Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Work of the Lord

In the Psalm reading for today (Psalm 118) I noticed this phrase:

The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:

We were up late last night watching the exciting final game of the NCAA finals.  I am sure there are "glad songs of victory" in the tens of Durham NC as Duke beat Wisconsin.  What a great game and victory for the team and coach.

I noticed after Easter this year there was less tension in me.  And it was not just the absence of time spent planning worship and sermons and church activities.  It also involved not "keeping track" of the number of worshippers.  Yes, we do.  On Facebook I saw a couple of references to numbers of people in attendance on that Sunday - because for a church it sort of feels like a "victory" when there is numerical growth.

All of which speaks to the tendency to want to be a winner as defined by our culture.  I doubt that the players of Wisconsin - a tremendous team - came away feeling like winners last night. And when the numbers go down or a church goes into decline, it is easy, easy, easy for the pastor (and the church) to feel like losers.

The third reading of today was a very familiar one for me - 1 Corinthians 15: 51-58.  I have read it hundreds of times at gravesides at the committal service. It is the promise of the mystery following life on earth.  Death is not the end:

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

And Paul writes that because we have faith we want to spend our time on earth following the Way of Christ: 

 Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable,
 always excelling in the work of the Lord,
 because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 And as I read these familiar words again, I ruminate on the question - what is "the work of the Lord."
I have my answers on the one hand - 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

I talked to a friend yesterday who works in a food pantry - that is for sure the work of the Lord and so was working in the church.  Even though sometimes I could get confused with what was really important. But now as I sit here I recognize that it is a challenge to determine what is the work of the Lord.  What I suspect is that it is often not glamourous, quantifiable and it may not look like a "victory" in the world's terms.

Instead the work of the Lord seems to have to do with having a loving, accepting, forgiving and compassionate heart.  It may mean seeing and caring for "the least of these" which may at times be my husband as well as neighbors and strangers.  And I believe that the "Work of the Lord" is creating, building, and encouraging life in all kinds of forms.

What I know now - more than ever - is that life is short.  And at some point there will be a pastor reciting the words of Paul at my graveside.  And my prayer is today I will seek and find ways in which I can engage in the "work of the Lord."

Here is a Morning Prayer by Marianne Williamson

Morning Prayer

Dear God,
I give this day to You.
May my mind stay centered on the things of spirit.
May I not be tempted to stray from love.
As I begin this day, I open to receive You.
Please enter where You already abide.
May my mind and heart be pure and true, and may I not deviate from the things of goodness.
May I see the love and innocence in all mankind, behind the masks we all wear and the illusions of this worldly plane.
I surrender to You my doings this day.
I ask only that they serve You and the healing of the world.
May I bring Your love and goodness with me, to give unto others wherever I go.
Make me the person You would have me be.
Direct my footsteps, and show me what You would have me do.
Make the world a safer, more beautiful place.
Bless all Your creatures.
Heal us all, and use me, dear Lord, that I might know the joy of being used by You.
- from Illuminata

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