Worship Script (2 of 5)

 

Work

 

OPENING WORDS

Quote by Jaggi Vasudev

 

For wealth to translate into well-being, you need a spiritual element within you. Without that, your success will work against you. 

 

HYMN #114 Forward Through the Ages

 

FIRST READING

From The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte 

The rich flow of creativity, innovation, and almost musical complexity we are looking for in a fulfilled work life cannot be reached through trying or working harder. The medium for the soul, it seems, must be the message. The river down which we raft is made up of the same substance as the great sea of our destination. It is an ever-moving, firsthand creative engagement with life and with others that completes itself simply by being itself. This kind of approach must be seen as the "great art" of working in order to live, of remembering what is most important in the order of priorities and what place we occupy in a much greater story than the one our job description defines. Other "great arts," such as poetry, can remind and embolden us to this end. Whatever we choose to do, the stakes are very high. With a little more care, a little more courage, and, above all, a little more soul, our lives can be so easily discovered and celebrated in work, not squandered and lost in its shadow.

 

SECOND READING

From Spirituality at Work: 10 Ways to Balance Your Life on the Job by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce 

Why would we want to look for God in our work? The simplest reason is that most of us spend so much of our time working that it would be a shame if we couldn’t find God there. A more complex reason is that there is a creative energy in work that is somehow tied to God’s creative energy. If we can understand and enter into that connection, perhaps we can use it to transform the workplace into something quite remarkable.... This kind of spirituality has little to do with piety and much more to do with our becoming aware of the intrinsically spiritual nature of the work we are doing and then acting on that awareness. Authentic spirituality is as much about making hard choices in our daily lives, about working with others to make the world a better place, and about loving our neighbor and even our enemy as it is about worship and prayer.

 

HYMN #142 “Let There Be Light”

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES

From Work as a Spiritual Practice: A Practical Buddhist Approach to Inner Growth and Satisfaction on the Job by Lewis Richmond

Regardless of your situation, there are certain characteristics of work that are universal. Unless you work from home, you travel to work. When you get there, you perform some task. You interact with other people in environment where power is unequally shared. You compete with others for rewards. You can quit your job. You can lose your job.  

Let’s contrast this description of life on the job with the life of the spirit. In our spiritual life, we are not in competition with anyone else for spiritual rewards. How well or badly we do is beside the point. We honor and appreciate all people (including ourselves!) for their intrinsic humanity. We care for others, we share and are generous, we forgive. The world of the spirit is not a matter of bonuses, promotions, or awards. Advancement is not the point. We are already whole and complete just as we are. 

So it would seem that spiritual life is close to the opposite of work life!… [M]aybe over time the nature of work will undergo some grand transformation. But let’s not wait for that great moment. Today there is something we can do.  

Trust your own instincts, your intuition, your judgment. The knowledge you need to change your work life for the better is already within you. Set aside, for now, the notion that on the job you work for somebody else. In your spiritual life, you are self-employed. Nobody needs to know about this inner job. I can be your secret. Whatever effort you make will be outside the realm of success or failure. 

The world is full of spiritual opportunity. The trick is to be alert enough to notice it. That is the real work, and the joy of work, and if we catch on to that trick, it doesn’t matter in the short run what our day job is. In the end, if we are kind to ourselves, our efforts will be fruitful. 

MEDITATION

From “Labor of Love: Work as a Spiritual Practice” by Debra Moffitt

Work transforms in meaning when it becomes a spiritual practice. While work is often thought of as an obligation to earn money, when it’s combined with the aim of service to others and offered to the Divine it is rendered sacred. Work in this way gives a sense of purpose to the one who performs it. And this kind of work does not build ego, but rather promotes humility, connection and elevation.  

(Pause) Blessed be.

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is. We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and that they speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

“A Job of Work to Do”

Days Rob Eller‐Isaacs 

There are stories so old and so strong that the need to be told over and over again. That’s why every faith tradition repeats an old, strong story at each turning point over the course of the year. We gather today as the Days of Awe draw to a close. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins this evening at sundown. For the last ten days all around the world Jewish communities have been celebrating the New Year. The

Days of Awe begin with Rosh Hashanah the traditional text for which is the Binding of Isaac. It tells of Abraham and Isaac, of Sarah’s silence and of God’s terrible demand. Among the many questions that it raises, is one which you and I should never have to ask. Is it possible to love God more than life itself? We might imagine we it’s a story from another time, from a time when blood sacrifice was still commonplace. But we would be deluding ourselves. Such stories are timeless and if you doubt blood sacrifice is still an all too human practice, then think about the fact that in the Congo since 1998 over 5.4 million people have died by violence or by easily preventable disease and that each and every one of them was somebody’s child.

