Saturday, August 31, 2013

Are You a Boiling Frog?

There is a common saying that goes like this:  “If you do something that you truly love, then you’ll never work a single day in your life.”  Surely, this conventional wisdom is an exaggeration.  While it is true that many of us are employed in occupations that we love and there are magical days in which we genuinely love what we do and cannot imagine doing anything else.  Yet, at the same time, there are aspects of every occupation—or, periods of time—in which we genuinely hate or dread or despise what we have to do.  There is no magic to what we do.

            Sometimes it’s not what we do at work, but rather the context in which we work that turns our days of toil into tortured drudgery.  During my time as pastor at Meriden United Methodist Church, various members have shared some of their struggles on the job, which take the magic out of labor:

Ø  Having to do more and more because of budget cuts and downsizing.

Ø  Difficult conflicts with bosses or co-workers

Ø  Company or institutional politics

Ø  Being asked to do things that are unethical—or, at least, marginally ethical.

Ø  Working in an atmosphere that discourages or is hostile to Christian faith

There can be other challenges as well.  For instance, sometimes we work with a constant fear that we are about to be fired because we have a boss who seems to personally dislike us.  Or, we fear that our employer is on the brink of a downsizing that will result in the elimination of our job.  Some persons have shared with me that they only stay in their current position because they, or a family member, desperately need the health insurance.

Sometimes, the greatest challenge of work is actually one of time management:  How do we balance the demands of our job with the needs of our family; our church; our community; our friends; and other interests that we have?

Despite all of the problems and challenges that we face at work, most of us get more out of our work than just a paycheck.  For many of us, our work provides opportunities to contribute to the common good of society.  Through our jobs, many of us can help others who have needs or problems.  Our jobs can be a means of ministry and service to our community, our society, and the world.  We gain satisfaction and affirmation from knowing that we did a job well.  And, for many of us, our self-identity is significantly related to our work.  Who we are, at least partially, is defined by what we do.  So, work can be good.

Historically, the Christian faith has seen our work as a calling from God; as a means for serving God and other persons through the use of special talents and gifts that God has specifically given to each one of us.  On Labor Day Sunday this week, I will focus on this Christian understanding of work as a “calling” from God.  I will talk about how many of our jobs are a response to God’s call, in which we use our gifts and talents to serve others. 
But, I will also explore some of the harder aspects of this claim.  For instance, what should we do when our work is not a “calling” from God, but simply a job to provide income and/or health insurance for our families?  What if we started off seeing our career, or a particular position, as a “calling,” but gradually over time, the various challenges and problems at work make us uncertain that we really are fulfilling a “calling?”  I call this the "boiling frog" syndrome.  What should we do when we have become a boiling frog at work.  Finally, how do we balance the demands of work with the other demands of our lives?

I invite you to come on Sunday, as we explore the world of work and Christian faith.   

If you live in the Meriden-area and do not have a regular church home, please consider attending Meriden United Methodist Church.  Meriden UMC is located at the corner of Dawson and Main.  Our worship service starts on Sundays at 10 am.  Everyone is welcome and accepted because God loves us all.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Creative Christian

            All of us would like to be considered creative persons.  In my message this week, I will explore the concepts of creativity and vision from a Christian perspective. 

My scriptural foundation is Joel 2: 28-32.  This is a very interesting text, especially because the Apostle Peter uses it as his scriptural text, when he preaches the first Christian sermon at Pentecost.  Peter employs this text to demonstrate that the apostles and other followers of Christ are not drunk, but rather filled with the Holy Spirit.  See Acts 2: 14-41.

Based upon the prophet Joel and the Apostle Peter, I will suggest that creativity and vision are special gifts that God gives us through the Holy Spirit.  In our individual lives, in our everyday joys and struggles, God gives Christ’s disciples these twin gifts of creativity and vision.  I also believe that God gives these gifts to congregations.  And, God expects us to use these gifts for our individual flourishing and for faithful discipleship, both as individuals and as the community of faith.

Joel 2: 28 says, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

But, what does it mean to prophesy or dream as God intends us to do?  How do we develop and utilize these twin gifts of creativity and vision?

In my message this weekend, we will look at some secular ideas about what creativity and vision are—and, how we can develop them.  For instance, the National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones has spent a great deal of time exploring creativity.  We will look at some of his ideas.  But, we will also explore creativity and vision from the perspective of Christian faith.  How does God call us to be creative and visionary? 

Finally, in my message I will explore different things we sometimes do to undermine and destroy our creativity and vision—both as individuals and as communities of faith.  For example, one way churches sometimes undermine creativity and vision in their midst is with the seven deadly words:  “We’ve never done it that way before.”

I invite you to come on Sunday and learn more about how you can be a more creative and visionary person—and how we can be a creative and visionary community of faith.

If you live in the Meriden-area and do not have a regular church home, please consider attending Meriden United Methodist Church.  Meriden UMC is located at the corner of Dawson and Main.  Our worship service starts on Sundays at 10 am.  Everyone is welcome and accepted because God loves us all.