Liturgy. It literally means, “the work of the people.” It’s no surprise that the author jumps right into the thing that occupies most of our waking hours: work. For many work can be boring and mundane, a somewhat mindless punching of the clock and a never-ending set of daily tasks. For others work is engaging, fulfilling and often, all-consuming. Regardless of the level of engagement or fulfillment, work (for most of us) rarely if ever resembles our worship time or any kind of sacred practice. But the subtitle of the chapter “Checking Email” is, “Blessing and Sending.” The idea is, “We are fed in worship, blessed, and sent out to be ‘hints of hope.’ We are part of God’s big vision and mission—the redemption of all things.”
This is a pretty significant challenge, since we tend to compartmentalize our lives. The work/vocation compartment may bear little resemblance to the church/worship compartment, and that somehow feels . . . wrong. The common denominator of the two compartments is: ME. Or, more accurately, the Kingdom of God in Me. Let me explain what I mean with a personal story.
A few years ago I became very busy working in my local Adventist community during much of my ‘free’ time when I wasn’t actually at work (practicing my vocation). Many afternoons and evenings were spent working on behalf of the local Adventist school and my local SDA home church. I gradually began to notice a difference in the way I interacted with people at work, and the way I interacted with people at church.
During my ‘real’ job, there were about 10 people I worked with very closely, day-in and day-out. As you can imagine, we got to know each other quite well since we spent so many hours together, year after year. We had our own running jokes, unique vocabulary and a pretty accurate knowledge of each other’s characters and personalities. In my church life, there were also many people I got to know quite well. As I spent time in the various church-related groups, we would often pray together, and openly discuss spiritual things; it was quite natural to talk about God, salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc. But at work, these topics would NEVER be discussed. Some of my work friends were not Christian and had no interest in religion or spiritual topics. That put spiritual topics ‘off limits’ in many ways. In addition, it was not uncommon to participate in discussions or banter at work that would definitely NOT be appropriate at any of the church-related activities. On many occasions I would find myself laughing at some offhanded remark or joke and think, inwardly, “I probably shouldn’t be laughing at this . . . but it’s funny”.
The dichotomy between the ‘work Monte’ and the ‘church Monte’ began to weigh on me. Was I the same person? Was I being my true self and a faithful follower of Christ in both environments? My growing sense of disharmony could best be expressed in the following question: Would my work friends be surprised at the way I interact with my church friends (and vice versa)? And if so, was I being faithful to my true calling? Was I “‘being sent’—to be hints of hope, to participate in God’s big mission, the redemption of all things?”
As I was struggling with this, God threw me a lifeline. A nurse that I knew from church began working on the cardiac team full time. Now, one of the ten people I interacted with so regularly included a sister-in-Christ who also knew me, the other me, from church. We soon became good friends, and often discussed both work and spiritual matters freely. After several months had passed, I asked her if she perceived any difference between my work persona and my church persona. I shared my growing concern that the interactions I had with people at church and at work were so different. Her response was both empathetic and practical (she’s a nurse, after all). She too struggled with a duality in the way she interacted with the world. When she puts on her scrubs, she becomes more task focused and goal oriented. When she goes home or to church, a more spiritually nurturing aspect of herself comes forward. Paraphrasing her: “God gave us certain gifts, aspects of who we are, and we apply them to suit the needs of the situation or person—my patient, or my friend, or my spouse.”
The author zeroes in on the truth when she says,
Christian holiness is not a free-floating goodness removed from the world. . . . It is specific and, in some sense, tailored to who we particularly are. We seek God in and through our particular vocation and place in life.
Our vocational daily routine may not feel like a place where we seek God, but God is there. The Kingdom of God is here, now, in me, if I choose acknowledge God as my King. God’s abiding love and desire for reconciliation doesn’t stop at the church property line, nor at the entrance to my place of employment.
What part do you or I have in the Missio Dei (the mission of God or the sending of God) in the daily grind? Is it a part that God has ordained for you to play? No matter what your job, are you are blessed, and sent? I believe the answer is: Yes, more than you know.