That’s what the old strong stories do, they make us think. They change our minds. They invite us to try on the masks of God, to embrace and to beware news ways of being. Informed by Abraham and Isaac then we are commanded in these Days of Awe to ask ourselves how we intend to change in order to lead more just and loving lives. What is broken within and among us that needs to be mended? What is broken beyond us that calls us up out of ourselves? Though any day can be a day to make amends, Jews set aside the Days of Awe particularly for that purpose. We all have work to do. Best get to it we are supposed to be done by tomorrow.

The old strong story tied to Yom Kippur is a little gem buried in the back of the Bible called The Book of Jonah. In some ways Jonah is the antithesis of Abraham. While Abraham stands for abject obedience Jonah’s reluctance is legendary.  While Abraham leaves home and hearth behind because he hears God’s call, Jonah hears that self‐same voice and tries to run and hide. There is something of each of them in all of us. 

Each of us has touched the strength of faith above all fear and each of us has tried to run away. Each of us has kept faith with those we love even when we didn’t like them very much and each of us has severed the ties that bind believing love couldn’t be salvaged.

The Book of Jonah dates from the 4th century before the common‐era. Like Micah, Jeremiah and the other older prophets, Jonah hears the voice of God. “Go to the great city of Nineveh, go now and denounce it, for its wickedness stares me in the face.” Unlike his fellow prophets though, when Jonah heard the voice of God he turned away. He didn’t want to do the job. In fact he ran away. He boarded a ship bound for Tarshish as far from Nineveh as it was possible to go. On Jonah’s map Ninevah was at one end of the world and Tarshish at the other. But the Lord let loose a hurricane and you know what happened then. There are times when we don’t get to turn down the job.         When he found himself in Ninevah Jonah realized he had no choice. So he did what he told to do. He did the job. Despite his reticence somehow he summoned the authority needed to convince the King of the Ninevites that God was serious about punishing them for their wicked ways. Once convinced the scriptures says “he rose from his throne, stripped off his robes of state, put on sackcloth and sat down in the ashes. “ Now it was God who was convinced. The text continues: “God saw what they did, and how they abandoned their wicked ways, and God repented and did not bring upon them the disaster God had threatened.”

Jonah was furious. Here he had finally accepted God’s call to do a job he didn’t even want to do and now he’s getting no support from his boss. We’ve all been there. And like Jonah, we’ve all lost track of what really matters most. The Orthodox Jewish poet Yehuda Amichai, fought with the British in World War Two, with the Palmach in the Israeli War of Independence and with the Israeli Army from 1956‐1973. He was well acquainted with doing work he didn’t want to do. He knew the cruelties of war. He knew the delirium and danger of self‐ righteousness.

From the place where we are right 

flowers will never grow 

in the spring. 

 

The place where we are right 

is hard and trampled 

like a yard. 

 

But doubts and loves 

dig up the world 

like a mole, a plow. 

 

And a whisper will be heard in the place

where the ruined house once stood.

 

 

Sometimes those doubts and loves that loosen the soil inspire us to leave. Sometimes the work we do becomes so lifeless and so disconnected from what really matters that we risk it all and walk away. Sometimes what lacks life is less the work than it is the state of mind with which approach it. Knowing the difference is important. When the real problem is our state of mind changing jobs will just help us to avoid the inward change required. Sometimes finding true vocation calls more for a change of heart than for a different job.    Jonah did the job he had to do. But the fact that by his intervention the Ninevites and all their flocks were saved brought him no joy, no satisfaction. He wanted to be right. He wanted so badly to be right that in his rage he cut himself off from God’s love.

 

“He was alone,” she says, and does not say,

just as I am, “soloing.” 

 

What a world, a great man half her age

comes to my mother in sleep to give her the gift of song,

which‐ shaking the tears away‐ she passes on to me, for now 

 

I can hear the music of the world

In the silence and that word: soloing.

 

What a world‐ when I arrived the great bowl of mountains

was hidden in a cloud of exhaust,

the sea spread out like a carpet

of oil, the roses I had brought 

from Fresno browned on the seat beside me,

 

and I could have turned back

and lost the music. 

 

I beg of you, do not turn back. There is no place for us to hide. As seasons circle round again, as each new love renews the last, we know, you and I, we know to turn with the turning of the year.

At least for now our work is clear. We are here to embody God’s love. We are here to make things right, to mend what is broken within and among and beyond us, to forgive where we can and to commit ourselves anew to the long hard work of reconciliation. No running away, only today and its grave demand for love. 

Shalom, Amen and once again, shalom. 

 

HYMN #118 “This Little Light of Mine”

 

BENEDICTION
Rev. Samuel A. Trumbore

Go forth in simplicity.

Find and walk the path

that leads to compassion and wisdom,

that leads to happiness, peace and ease.

Welcome the stranger and

open your heart to a world in need of healing.

Be courageous before the forces of hate.

Hold and embody a vision of the common good that

serves the needs of all people.