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Work or Worship?

With a small group of friends in my home last night, we were sharing “shalom stories” to look at our creation.  In other words, moments in life where we felt full of life and that, as much as possible, all was right with the world.  I recycled what has always been at the top of my list of shalom stories – the image of myself on the soccer field, driving the ball down the field past defenders and toward the goal.  I love, as I’ve mentioned before, the image of Braveheart fighting for Scotland or the teacher in the inner city school pushing against the low expectations and resignation of the surrounding culture determined to unleash the beautiful.  But something struck me last night as I reflected on our time after everyone had gone home: I have been living that aspect of my creation in the past year and there is something more I am missing – rest.

At the conclusion of this past weekend, a weekend that began with Martha Jane’s adoption being finalized in a judge’s chambers and her baptism taking place to conclude the weekend, I felt a little down.  We had crossed the finish line of one great story and begun the journey of the next (her new life in a covenant community of family and our church family), but there had been no swelling music in the background or scene where all stood still taking in the grandeur of the moment.  Perhaps it is the way one feels after a deep personal tragedy occurs and while his or her world has been changed forever, the rest of the world seems to go on as if nothing happened.  Rather than tragedy, this mile marker was celebratory, yet still felt more commonplace than my distant imaginings had envisioned.  This disappointment indicated something was awry in both my expectations and motivations, and it has made me reexamine my drive to fight for Scotland. (Braveheart reference there, in case you haven’t seen it.)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Col. 3:15-17

As so happens with corrupt motivations, they creep in quietly through a back window and surprise you.  Rather than in response to all that the person and work of Jesus has done and is doing for me, it would seem my driving motivator has drifted into the desire to conquer brokenness, to right wrongs or to go where no man has gone before me as if the climax of the story is supposed to be me lifted on the shoulders of my cheering teammates in front of a wildly cheering crowd as if I am Rudy.  And bam!  Look at that…I have replaced Jesus as the hero of my story.  My drive to be the hero has crept in and hijacked the role that belongs only one Person.  How could that demand not end in disappointment?

for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Phil. 2:13

Even my good works are His works, done in and through me as if wearing me like a garden glove.  It is His hand holding the shovel, digging the dirt, scattering the seeds, watering the seeds and weeding the assailants to the fruit that He is growing.  He is the creator, redeemer and sustainer of all life.  He is bringing His rule and reign to bear on all of creation and He will bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Now in fairness, He does invite us to share in the celebration of His work being accomplished, to mark evidences of His mighty hand and tender mercies with feasts, stones of remembrance and times of praise, thanksgiving and celebration. I do this far too seldom as my eyes grow dim to His grace at work around me all the time in all things.  But the swell of music in the background is to highlight and celebrate the glory of the Redeemer, to lift Him on my shoulders and raise raucous applause for His heroism, not for me to try to shove Him out of the way and claim it as my own.  And, His extraordinary work is no less valid if celebrated clearly by all in sight than if missed entirely.

I was not created merely to be a workhorse for Jesus nor left on earth to do His work for Him, as if the burden of redemption sits upon my shoulders.  He does not need for me to prove to the world that He is great and does great things.  There is more to my creation than a warrior tearing down the field, fighting the opponent and pushing toward victory.  He has also made me for rest and wonder and sitting with His creation to enjoy it, them and Him.  These are my shalom stories that I need to start to examine and be stirred by as further evidence of His image in me.  He is not only a working God but He is deeply at rest as well.  This is a facet of His image that I do not currently reflect to the world around me and am now stirred to see Him bring to light.  Perhaps the warrior aspect of my creation will reflect Him more accurately when my heart is content to be at rest in His accomplishments so that mine are merely a response to His work rather than my own working attempt to validate Him.  He does not need my validation but rather, compels my worship.

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing for joy, you heavens, for the LORD has done this;  shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains,  you forests and all your trees, for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel. Is. 44:22-23

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