Preached on Sunday, January 29, 2017
Preached on Sunday, January 29, 2017
“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters…”
~ Colossians 3:23
We’re a month into 2017 so I imagine that your resolutions, like mine, are looking a little worse for the wear. In light of such failure, I’d like to offer you different resolution for 2017, and this is one you can swing: appreciate the work you do. The reason you’ll be able to keep this resolution is because keeping it doesn’t even require you to like your job. There’s a Christian appreciation of work that goes beyond how we might feel about a job.
There’s a long-running debate about how people in general and particularly young people, poised to enter the workforce, should decide on a career. Should you follow your passion? Follow the money? Look for a need and fill it? Find a nice piece of real estate in your parents’ basement and hunker down for the long haul? There’s no shortage of options and opinions, and it can be difficult to know which way to go. I won’t try to answer this question here; the tradeoffs of college, trade school, on-the-job training, and choosing one field over another are ones that each person has to weigh. God be with you in finding the answers!
I’m more concerned with what you do once you find yourself in a job. Because whatever leads people into one line of work or another, many people don’t like their jobs. Here are some of the most common complaints: My work isn’t rewarding; I’m not making a difference; I don’t like my company. If your job is attaching one piece to a machine on an assembly line, you don’t get to see the final fruits of your work, and you might feel like a simple cog. Or even if you see the results of your work, it might feel like it’s not a big deal. Sure, you rang up someone’s groceries and now they’re leaving with their bags, but what difference did that make? Am I really helping anybody?
The truth is that most people do work that doesn’t feel like it helps anybody. Even in jobs that are designed to help people—teachers, counselors, pastors, social workers—getting that sense that anything is really being accomplished is rare. So what does all this mean?
As Christians, we believe that God is at work in this world, not just generally, but through the hands of each one. I had a friend who recently took over managing his family farm. A while back I ran into him when I went to see my parents, and he told me about something his dad said to him years ago. They were at the Cenex in Goodridge and one of the employees was filling their tank for them. He told his dad, “I’m glad that we’re farmers. I wouldn’t want to work at a gas station” His dad answered him, “If that man didn’t work at this gas station, we couldn’t farm the way we do.”
It’s true. Without the work of elevator workers, machinery manufacturers, chemists, feed and seed store managers, gas station attendants, and all the rest, producing food for anyone beyond the immediate family would be beyond the capacity of farmers. It’s the same with the rest of us, too. A teacher can only devote herself to teaching professionally because she doesn’t have to grind wheat into flour, wash clothes by hand, milk cows, etc. We can only do the things we do because someone else has freed us from other things. No matter how small or insignificant or impersonal a job may seem, it is part of a large web of work that God has given us to do on this good earth of his. One job is not more honorable than another, God has made each one vital.
When we see our work through this lens of faith, it allows us to trust that what we do matters, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Appreciate your work (even if you hate your job). The Lord is with you in it. May he bless the fruits of your labor, no matter how small they may seem to you. Amen.
Pastor Clifton Hanson
Sermon preached the Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 22, 2017
First Sunday of Christmas, Sermon on the Slaughter of the Innocents
Christmas Day Sermon
Christmas Eve Sermon
Sermon on Isaiah 11, preached Sunday, December 4
Sermon on Matthew 24, preached November 27
Preached Tuesday evening, November 22
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as Children.”
~ Galatians 4:4-5
The last Sunday in November marks the beginning of Advent for us this year. For the next four weeks the lessons for Sunday mornings are a series of Bible readings encouraging God’s people to get ready for the coming of Jesus. It’s a time of anticipation. As we count the days and light candles, we watch and wait for Jesus. Advent practices vary between families and churches; some are helpful and some are less so.
When I was a boy, I had classmates whose families would get a piece of birch wood, drill five holes—one for each Sunday of Advent and one for Christmas—and place a candle in each hole. They would decorate the logs with greens and ribbons and place them as centerpieces on their dinner tables. Every Sunday they’d light a new candle until all five were burning on Christmas Eve. My dad, though, was the fire chief, and he’d seen too many house fires start with one carelessly placed candle, so we usually stuck to the big cardboard calendars filled with chocolates and enjoyed the candles at church.
As the people of God, our preparations can take many forms, and often involve meal planning, travel, going to church, checking the list and buying the gifts, and no small amount of wonder, anxiety, and hopefulness.
Whatever preparations your family makes in this time approaching Christmas—however you mark Advent together—I encourage you to also sit down and read the Gospel of Matthew. One of the best ways to look forward to the coming of our Lord is to look back at what our Lord Jesus did when he was here all those years ago. Matthew will occupy our Sunday gospel lessons over the coming year, and he’s not that difficult to sit down and read in one sitting.
So open your Bible. Enjoy the story of Jesus born of Mary and visited by the Magi, baptized by John, calling his disciples, healing the sick, and challenging the proud. Be haunted by the burden of the cross, the brutality of Calvary, and the burial in that stone cold tomb. And marvel at the angel’s question, “Why seek ye the living amongst the dead?”
Happy Advent. Merry Christmas. God bless. Come Lord Jesus.
Born thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a king;
born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit raise us to thy glorious throne.
~Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, verse 2, Charles Wesley