives consist of more than earnings and eating, in making and selling, that our lives consist in the hard, urgent work of the neighborhood.

What is the hard, urgent work of the neighborhood? It is the work of shalom…of extending healing and hope beyond ourselves and our clan.

This is the kind of work you do when you are available to help a neighbor move.  You are available to carry boxes, to clean out kitchens, to wash windows.  You are available for this work even when it comes after a tiring week of getting back into teaching.  You do this work with joy because you are fully committed to the shalom that God is bringing.

The work of caring for family is important work.  I experienced this recently when my dad (Jansen’s grandfather) had us over to his basement workshop to build a carpet ball table with him.  He shared the gift of his time and his skills.  This is important.  The work of neighborhood, however calls us beyond the commitment to care for our own.   It is work that calls you to take up the precious mantel of surrogate grandparent to the children who don’t have grandparents in their life.  It is work that finds us available to take our “adopted” grandchildren to Dutch Wonderland.  It is work that calls us to teach children’s Sunday School at church even when we wonder if we have what it takes.  This is the work of the neighborhood.

Saturday is September 11—nine years since the attacks on the World Trade Center.  There has been a lot of talk recently about restoring honor, invoking the values of God and patriotism.  There has been charged rhetoric regarding whether it is right or wrong to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero.

At our retreat several weeks ago we were thinking about the verse from 1 Corinthians—if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. So for me the question is this.  How does our work represent not the brokenness of our world—extortion, pollution, division, violence—but rather the new creation that has come in Christ?  What is the work God is calling us to in the neighborhood…in the world?

A friend of mine took his family to visit an Islamic center during Ramadan.  This is the hard, urgent work of the neighborhood.

I know some people who were willing to do the hard work of neighborhood by sponsoring refugees.  Buildingrelationships across cultural and religious differences takes hard work.  In a world deeply divided along religious lines, for Christians and Muslims to become friends is urgent work.

It is work that requires love, because like a mother giving birth, you will need to be available for inconvenience and for pain.

The work of ministry

Ephesians 4:11-12

11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Who does the work of the ministry?  The saints…

Who are the ministers in this congregation?  Every member…

Each one of us is uniquely gifted for this work of loving.  Through your ministry, church happens.  What is the work of ministry to which you are called?

The ministry of teaching children’s Sunday School

The ministry of leading Children’s Worship

The ministry of coming to worship practice month after month…year after year

The ministry of giving anonymous sports memorabilia gifts to members of the church

The ministry of leading canoe trips

The ministry of words of encouragement

The ministry of gardening and teaching others to garden

The ministry of providing transportation

The ministry of administration…planning church retreats…keeping finances in order

The ministry of preparing special meals for others after a birth, a death, health issues

The ministry of opening your home to a group of women on a monthly basis

The ministry of reading scripture

The ministry of mentoring someone younger than you

The ministry of being present…listening to others

The ministry of starting Jr. High youth ministries…

The ministry of prayer

Many the gifts, many the people…

Empower us as you did our mothers that we may birth new well-being

We pray in the name of Jesus, from whom we know your own self-giving life. AMEN

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010 7:30 am

    A wonderful “work”! Thanks for sharing this – I will share it with others.


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