Tag Archives: work

Work, Play and Worship

This week starts a new ministry at Resurrection called Four Square, named after the popular playground game. The four squares of the ministry are explore, play, serve and grow. The children will explore the Bible, serve various needs in the community, play games like four square, and grow in their faith and relationship. Today they actually painted a Nine-Square court in the church parking lot for all to use.

The “play” part of Four Square made me think of a comment that I explored somewhat last year. The idea is that in our American culture we confuse worship, work and play. We worship our work, work at play and play at worship. I know that I can be guilt of each attribute at times.

First we tend to worship our work. Especially men in our society can make their careers the center of their lives. Our whole identity can revolve around our careers and how successful we are within it. Careers often have a clear hierarchy of who is moving up the ladder and who is not. Though God calls us to work in God’s creation, God does not call us to place our career success at the center of our lives. I confess that I can place MY pastoral status ahead of my faithfulness to God’s mission and calling. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Second we can work at our play. In our American culture, we can turn our leisure into a new work obsession. Whether it is fishing, hunting, golf, running, tennis, gardening, woodworking or biking, we can turn what is meant to be restful and renewing into competitive, stressful work. I know that I have at times turned my love of running into an obsession when I am training for a marathon and my whole life begins to revolved around a rigorous training schedule. I have this elusive goal of qualifying to run in the Boston Marathon someday, but my fixation can rob me of the joy of simple running. My recent use of the Phil Maffetone training method has helped me slow down and to enjoy the playful act of running.

Finally we can play at worship, or, in other words, turn worship into entertainment. We measure how effective worship is by how popular the worship service is or how people felt during the service. We get confused about the focus of worship. Worship is not about the worshippers, but about God being central to our lives.

God is not my “cosmic therapist” who makes me feel good about myself, but rather my Creator, Savior and Guide before whom I bow in wonder and adoration. God is God, ruler of the universe. True worship helps me remember and live with God at the center. “God is spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

So today, let us live with God at the center, in our work, play and worship.

Lord Jesus, remain Lord of my life in my work, play and worship.

Emotional Service

Last Monday afternoon, I joined others from Resurrection Lutheran Church to serve a meal at East Immanuel Lutheran Church on the east side of St. Paul. The meal is hosted by CURE Ministries and they provide a meal, clothing and groceries to families and individuals in need. Volunteers from Resurrection has been assisting at the meal once a month for the past year.

As I worked alongside the other volunteers, I experienced a mixture of emotions. Since I am preaching on spiritual emotions, I took time to reflect on the mixture of  emotions I experienced during this brief time of service.

The first emotion was a sense of awkwardness. This was only my second time serving at East Immanuel and I did not know all the leaders or duties. The leaders (Mike, Scott, Terrell, Doc) worked hard to welcome, orient and direct us. Still I was outside my normal comfort zone. I am usually the leader and to be the follower is sometimes challenging for me.  Yet as I reflected on the awkward sensation, I remembered one of my favorite quotes from business guru and Christian, Ken Blanchard, “Unless you feel awkward doing something new, you are not doing something new.”

I also felt a sense of pride and joy as I recognized the many volunteers from Resurrection. As a pastor, there is joy in seeing others participate in meaningful service. I was especially proud of Terri Dokken who has taken a strong role of leadership in this partnership. As we prayed prior to serving the guests, I was thankful that God had called so many to participate.

After the prayer, Scott asked for volunteers who were able to help move some canned goods. The post office had collected food in a recent drive, but it was all located in an outside garage. Several of us, both guests and volunteers, began the task of moving the piles of canned goods upstairs. After the first feeling of confusion, I participated moving the food to an upstairs Sunday School room. The task was not particularly challenging or exciting; in time it became rather tedious, trying to sort the food into meaningful categories.

As I reflected on the tedious nature of our service, I realized that service is not always exciting or a “Feel-Good” experience. Often, service is repetitive, mind-numbing work. Sometime I wonder if pastors over-sell service as joyous and fun, when in actuality there will often be elements of toilsome labor.

I also have had some modest feelings of regret. I mentioned that there were some guests who were also helping with moving the food. I now regret that I did not make the effort or time to converse with them, to hear a bit of their story. Part of our partnership is to make such connections.

Finally as I finished up my tasks for the evening, I felt both satisfaction and fatigued. Doc commented on this when I came downstairs, “You look tired.” I was tired, but I also felt a deeper sense of satisfaction of having served in God’s kingdom.

Service involves our body, mind and spirit. People often make judgments about a service by the initial feelings they have. Taking time to reflect on those feelings can help us better understand what God is doing not only with our hands, but also with our hearts.

Lord Jesus, give me energy and passion to serve wherever you call me to go.

God at Work

God at Work

Today I read Pastor Tim Keller’s comments about serving God in the work place.  Tim is no relative of mine, but I like the way he thinks, especially being a Presbyterian quoting Martin Luther.  You can check his remarks yourself at http://bit.ly/i77xMD.  A key concept for Keller is Luther’s “Priesthood of All Believers.”  Luther was commenting on I Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood.”

One does not need to be in the church to serve God.  As a pastor I like it when people volunteer and serve in our congregation.  I often give them special recognition and encouragement.  But the congregation is only one place where a Christian can serve God.  God’s work is not limited to congregations, important as they are.  

I serve God as I love my neighbor, which I can do in various ways.  I love to quote Dr. Marc Kolden, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does!”  And we love our neighbor through our daily work as a spouse, parent, worker, community leader and citizen.  The home, the office, and the community are as vital to God as the congregation.

For example, if one owns a small manufacturing company that makes machine parts for cars, the owner loves his neighbor in at least two key ways.  The company is helping provide necessary transportation (car parts) as well as providing employment to the workers.  God would want the owner to be fair and equitable with the employees and with the customers.   In this way God is working through the owner.  God does this with farmers, salespersons, artists, nursing aides, and even politicians.  As Luther wrote, these are the “masks God wears” to accomplish God’s task on earth. 

For sure, we live in sinful, broken world, in which people take advantage of each other.  As sinful human being we can turn work into a false god that consumes our lives.  We can make monetary profit the god that rules our lives.    We need God’s grace mediated through Jesus Christ to call us back to the vibrant life.  And the church can be a community that helps us stay faithful to God’s call at work.

How have you loved your neighbor this past week?