“We worship our work, work at our play and play at our worship.” –Gordon Dahl
I know nothing of Gordon Dahl beyond the fact that, when he penned this statement in 1972, he hit the nail squarely on its head (Work, Play, and Worship in a Leisure-Oriented Society; Augsburg Fortress Publishers). Mr. Dahl wrote that nearly forty years ago when there still some durable fiber in America’s spiritual potential. Perhaps we can fancy him a little-known prophet as we clearly discern that what he saw in seed-form in ’72 is now a sick orchard of dying trees in our country today.
Those are some happy words to begin your day, huh?
I’m cultivating a message for this coming Sunday morning on what it means to serve God. I like to clarify that, in essence, God needs no service from us. God is not wringing His hands in hope that some man or woman will come to His aid by serving Him in an area wherein He is lacking. God has zero needs this morning and has never looked to another to supplement His ability. Having split that hair, however, I do recognize that our lives are to be lived out in joyful, grace-empowered service unto Him. Scripture is plentiful in the establishing of this truth. So what then does it really mean to serve God? I could go in dozens of different directions with my answer to this question but let me begin the in the most profitable place: your heart.
To serve God is to live with the awareness that everything you are, everything you do, and everything you have is to be purposefully committed unto the Lord for His own glory. My physical abilities are entrusted to me in order that they may be employed for the purposes of God. My personality, intellect, volition and emotions are to be consecrated to God with the understanding that He will use them to fulfill His purposes while I am on earth. My money and the ability to earn it are endowments of trust from God; my finances belong to Him and I have no right to autonomy over them. The time entrusted to me as a follower of Christ is to be precisely managed to the end that the proper amount is specifically delegated for God’s missional purpose for my generation. Much more could be said but the vast majority of people who claim Christ as King have not even remotely approached even these basic tenets of serving God. Most professing Christians are still hoping to negotiate these clear scriptural principles so that a compromise can be reached which favors their own desire to lead their lives as they please.
Do I sound judgmental? Well, how many Christians do you personally know who have a consistent testimony of joyfully living out what I described above?
That’s what I thought.
Worshiping your work is easier than worshiping God. When you worship your work there are much quicker results and, more often than not, a rapid reward. You remain in control when you worship your work. Whether you are a ditch digger or an Episcopalian priest, there is a greater degree of immediate reward when you pour yourself into your vocation instead of pouring yourself out for Christ. Serving God as I’ve described above is fought by the world, your flesh and the devil. Those who worship their work will experience pride in their flesh for a job well done; they will experience the applause of those around them as they conquer one career milestone after another; the devil himself will see to it that they make continual progress in their ladder climbing as long as they remain numb to the call to consecrate their lives fully to Christ. Then there is the issue of working at our play…our leisure and fun and pleasure. I enjoy relaxing. Vacations bring pleasure to me. An hour nap on the couch or a visit to watch the Braves play the Phillies are good experiences in life…unless you begin to live for pleasures like these. American Christian, hear me! The end-all of life is not for you to have fun! Leisure is not the pinnacle of human existence. Escapism is not the reward for a life well-lived. These leisurely snapshot moments in life can be extremely beneficial as an interlude during years of purposed living and Kingdom-mindedness, but they certainly cannot become or remain the goal for the Christian. Leisure and fun are to be the exceptions to the rule of sacrificial living. Can we really believe that God has left us here for the primary purpose of working for ourselves in order to provide greater arenas and opportunities for…fun? I would only ask those who believe this to be true to help me in my woeful ignorance; please let us know where God has communicated this truth so that I may joyously take full advantage of it. I rather suspect that we adopt this mindset because we are more akin to our culture than to our King.
My final point of this morning’s sanctified rant is focused upon our play at worship. Where should I begin? Many grudgingly pencil in 90 minutes for God on Sunday mornings and feel like they’ve eclipsed the Apostle Paul in their devotion to Christ. The music has to suit them, the temperature in the sanctuary must be just-right, the pastor better keep it short and sweet and there had better not be anything that makes me or the friend I brought with me feel awkward or uncomfortable. Tell me that God is good and, if you can’t tell me that…tell me that I am good. Don’t let the pews be hard or the prayers be long; make it exciting for my teenager so they won’t argue next Sunday when I tell them that it is our duty to attend. Please remember when you pass those offering plates that my old pastor once said that God doesn’t need my money – I can’t remember anything else he said but, for some reason, that statement has really stuck with me over the years. I’ll be back next Sunday, count on me…as long as Goldilocks Community Church has my spiritual porridge served up just right. That’s right, I’ll be present and accounted for at worship time – as long as you keep it to my liking.
Now that I wrote that I feel like vomiting.
We worship our work. We work at our play. We play at our worship. That’s the average American in 2011.
What about you?
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