Sermon: “God at Work”
Lectionary Series C; 23rd Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, November 17, 2019 – Proper 28
Epistle Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-13
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat (2nd Thessalonians 3:6-10).
How many of us were raised in a household that had a built in expectation that everyone will work? How many of us had daily chores to do around the house? How many of us heard the line from a parent: “Many hands make light work?”
To work is a gift of God. I am not speaking only of working in a job. I am speaking of working and serving in the vocations that God has placed us in. Be that as a worker, a husband, wife, father, mother, child, neighbor; no matter what, to work is a gift of God.
Before I continue, let me be clear about one thing: Though work is a gift, it should be noted that there are those who are unable to work, be it because of a disability or an injury. Some may be unemployed or underemployed who desire to work, but the work is simply not available to them at this time. This is not what this text for today is getting at.
What our text gets at today are those that could work, but instead choose not to. St. Paul is calling out people who are (as one commentary that I read called them), loafers. And anyone who is a loafer is lazy. And laziness is a sin.
In the portion of the catechism on Confession, when it asks which sins we should confess, it says: “Consider you place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?
Let me back up. Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? For whatever reason, there were a group of people in Thessalonica who had resolved to walk around in idleness. Though they had been told that Christ would be coming, they were neglecting their daily duties as they waited for His arrival. Perhaps they thought that since Christ had done all the work, now they could just sit around and do nothing until He returned.
This begs the questions, are we in any way, neglecting our daily duties? Are we neglecting our daily duties as workers, as neighbors, as members of a congregation, as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children? Are we being lazy?
Kids, are you doing the chores and the homework you are given, or are you spending more time playing video games and watching television? Parents, are you giving undivided attention to your kids when they are in need, or are you scrolling through your phone instead? Members of Zion, are you helping out with the work of the congregation as we seek to grow the kingdom of God, or are you sitting back hoping someone else will step up? Workers, are you putting one hundred percent of your effort into the project your boss gave you, or are you just giving it a portion of your effort and sometimes even slacking off on company time? Neighbors, are you getting to know the people who live around you, or are you so concerned with your own affairs that you won’t even take time to consider care about the people that live next to you?
Laziness cuts us all to the heart when we really examine ourselves in light of our vocations. And I know, there are those of us that would contend that we aren’t lazy. We work really hard. But that’s where the flip-side of this topic of work comes in. How many of us work so hard that we have our vocations upside down?
How many of us put in so many hours at the workplace, that we neglect the calling we have at home. Or we work so much that we only give our family the leftovers of our time and energy. Or how many of us work so much that we claim we have no time to visit or even call extended family members? Or how many of us work so much that we have no time to give to our congregation and the furthering of God’s kingdom? I think the best line I heard about this was from my home pastor in one of his sermons. He said, “Nobody ever sat on their deathbed and said, I wish I would have worked one more hour. (Pause) Work is most certainly a gift, but if we aren’t careful, we can make work into a god, and our priorities can easily get out of whack.
What also can get out of whack is when our being so-called busy can lead to us being busybodies. St. Paul says: For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living (2nd Thessalonians 3:11-12).
Apparently, in Thessalonica, people had enough time on their hands to meddle in the affairs of others with gossiping. Now gossiping and bad-mouthing of others never happens in our community, now does it? Of course it does. Even if we are busy with work, we can’t help but think we have the right to talk poorly of others to make us feel better about ourselves. Doing so only brings a community down, and it severs relationships. So this begs the question, how are you meddling in the affairs of others? How are you gossiping about others? How are you speaking poorly of others? How have you damaged someone else’s reputation by what you have said or done? And to whom do you need to go to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and seek reconciliation?
When it comes to the topic of work, be it laziness, or working like a work-a-holic, or behaving as a busybody who meddles in the affairs of others, we are all called to repent. We are all called to admit that we are wrong, and to take sin seriously. Sin separates, it severs, it kills. And to continue in it, is to choose death over life. So as Christians, let us repent, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, let us change our sinful ways. (Pause)
Now with all this talk of work, let us not neglect what is most essential. Rest. Scripture says: As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good (2nd Thessalonians 3:13). We need rest from all of the weariness. Our bodies need it. Our souls need it. We need rest. Even God, after creating the world in six days, rested on the seventh day. He rested on that day and He made it holy.
When we fill our schedules so full that we neglect rest, we do no one any good. If anything, we only set ourselves up to somehow think that we are saved by our works. We start to see ourselves only in light of the work we do, instead of resting in the work that was done for us by Christ on the cross. (Pause)
This is precisely why Jesus, in no way neglected the duties given to Him by His Father. He was not lazy at all. He was the hardest of workers as He willingly came to this earth, into a world of sin and death. But along the way to the cross, He took time to rest. He regularly stopped to rest as He prayed to His Father in heaven. Then, when it came time for the job to be done, He did it until it was finished. Until our sins were forgiven; our sins of laziness, and overworking and neglecting our other vocations, and being busybodies that meddle in the lives of others.
‘Resting’ securely in Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, we are now blessed with God at work in our lives as we await the return of Christ. First we rest in His presence here in His house as we are strengthened by His Word and Sacrament, and then He sends us out into our vocations to serve Him and others. And in that work, He presents before us countless opportunities to share His love with others. With a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, a family member, a congregational member, or a visitor to our church.
And speaking of our congregation, how could we all lend a hand, as many hands do make light work? How could we all work together to Share Hope and Teach Christ here in this congregation and in our community? (Pause)
May we see here at Zion, and in all of our vocations, all that God has put in place before us to do to serve Him and others. And may we rejoice in the fact that God is at work in us and through us…so that others may know and believe what we have been given to believe…that Jesus Christ is Lord…and it won’t be long and He will return to take us to be with Him for all eternity.
Let us pray. Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love; Take my feet and let them be, swift and beautiful for Thee. Take my voice and let me sing, always, only for my King; take my lips and let them be, filled with messages from Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.