Sermon Review, 9-4-2016

Dear Friends,
During September our worship focus at Living Word is on WORK.  For many people this word has negative connotations such as … “that’s a lot of work”, “I hate my job” or even “I have to go to work”.  Yet when we look closely at God’s Word we find that work is a gift from God and despite the fact that it can be full of struggle and stress, it is meant to be a blessing and bring satisfaction to our life and our relationships. If you think work is negative, you’re going to try and get away from it. But what if we saw work as an opportunity to be able to live out our purpose, to contribute to the world and be able to grow? What if we approached work with excitement and enthusiasm?  The average person works so they can rest or vacation.  What if we rested long enough to be able to go back to work, because our work is our joy, our pleasure, our passion?  This past Labor Day weekend we started the process of using God’s Word to reframe how we think about work so we don’t think of it as a 4 letter word.  The title of the message was “GOING ON VOCATION — Understanding Work as it was meant to be”.  Following are some thoughts from the message that morning.
1) Work is often seen as punishment or the result of sorrow and trouble in the world.  We blame all our other problems and difficulties on our first parents so why not this one.  And while Adam and Eve’s sin did result in God making work be something that was no longer as easy we are wrong to think that’s where work got its start.  Already in Genesis 2, before the sinful disobedience of Adam and Eve in chapter 3 we read the following actions of God
“This is the account of when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. No shrub had yet appeared and no plant had  sprung up, for the Lord had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  Now the Lord had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed … to work it and take care of it.” (my emphasis)
In His perfect Creation God set up the concept of work, with the plan that man’s actions would make a difference in the world in which he lived.  And just because man’s sin messed up that perfect plan does not mean God has given up on His purpose that our actions affect our surroundings and be a reflection of His love and care for the people and circumstances of this world.  If anything our imperfect world means that our actions are that much more important in showing the purposes and the character of God.  Work is not the problem, its our attitude toward it that needs attention.
2) We need to understand the concept of vocation if we are going to get work right.  Vocation comes from the Latin word “vocare” which means “to call”.  Yes our work can be our calling, but vocation is about our sense of mission and purpose in whatever we do in life.  For instance my vocation is pastor.  Bu it’s also my profession, my occupation, my job.  When I see it as my calling its more than a job but my responsibility to the world and people I interact with.  In the book of Ruth (which serves as biblical basis for this worship series) Ruth is given the opportunity to be released from her responsibilities as a daughter-in-law.  Her father-in-law and both of his sons (one was her husband) had died and the three widows were left to their own devices.  In Biblical times this was serious trouble.  Her mother-in-law heads back to her homeland and releases the younger women from their responsibility to accompany and take care of her.  The other daughter-in-law leaves but Ruth sees the relationship as a vocation with responsibility and speaks these words in reply.
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and  where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
So vocation is not just what you do but is the attitude and responsibility behind everything you do.  There are two gentlemen at church who cut the lawn.  One cares for the front around church and the other the back property.  Neither of them is paid nor were they asked – they both felt a desire and assumed the responsibility.  Without doubt it is a calling because they see their mission to make the property as beautiful and pleasing to the eye as they can.  That’s vocation in action.  Its when we don’t just live our beliefs and our purposes AT work but we live our beliefs and purposes THROUGH work.  (whatever our work or activity may be).  So a young person can have a vocation as a student.  Its not a job but for a season of life it is definitely a calling.  I have a calling as a grandparent that began 6 1/2 years ago.  We all have a calling as children of God and followers of Jesus.  We know that because we are baptized in the Christian faith and claimed by God.  The banner we use at baptism tells us it is our vocation for it quotes a verse from Isaiah where the Lord says “I have called you by name, you are mine.”  No matter what you do that earns you money, no matter what you volunteer to do, no matter your hobbies or special interests your calling as a follower of Jesus can and should be part of those activities.  If you mop floors you can mop them to serve and honor God.  If you lead a company or manage other workers you do that to honor God and show your beliefs.  Jesus set that example for us by answering His calling.  Yes, He was a teacher and healer, a friend and miracle worker.  But through it all He was the Son of God and the Savior of all mankind.  That purpose informed all His actions.  What can you learn from that example?

May God bless the rest of your week and we look forward to part 2 of the worship series on WORK this coming Sunday.

Blessings,

Pastor Lange

Living Word Lutheran Church exists to …
– Proclaim God’s Love
– Expand God’s Kingdom
– Mature God’s People
– Live God’s Word

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