Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Work as a Sacrament

We spend a huge percentage of our lives working; even if we are not formally employed, we must undertake tasks within the course of a day that threaten to appear insignificant, mundane and tedious. But what if these very daily tasks were our transport to life in the presence of God? What if our work was a sacrament, or as Augustine said, an visible sign of an invisible reality? What if our work was just as much an act of worship to God as our songs of praise on Sunday morning? What if our work was not only our song of praise and worship to God, but also our mission - the place where we lived and hoped and prayed that our service would allow others to encounter God Himself?

These questions have been in my mind recently and I found the following journal entry in Quaker Religious Thought #109, to be relevant and helpful as I considered the challenge of the questions above. - Sarah

God's presence fills our work environments, whether we sense God or not. When we vacuum the house, deliver a lecture, conduct a music lesson, or close a deal, God is always present. Once this theological truth is established in our thoughts, we can begin to view ourselves bringing a sense of God's presence into our workplaces. Of course, we know we do not magically bring it with us. However, we do accept that God works in and through us where we are, and God's presence in us can strengthen the sense of God's presence in our environments. We pray for God's Spirit to fill us, direct us, and minister through and around us as we work.

Moving more specifically into a conscious sacramental mode, we can encounter God in our work relationships. All work involves relationships at some level. Viewing other people as means to our ends, serving our goals, devalues them. It reflects our own self-centeredness and robs us of the sacramental experience. A sacramental view of life looks for God in others. One of the powerful truths of Scripture is that Jesus is revealed in those we have opportunities to serve....When we value people as God does, when we see every person as an opportunity to serve, we create the space to encounter God, and we become the substance of the sacramental experience.

There may be no better context to encounter God than in our daily working routines and relationships. It is God's way to infuse the ordinary with dynamism: a bush with fire, dust with breath, silence with voice. These become holy not by their nature but by the super-natural revelation of the Creator through the creation. Work might be considered the least obvious place to encounter God, yet how much more evident is God's supernatural power when revealed in the most natural of human environments? Is not the incarnation reflected most clearly in the ordinary?

- Kent Walkemeyer, Work as Sacrament: The Quaker Bridge