"Seeing God In The Ordinary: Work"

(Matthew 5:13-16)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

I don't think there is anyone alive who likes job performance reviews except maybe the HR people. Even if you are doing a great job, review and evaluation are stressful. A few years ago Preaching Magazine ran a list of some quotes from actual Job Performance Reviews. I thought I'd share a few:

" I wouldn't allow this employee to reproduce, he must have gotten into the gene pool when the lifeguard wasn't looking."

"This associate is really not so much of a has-been but a won't be."

"Works well under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap."

"This young lady has delusions of adequacy."

"Sets low personal standards and consistently fails to achieve them."

"This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

"Gates are down, lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming."

"If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean.

"Some drink from the fountain of knowledge; he only gargled."

Here it is Labor Day Weekend. There are at least two things that are certain about this weekend, first, there will be sales in all the stores. Ironically, the very people for whom labor day was established as a holiday, have to work.

Second we will see the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. The first Telethon was broadcast on only 1 New York TV Station. This weekend it will be broadcast on 190 stations. The first telethon brought in an unheard of $1 million dollars. Last year, the 42nd Annual Telethon raised a record $63,759,478 for Jerry's Kids. What would Labor Day weekend be without it?

I personally think you can see God's presence through the giving, research and care that takes place because of the Telethon. A lot of hard work goes into the event. And you can See God In The Ordinary through that work.

But the work of the Telethon isn't the only place you can See God In The Ordinariness of Work.

I. WORK IS A GIFT:

A. We can See God In The Ordinary when we see Work As A Gift. A Gift from God. I know some of you are thinking I've gone off the deep end. This will probably show up in MY performance review and I know where you're coming from. When I was a child and a teenager and even a young adult, I saw a lot of work as drudgery and even punishment. And with that attitude we can look at the Scripture and blame it all on the Fall.

When Adam and Eve got evicted from the Garden, God said they would survive by "the sweat of his brow." From that moment on there have been two schools of thought, one that Work is punishment and the other, that Work Is A Gift. As you can tell, I'm of the second school.

That's what the character Jason discovers in the movie the Ultimate Gift. Jason is a Trust Fund baby who loves all of life's gifts as long as they are bankable. But when his wealthy grandfather, Red, dies, Jason receives a rather unusual inheritance, a series of twelve challenges which Red calls gifts, designed to grow Jason into a man.

The very first gift Jason discovers is the Gift of Work. He's sent to Red's old friend in Texas, where he learns about work first hand. He doesn't get it at first. At all. It takes some real prodding. Watch this.

CLIP

Eventually it sinks in that Work and especially Work well done is a Gift from God which can builds your self worth and self esteem, something which is not bankable but is very important.

B. We often think the only time we give God glory is when we Worship or Prayer. It's not just prayer and worship which give and bring God glory, it's servanthood and work. It doesn't make any difference if your are slinging hash or cooking up ways to increase corporate profits; building houses or building the future by teaching in our schools; moving dirt with heavy equipment or removing dirt by bathing the patients in your care. It doesn't matter if you are waiting tables or waiting for the anesthesia to take effect so you can begin the operation. It doesn't matter if your pumping gas, pumping iron, or pumping oil. If it's an honest day's work, the job doesn't matter, it can bring glory to God. Every job under heaven can give God glory if it is tackled or pursued with the right heart and the right attitude. When we seek to serve God and celebrate the grace of God in our lives, God is glorified.

We See God In The Ordinary when we See Work As A Gift.

II. THROUGH THE WORK OF OTHERS:

We can also See God In The Ordinary Through The Work Of Others.

Chris Cox sent me the story of a friend of hers who is a teachers' aide at the Nazarene Christian Academy where her grandson attends school. Last year her family experienced a tragedy when she and her two sons arrived home after school to find all seven of their precious goats dead, killed by the neighbor's two German Shepherd dogs.

It was a rather traumatizing event for the family. The next morning at school this friend was feeling really low and discouraged as any of us would. But, she also knew she had to fulfill her responsibilities as a teacher. That morning, one of the little girls in her kindergarten class kept coming up to her and hugging her and kissing her and telling her that she loved her.

