- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 20, 2005

Capital Pulpit

The following are excerpts of a sermon given recently by Pastor Brian D. McLaren at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville.

Most of us spend most of our time working. So, how does your spiritual life work at work?

I believe that the most important people living out their faith are not religious professionals like me: They’re committed followers of Christ like you, making it real Monday to Friday.

For a well-balanced theology of work, we need to go all the way back to the creation story in the Bible.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. … Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ ”

“In our image” — what does that mean? … I especially think it’s linked to, “let them have dominion.” To be human is to have a kingly rule and responsibility. As God cares for creation … so humanity should care. The story continues:

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ ”

The point: Work is part of creation. Your work is part of exercising kingly rule and responsibility in some area of God’s world. You should approach your work with confidence, dignity and a sense that you’re reflecting the image of God as your work. …

In a bigger context, our work is part of our identity as God’s image-bearers. Let’s call this the creation mandate.

The creation mandate was broken and forgotten. Sin enters, and the book of Genesis is very poetic and poignant about effects of human sin on work: “Cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken. … So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”

That brings us to a second mandate: the covenant mandate. God’s call to Abraham is a call to a specific people to begin a return-to-God movement, to get back in harmony with God, and more — to stop destroying creation and instead to start helping heal creation so God’s intended story of goodness and beauty can unfold.

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.”

In the creation mandate, we express God’s care for the world. In the covenant mandate, we become a blessing to all peoples of the world to bring healing.

There’s a third mandate — the kingdom mandate, from Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 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 the kingdom mandate, we are invited to good work — to do good works, to go above and beyond the minimum. If you’re a programmer, you don’t just do the minimum. You write good programs, programs that serve people — but also, treat the secretary with respect — and invest in serving the poor, helping the broken, freeing the oppressed. In this way, you do the kind of good works the kingdom of God is all about.

Tomorrow you will go to work. Each of us from accountant to zoologist can see our work as more than a job. It’s a holy thing, a sacred thing — part of our identity as creatures made in the image of God, people with a creation mandate, a covenant mandate and a kingdom mandate.

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