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Placed On Purpose

Note from the pastor: I couldn’t really breathe in worship today, so I’m not sure I fully preached the sermon I intended to. So, I’ve done something I don’t normally do. I created a transcript of what I mean to say.

Taking our faith to work. How do we do it in ways other than walking up to people and asking them if they know Jesus? We are not all going to be Richard Stearns(1) and leave a successful corporate career to head up an international aid organization. We are not all going to be CEOs and have the power to decide, like the heads of Chik-fil-a and Hobby Lobby, to close our offices on Sunday.

But we can take our faith to work. To do so, I think we have to make some attitude adjustments. I used to work in advertising, so I know that it takes time to change someone’s attitude or point of view, but I would like for all of you to commit to making a change right here…today. We don’t have a lot of time.

The first idea we need to change—or to simply let go of—is the idea that people who are seriously called by God become ordained clergy-type people or go into the foreign mission field. Not only is this misguided, it’s not even Biblical.

Noah was a shipbuilder, a zookeeper and a cruise director
Abraham was in real estate development
Joseph was a pioneer in food distribution systems
Esther was a pageant queen who became an actual queen
Daniel went to the King’s college and essentially became president of Iraq (2)

None of these people were clergy. In fact, you have to look long and hard before you can find religious professionals in the Bible who come off looking like Godly people at all. I suppose Eli and Samuel in the Old Testament pass the test, but all of the priests and Pharisees in the New Testament tend to be part of the problem instead of the solution—and one could make a very persuasive argument that the same is true today.

We are all called by God into mission and ministry, but that doesn’t mean we all have to or even should travel to the depths of Africa or Asia or take our place in a chancel every week and proclaim the good news from a pulpit.

So that’s our first new attitude. We are all called to ministry and mission. Whether we are scientists or school teachers, doctors or ditch diggers, students or stay-at-home parents. We are all out in the mission field.

The second shift we need to make is beyond the false boundaries we have set up between the sacred and the secular. Pastor Matt Chandler points out that there is no divide between what God likes and what God tolerates. Although we have done our best to make certain places and spaces profane, it is all part of God’s good creation. The water cooler is not a baptismal font, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t sacred space. The beauty shop is not a sanctuary, but that doesn’t hearts aren’t healed there. Any line between the sacred and the secular is man-made and not God-drawn.

Is everyone on board so far? We are all called to ministry and mission and every place we occupy and gather with others is sacred, God-created space. If we are no longer merely worker bees headed to an office or a classroom, but missionaries occupying sacred space come Monday morning, that kind of changes things, doesn’t it?

Now here is the third, and probably most difficult, change. What if…just imagine what if…your work isn’t about you. It’s not about padding your resume or building up your ego, it’s not about you climbing the ladder of success, it’s not about (sorry, parents) you making good grades or even about you making money to support yourself or your family.

What if you have been placed in your work space ON purpose and WITH a purpose? What if your work is far more about the people around you than it is about, well, you?

The Psalmist tells us that we are wonderfully formed. That God knows us inside and out. And Paul asserts to a bunch of highly-educated Greeks that God has determined our appointed times in history. What if the God who knows you better than you know yourself and has placed you in this time in history has also placed you in your work for a purpose that is beyond you? As an only child, adjusting to the idea that anything may not be about me is not an easy task. But I’m willing to make the shift if you are.

If we are called to ministry and mission, if our boardrooms and classrooms and playgrounds and workshops are all sacred space and if our work is more about the people around us than it is about us as individuals, how then do we live out our faith and our purpose at work?

We come to church and claim that we believe in a God who listens to our prayers, but do we pray for the people with whom we work?

We say we believe in a God of mercy and grace, but do we extend that mercy and grace to those who work with, around and for us?

We affirm that we are important because of whose we are not because of what we do, but do we value our co-workers and classmates because of whose they are, or do we value them for what they contribute to our own well-being and success?

We believe Jesus has done great things for us, but how often do we extend to the a co-worker who is struggling or hurting a version of the offer I make every Sunday at the end of worship? “Jesus has made a difference in my life, and if you’d like to know more about Him, feel free to talk with me about it at anytime.”

Do the people we work with know we are Christians, not because of a decal on our car, but (as the song says) by our love?

May we make these shifts in perception and attitude today. May we joyfully claim that we are all called by God to mission and ministry. May we see our offices and classrooms and boardrooms and playgrounds as sacred space. And may the work we are called to do not simply be about us and what we achieve, but about how we might serve those around us and help them become all that God intends. May we behave like people with a purpose.

Amen.

1 Check out Richard Stearn’s story in The Hole in our Gospel. It’s a powerful book.
2 Adapted from the Right Now series Work as Worship.

–Rev. Anne Russ

1 thought on “Placed On Purpose”

  1. Anne, thanks for doing this, especially since I was not there today for the sermon.
    This seems so simple, but it is certainly something we all struggle with every day. (even retired people)
    Floyd

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