Friday, June 25, 2010
Fr. Dale Matson
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15 NIV)
We live in a society less and less accustomed to work. By this I don’t mean white collar employment but blue collar folks engaged in the trades or in unskilled workers that live by the sweat of their brow. As someone who worked in construction for seventeen years, I still remember the construction season. We had to work long days and weeks to make up for the winter when deep frost made excavation and grading impractical. During the drive home each day there was a satisfying fatigue that burned bone deep yet provided an intoxicating peace.
The reality is that we were created to work. Work is an irreplaceable kind of exercise. It is unique because it yields a product. The product could be food, a home and even a good bead on a weld. The hot days for me were made hotter as a journeyman plumber when melting the lead ingots for sealing the jute in the joints in cast iron sewer pipes. Sweat would drip into the lead pot and create a small crackle as the moisture was absorbed. Work is also a cooperative effort. Many jobs require more than two hands or two skills. Friendships develop and stories are shared. A work colleague can become a confidant. Firefighters and law enforcement officers become brothers and sisters in the meaningful work of protecting others.
Today gym memberships abound. White collar folks know that sweat comes from places that a shower never reaches. Sweat brings out the toxins of a stressful life and the gym is a place where “parallel play” mimics normal human interaction. Each person with a set of ear buds listening to this or that tune selection. There is a good burn following an intense spin class or weight lifting circuit. Then there is a shower and off to the office. However, there is no work product and no guild fraternity.
There is something holy about work that sets it apart from other forms of exercise. Not only did God create us to work. He gave us a job and this job gave us meaning. For the workaholic his meaning has become his job. He has become an idolater and his god is the center of his meaning. Like all idolaters, the workaholic has replaced God with a gift of God.
I believe worship is a human activity closely related to work. Both take us out of ourselves, give us meaning and make us hardy and resilient. We are better for it. God is a worker also for we are His handiwork. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10). Liturgy is the work of the people and so in liturgy we are become coworkers with God. In liturgy the work we do divides both the year and our lives into sacred seasons. We perform sacred work marking points along the path of our earthly journey which includes Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Death. Our work in the Liturgy is also preparatory for the specific work God calls each of us to do. Our assigned work is specific to each of us and we are also each a living stone in the building of God’s Kingdom held together by our chief corner stone Jesus Christ.
“And now , Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.” (This is a portion of the concluding prayer of the liturgy, from the Book of Common Prayer p. 366).