Friday, April 18, 2008

A Spirituality of Work

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).

Some of you aren’t buying it - the whole “my95” thing, that is. You’re not arguing or offering rebuttals or whispering criticisms, but you know your place better than anyone, and the walls between the 95 and the 5 are thick and high. That’s just the way it is.

Granted, this isn’t a rejection of the idea. You’re just being honest about what you experience day in and day out. Your work is just that: work. You love God and want to follow Jesus faithfully, but work doesn’t help you do that. The tasks cost you sleep and make you irritable. Maybe you’re surrounded by people who at the very least are disinterested in matters of faith. Some of them are outright hostile to all things religious.

You believe that the 95% of your life spent out of church is an arena for God’s activity. But here it is, another Friday, and you look back over the week and it’s just not happening.

Still, what happens in the workplace is a critical piece of our spiritual formation. Eugene Peterson explains this and suggests a course of action we might do well to consider.

It’s difficult to cultivate a sense of wonder in the workplace. Knowledge and competence are the key values here. We don’t want any surprises. We’re trained and then paid to know what we’re doing . . . So how do we who work for a living and spend a huge hunk of our time each week in a workplace that is unfriendly to wonder cultivate wonder, the resurrection wonder in which spiritual formation thrives? To those who take the Bible seriously as the text for our spiritual formation, the answer is unequivocal: Keep the Sabbath Holy. (Eugene H. Peterson, Living the Resurrection, 31-39).

Peterson goes on to suggest that our capacity to see God in the workplace “requires some detachment from the workplace.” That detachment is at the heart of Sabbath keeping. What Peterson wisely points out is that work will remain just work unless we adopt some very specific practices that teach us how to see God and serve God during the week.

It’s one thing to believe that our work is ministry that can bring glory to God. It’s another thing entirely to execute our work in such a way that it actually becomes ministry. We need more than a theology of work. We need a spirituality of work.

There are well tested and long practiced disciplines that will help you live “my95.” Your capacity to detect God in every detail of the week grows as you adopt certain habits of action and thought. “My95” is a verb – a way of life. We’ll think more about that at our “my95” gatherings (PPC members).

For today we begin with a very basic discipline: meditation on scripture. Read the verse above, Psalm 118:24. Take enough time to repeat it to yourself. Ponder the idea of being glad in this day. What about this day might make you glad? What steals joy? Ask God specifically for the gift of joy and gladness in the day ahead of you.

Too often, O Lord, I think I am responsible for making my days. I think my choices, my plans, and my circumstances define and shape my days. Remind me that each day is yours to give; you have made it and entrusted it to me. I give you thanks. Help me to live this day with gladness and joy, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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