The scattered people of God

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23rd UCA Qld Synod

Robina Surfers Paradise Uniting Church

Convocation of Laity, 15 October 2002, 9.00am - 11.00am

 

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 Worship as the Scattered People of God:  Translating our Worship into Work.

 

Introduction:

Good morning.  My name’s Jenny Brecknell.  I’m a member of the Bremer Brisbane Presbytery and worship at Chapel Hill UC.

 We’ve spent the morning so far talking about our worship as the gathered people of God; now we turn to think about how we worship as the dispersed or scattered people of God.

 What does our Sunday worship mean for our weekday activities?  

 

 

 

 We’re going to explore these questions this morning in the context of our work, but I want to be quite clear before we begin that we are defining work as “that weekday activity which occupies most of our time”.  It’s not necessarily paid work - for the young mother at home it will be caring for the family, for the retiree it may be volunteering.

 Work.  Whatever it is we do through the week that takes up most of our time.

 We’re going to hear now from four people about the challenges they face in connecting their Sunday and Monday lives, their worship and their “work”.

 Sharing: 

 

 (These are just a couple of samples I’ve written myself:)

 

1.             My name’s Mary Brown.  I’m from ABC Presbytery.  I worship in a large middle class  suburban church on Sunday, and during the week work as a social worker within the prison system.  My two worlds couldn’t be more different!  My church family is full of lovely people who are friendly, gracious, generous - the worship is wonderful, really uplifting - our minister always preaches an inspiring sermon - I feel I could conquer the world!  Then on Monday I’m thrown into an environment which is full of hostility, hatred and mistrust - the people I work with have such complex and deep-seated problems I sometimes despair that I will ever be able to help them - and I come home totally stressed out, wondering if I will ever find the way to share the love of God with them -  even beginning to doubt my own faith!

 

2.             I’m John Smith, from XYZ Uniting Church.  I work as head of a department within a large retail store.  I’ve just been asked to work a schedule which includes regular Sunday shifts.  I don’t want to work on Sundays.  I really value Sunday as a day of worship and a time when I enjoy fellowship with my friends at church.  If I say no to the Sunday shifts I may lose my job.  Yet retail is all I know, and  I’d probably encounter the same problems in any other retail job now Sunday trading’s been introduced.  I have a wife and three children.  My dilemma is:  How do I remain true to my Christian beliefs and at the same time fulfil my responsibilities to my family?

 

Bridge:

 The issues which have been raised by our four speakers highlight the need to integrate our Sunday and Monday lives, to find consistency between what we believe and what we do.  The Basis of Union talks in terms of worship, witness and service, or gospel, word and deed.  In broader terms, it’s about living an integrated and ethical life in relationship with others, connecting head to heart to hands, Loving God ... Loving the neighbour....

 

If we see our work as the worship of the dispersed or scattered community of faith, then maybe worship translates into work as an attitude that sees work as a gift from God - the privilege of co-creation - and believes our work can be a gift to others.

 

Diehl’s Five Ministries:

 William Diehl, in his book The Monday Connection, writes about five ministries in the workplace, five ways in which a Christian can live out faith through work.  He calls these the ministries of Presence, Ethics, Competency, Lifestyle and Change.

 Presence:

 The ministry of Presence is probably the ministry we most easily recognise as expressing a Christian witness in the workplace.

 It’s about being a friend ... listening attentively .... comforting ... counselling ... sharing our life’s journey ... witnessing to our faith ... acting as intermediary between God and those with whom we work, that is, bringing people’s concerns to God through intercessory prayer and God’s concerns to people through our words and deeds ... finally,  being willing ourselves to be the instruments of God’s answers to our prayers.

 We can think of the ministry of Presence in the context of Incarnation.  Do we take God into the workplace - or is God already there?  God’s presence is manifested in our interpersonal relationships as we are present (attentive) to God and others.

 Ethics:

 The ministry of Ethics  is partly about how we translate Biblical teaching and Christian principles into  decision-making in our work.  It’s not always as simple as we would like - sometimes two or more firmly held moral values will conflict with one another.  For example - What do you do as a Christian lawyer who believes everyone without exception is entitled to a fair trial, when you know the client who has approached you is guilty?  What do you do as a Christian with a long work history in retail, a large family to feed, and a commitment to Sunday worship, when the boss says work on Sunday or lose your job?  Where do you draw the lines, as a parent, when you recognise your child’s need to learn to handle a complex world?

 As Christians we need to be willing to engage the struggle with the hard issues, to inform ourselves, to be earnest in prayer, to hear the counsel of wise friends.  Ultimately, the ethic of love should be the foundation of all our decision -making.

 Competency:

 Ethics encompasses the ministry of Competency, because competency is about doing our job to the very best of our ability, being trustworthy, honest, co-operative,  serving God in our work by making the world a better and more dependable place in which to live.  The quality of our work and our attitude to it become a testament to our faith.  Diehl would go so far as to say that unless we are competent, our witness as Christians is not seriously received by the world.

 Lifestyle:

 Ethics also encompasses the ministry of Lifestyle.  Our lifestyle has much, if not everything, to say about the sincerity of our beliefs and commitments.  Is our lifestyle consistent with our Christian values?  Do we really, in practice, value people above property, caring above career, giving above getting?  Are we too much concerned with status, prestige, power?  How do we spend our time? our energy? our money?  Are we satisfied with “enough” - enough for our needs, enough to enable us to accomplish what God has called us to do?

 

Change:

 The ministry of Change is about working for justice within the workplace and the structures of society.  Christians are called to be co-creators with God in sustaining and improving the world.  We don’t have to accept things the way they are.  If we see change in the context of Resurrection, there is always hope for a better future.

 Just yesterday I was speaking with someone who was here on the Gold Coast when this complex here at Robina was envisioned.  He spoke of some of the pain ... and struggle ...  and then he said, “Coming back ... seeing this ... It’s like a resurrection”.  Change.  In the context of resurrection.

 To effect change, whether in big ways or very small, requires the  courage of our convictions, wisdom to discern what is possible and to develop constructive strategies, willingness to take initiative, to speak out  - but over and above all of this, openness to the spirit of God, within whose will and timing we may be enabled to do more than our best human wisdom could ever have predicted.

 Conclusion:

 Each of these ministries - Presence, Ethics, Competency, Lifestyle, Change - enables us to translate worship into work and work into worship, to find God and spiritual life in the everyday.

 Carolyn Kitto spoke last Saturday of a man who had been promoted to the role of supreme court judge, who dreaded telling his minister and congregation, because he knew they would say, “What a pity!  Now you won’t have so much time for your church work”.  That was what they had said when he was admitted to the bar.

 Some people will be called to full-time lay ministry in the church ....

 Most will make a valuable contribution to the life of their church ...

 ... and we’ve been hearing a good deal this week about how important that is, how crucial to the ongoing life of the church ...

 Nevertheless, for the majority of us, our primary role in ministry as lay people is out there in the world, in whatever sphere of activity we are involved.

 Loving God ... Loving neighbour ...

 Either everything we do is worship, an offering to God, or nothing.

 For the sake of the world and for the sake of our own spiritual integrity, we need to make the Sunday-Monday connection.