Making Good Work

If the links don’t work for you, here is Amber’s video presentation Jonah and the Whale, My God is So Big and Amazing Grace.

Todays reading is Colossians 3:22-25Open Link in New Window & Colossians 4:1Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Sam.

As we start, I want to begin by addressing the mentions of slavery in this passage. They aren’t the main thrust of the passage but it is mentioned so I’m just going to speak to it as we start and then we’ll address the rest of what Paul is saying throughout the passage.

Whilst Paul mentions slavery here without condemning it specifically, that doesn’t mean he’s condoning it, or that the Bible condones it. He addresses how to live as a slave because that is the reality for many people, it was back then and it is now and those people matter to God too. The custom of the time in a letter like this was to address the most important people first before everyone else and in this passage and the verses before it, Paul addresses wives before husbands and slaves before their masters as if to say the world has got it wrong by creating a hierarchy, and people should not be understood simply by the demographic boxes that society would put them in. Rather we are all individuals, loved by Christ and of equal and great value.

So to link these thoughts to the rest of the passage: As our city comes to terms with it’s past and our role in perpetuating both historic and modern day slavery, we need to cling to this notion that what we do matters. We are not simply spirits floating about waiting for heaven but as we’re going to explore this morning: what we do matters. Including how we treat others. In a world where slavery is more prevalent than it has ever been, in a country where 77% of manufacturers estimate that slavery is a part of their supply chain and in a city that has pioneered the exploitation and suffering of people of colour, this is our problem to resolve. We, and I very much include myself in this, need to be aware of the treatment of the people who grow our food or make our clothes. We need to actively engage with difficult conversations and hold our leaders to account. And we need to pray. Because our God is on the side of the oppressed and we need to be as well.

As we continue, let’s ask from this passage: what is Paul saying here to us and our daily lives? I think it’s simple: our work matters. So far in this series we’ve identified our frontlines, we’ve examined the character we bring to them and now we need to look at action. How are we working to bring the best that we possibly can to our communities and our workplaces? Whether we’re working checkouts, studying, full time parents, lawyers, retirees, landlords, it will be different for all of us. But Paul’s challenge is to work as though working for God.

I want to give an example using one of my heroes.

I’m a basketball fan and probably the second best player in the world right now is a man called Kawhi Leonard. His team, the Toronto Raptors, won the championship last year and he may well do it again this year.

On the video sermon I showed a clip of him performing a spectacular and very difficult winning shot in the last few seconds of the game that won them the semi finals.

Unlike many of the greats, Kawhi is not someone who has always had a natural talent. He’s fairly average height for an NBA player, not particularly special in anything but his work ethic.

The reason he’s able to beat the best players in the league but he’s able to do that is because he practices and practices and practices.

When Kawhi was in college, playing for San Diego State, he used to take a lamp to practice. Because after a long team session when everyone else had left the gym and the coaches turned the lights off, he could use that lamp to keep working. Not showing off in front of everyone but diligently practising moves again and again in the darkness until there’s virtually no one better.

Like how in 1 Samuel, David learned to defeat Goliath through practising by protecting his father’s sheep on his own in the quiet hills of Judea.

You see we are made to work; we are made to excel and push things forward. We won’t always be the best in the world or sometimes we won’t even be noticed but we’re called to be pioneers and disciplined at whatever we’re given to put our hands to.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible comes from the very beginning, Genesis chapter 2. There’s this weird bit in parenthesis just after God has made people and put them in this beautiful Garden, verse 12 it says:

“(The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.)”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:12‬ NIV‭

It says there are natural resources but they are buried. They need work to be uncovered. And God wants us to put in that work to discover the gold that we can bring out in the world. A paraphrase of Matthew 5:13Open Link in New Window says you’re here to be light bringers, bringing out the God colours in the world.

Is that how we see our work? An opportunity to dig up the gold, to bring out the God colours in the world? What we do in our jobs and in our communities matters because we’re building for the future. The fruits we produce and nurture in others build our world towards to Kingdom that God is bringing on this earth and we can either sit back and watch it arrive, because it’s coming whether we like it or not. Or as Jesus invites us in Matthew 28Open Link in New Window, we can join in and be part of it.

As John Mark Comer says, the Bible starts with a perfect garden and it ends with a perfect city. As those natural resources, that perfect potential is shaped and realised, it becomes this perfect home for us and God. And who does it say gets to shape it? Genesis 1:28Open Link in New Window and Genesis 2:8Open Link in New Window say that God places women and men in the garden to work it.

Work was always part of God’s plan, it’s not a result of the fall; work is part of the perfect order of the universe. So we have a duty to give it our all.

Take a moment as we end to focus on your frontline, either in silence or with music on; reflect on the area that you are called to. This may excite you, it may cause anxiety, it may just bore you. Whatever feelings arise, acknowledge them and ask God to bring you an opportunity even this week to see him at work through your frontline. Where is he calling you to uncover gold, to draw out the God colours. What work do you need to practice in the darkness and keep going even when no one is watching to bring out the gold and bring your best to your frontline?

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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