Work is Worship

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“The scandal of Christianity in our day is the heresy of a five percent spirituality.”

That’s the claim of Quaker devotional writer Richard Foster.  What he means is that far too many followers of Jesus take a Tupperware approach to reality.  They seal off 5% of their lives to experience God.  And the rest of the time?  They assume they’re on their own. 

Beginning Bible students can be forgiven for thinking that God tends to show up only at special times and places. 

Moses meets God at a burning bush.  Elijah hears the gentle whisper of God’s voice while standing at the entrance of a cave.  Jacob dreams of a ladder to heaven while resting his head on a rock in the middle of nowhere.  Again and again God breaks into human lives by means of prophetic sermons and angelic visits.

But most of these experiences appear to be one-and-done.  Moses never says, for instance, “Hey everybody, meet me at the bush tomorrow at 4 pm; that’s where God hangs out.” 

Where can we expect to experience God today?  We can pursue a path that’s been blazed by generations of disciples.  It’s called “praying the ordinary.”  We practice God’s presence in the midst of every aspect of our lives as they already exist. 

God isn’t waiting to be found in the spectacular or the heroic.  He’s waiting for us to encounter him while we’re shopping for groceries, changing diapers, and pumping gas. 

We don’t need to book a flight to the Holy Land or venture to a specially designated sacred place, as was true during Bible times.  That’s because the location of God’s temple has changed.  If you’re a lifelong learner of Jesus, then you are God’s temple.  Wherever you go, God is going with you.  Every spot on earth is now sacred space. 

Ruth Bell Graham, Billy Graham’s wife, used to have a sign hanging in her kitchen above the sink where she washed the dishes:  “Divine worship offered here three times daily.” 

God is available through the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper; a walk through autumnal woods; the soaring notes of a choral cantata; and soapy water filled with dirty dishes. 

The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  To do something in Jesus’ name means to do it in a manner consistent with his character.  That means we build a Habitat for Humanity house the way Jesus would build it.  And we chop tomatoes the way Jesus would chop tomatoes. 

Our so-called “spiritual life” isn’t confined to those few moments when we might stop and say, “Now I’m going to try to be spiritual.”  Instead, it is the way we relate to God and the way God relates to us during all of life’s moments.

All our work, therefore, becomes holy. 

But what about the moments when we seem to be doing nothing at all? 

Much of life turns out to be waiting.  It’s estimated that the average American citizen will spend six months of their life waiting for red stoplights to turn green, and four months sorting third class mail – waiting, essentially, to find something worth reading.

After we come into the world, much of life is waiting to grow up until we’re big enough; then waiting for graduation; waiting to see if there is a life partner who will delight in us; waiting for a promotion; waiting for retirement; then waiting to die. 

In all of this waiting, once again we remember Jesus.  He waited until the final three years of his life before stepping into public ministry.  Prior to that, the people of Israel had been waiting for almost 2000 years for the Messiah to come, and we’ve been waiting for almost 2000 years since for the Messiah to return. 

God isn’t merely in the events we are anticipating.  God is in the waiting, too.

When we put all this together, it seems clear that something amazing can happen, even on the most ordinary of days:

Our working and our waiting can become worship.