This teacher started feeling a bit smothered and annoyed but held her emotions and just responded to the little girl with a simple "Thank You, every time it happened.

Later, during lunch, it dawned on her that she was feeling better and had forgotten how bad she had felt earlier. She had an epiphany and realized that through the love of that little girl, God had not only comforted her and lifted her burden. God had wrapped His arms around her and really touched her heart.

We can See God In The Ordinary Through The Work Of Others, even our children.

III. WHEN OTHERS SEE GOD IN AND THROUGH OUR WORK:

A. We can See God In The Ordinary When Others See God In And Through Our Work.

In one sense, I think that's what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5:13-16 (NRSV)

[13] "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

[14] "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.

[15] No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.

[16] In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

In other words, God wants others to See God In The Ordinary Through Our Work, through us being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

When we see Work As A Gift, then we can see our Labor and our jobs as part of God's ministry in the world. We can see ourselves as one of the laborers in God's Vineyard. We can see ourselves as partners with God in Christ. We can see ourselves as Missionary Servants. With that attitude, then others will be able to See God In The Ordinary Through Our Work.

B. Jeanette Croy told me the story of when she worked at a Video rental store. One evening, about an hour before closing time, a young girl came into the store to rent a video. Jeanette said she felt the Spirit move her and God calling her to go to this young girl, even to the point of knowing exactly where the girl was in the store.

Jeanette went to the girl who was crying. Of course, Jeanette asked if there was anything she could do to help. Still crying, through her tears, the young woman said she wanted a "bad movie."

Jeanette replied by saying she thought she needed a hug. Jeanette hugged the girl and then lead her to the family movies. She doesn't remember what they decided on but they picked one and the girl left. A couple of days later the girl returned. She ran to Jeanette and grabbed her and asked, "Do you remember me?" Jeanette said, "Yes!"

And then the girl said, "You saved my life that night. I had just lost a baby and that night I thought about killing myself."

A kind word of concern, a simple hug and a different kind of movie all worked to save a young woman's life. That night, Jeanette was the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" leading a young woman back from the precipice. That young girl Saw God In The Ordinary Through Jeanette's Work of a simple hug and a little concern. You and I are called be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world." We are called to let Others See God In The Ordinary Through Our Work.

CONCLUSION:

Now, I'll bet you're wondering why you've been holding that shop towel for so long and why I've got the one sticking out of my pocket? This is simply a white cotton shop towel or shop cloth, whatever you want to call it. You can use it to wipe your forehead in this heat. You can use it to dry dishes or wash the car or even dust off the Bible you haven't picked up in awhile.

You can hang it across your arm like a waiter in a fancy restaurant or stick it in your belt as a make shift apron like a short order cook. Or you can look at it as a reminder of the Last Supper and the foot washing which preceded it. You see, as salt and light, we're called to be foot washers, too.

Even though it used to be pretty common, we don't do much of the actual washing of feet anymore. However, the towel and the basin are still symbols of servanthood. And isn't that what being the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" is all about, serving so others can see God and experience God's love through Christ?

Here's what I want you to do this morning. You'll have to take turns. With the towel in your hands, I want you to turn the person sitting next to you. Now take their hands and gently wipe them off with the towel as if you were washing and drying them. Do this as a symbolic act of servanthood. And as a symbolic act of stooping to wash and dry their feet.

Now that you are finished would you repeat after me:

"I am the salt of the earth.

I am the light of the world

Together we servants of Jesus Christ

Whose call and purpose

Is to make God's love known

In every aspect of Ordinary Life.

Help me Lord,

Fulfill Your purpose in my life.

Amen."

God IS all around us. God can be witnessed in the ordinary aspects of everyday life. Sometimes in the work of others. And sometimes others see God at work in us and through us. The point is our focus.

You are the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world." That Work Is A Gift which helps us See God In The Ordinary Through The Work Of Others AND helps Others See God In The Ordinary Through Our Work.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

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