September 7, 2014
God’s work. Our hands. Many of you are wearing that theme on your yellow t-shirts today. And it means that as disciples of Jesus, we know that God is active in the world every day – that God seeks to repair the brokenness of creation, that Jesus is present among us so that we might have life and have it abundantly, and that the Holy Spirit energizes us to participate in God’s creating and redeeming work. Yes, we offer our hands for God’s work. Or as Theresa of Avila put it:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world,
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
And the truly amazing thing about God’s way of doing God’s work in this world, is that God trusts you and me to be the instruments through which God’s work is done. This church thing, as I’ve said before, isn’t about getting ourselves saved. It’s about being on a team with God as God seeks to give life, hope, joy, and peace to all creation. At the end of the gospels Jesus gives his disciples work to do. “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And because we have been given the Holy Spirit, God trusts that we are capable and that we will do the work we have been given to do.
And this work begins with welcoming. When we welcome the children, we welcome Jesus. And to welcome someone means to make room for them – it means paying attention to them, listening to them, and making a space for them that is truly a place for them. We had a small dinner party at our home on Friday. We live in a fairly small apartment, and the table we eat at normally sits up against a wall. But we needed more space since there would be six people at the table, and you don’t just let your guests squeeze in or find a place for themselves. No, we cleared the table and moved it away from the wall to make room for more chairs, so there was a place for everyone. It’s a simple way we welcome people into our homes. And Jesus calls us to welcome children and all sorts of others into the community we share with Christ. And that usually means making some adjustments in the way we do things, so that everyone we invite will know that they are truly welcome.
Another image for the work of God we do is the one Jesus gives his disciples when he puts on an apron and washes their feet. We are called to serve one another. And I believe that we can all find ways of participating in that service. Our worship is one way we practice the servant discipleship Jesus call us to. Worship is not primarily a time for us to receive something, but it is an opportunity to participate in the work we do together. When you usher, or greet, or prepare the elements for communion, or help serve communion, or read the lessons, or count the offering, or help lead the music, or prepare and serve coffee fellowship following worship – you are practicing the servant work that Jesus modeled for his disciples. Now I understand that the fellowship team leaders have a hard time getting volunteers for these tasks each month – I find that hard believe, because I see all of these as symbolic servant tasks that everyone who worships should be able and eager to take their turn in doing. Such service in worship is a symbol of the deeper service that Jesus calls each of us to engage in.
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to nourish our faith and to serve others. In the words of the Affirmation of Baptism service we are “to live among God’s faithful people, and to hear the Word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper.” This is how we nourish our faith, and while prayer and reading scripture are things we can do alone, mostly we come together, and we are nurtured through our fellowship and worship and community time. And that prepares us for service. “to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” This is God’s work, and it is our hands and minds and energy that does this work. And each of us takes a different piece of this work. Some do this work mostly with their hands, some do this with their minds, some do this work through prayer, some do this work through physical labor. We do God’s work through our work and through our play – as we provide needed goods and services to our neighbor, as we renew our lives through rest and recreations, as we build community and relationships through conversations and activities, as we volunteer for projects and programs that help people in need. The thing is, whatever we do, with our whole life, as we act in ways that build up God’s kingdom and increase God’s will happening in this world, we do God’s work. God’s work is what we live and breath every day of our lives. As Paul says to the Colossians, “whatever you do in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” God’s work. Our hands. All the time. Amen.