MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how we are to respond to being called a “brood of vipers.”  You may ask, “What exactly is John the Baptizer calling us to do and what does it have to do with my [dead end] job?” Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Please read Luke 3:7-18. #GreatPreaching

For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/16/2012The 3rd Sunday of Advent.

Please pause this audio and read Luke 3:7-18.
When I was Methodist minister there was a woman named Patsy White who was an incredible seamstress.  She would deny every word that I just told you, but she was incredible.  For the transition from the previous pastor to my appointment by the bishop, Patsy made a stole out of some of the finest silk brocade fabric.  It was a work of exquisite art.  I could not wait to wear it in worship.
The reason that I could not wait to wear it was because of the craftsmanship.  It was the finest craftsmanship that I have ever seen in a stole.  It was made out of good quality materials.  It was sturdy and regal.  On the bottom of the stole she embroidered the symbol of the Holy Trinity in shimmering gold thread.  The embroidery was magnificent and elegant.  The satin interior was soft and comfortable.  The way that it was made told me a lot about Patsy White.
 
You see, the craftsmanship tells me that she took a lot of time to make that stole.  She didn’t just go to a shop and pick up an old rag of a cloth, but she took the time to pick out fine materials.  That tells me that she cares about the offering she is making to God through her workmanship.  When I found out that Patsy made that stole, because of its quality, I knew that anything else that I would ask her to do she would do with integrity.  You don’t see much craftsmanship like that anymore.  (She later told me that as she made it she lifted a prayer with every stitch.)
Did you know that the way the stole was made is how God meant for us to work?  When we were created, God meant for us to “till the earth and keep it” (Gen. 2.15).  He tells us in the Ten Commandments, “six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Exodus 20.9).  In Proverbs 6.6 it says, “Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways and be wise!”  Our work itself is to be an offering to the Lord.
 
The story of Cain and Abel tells us that the work of our hands offered to God is no small matter.  Cain offered fruit of the ground and Abel offered his flock.  But the Lord rejected Cain’s offering saying, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”  Sin burned in Cain’s heart because he did not give an acceptable offering from his work, and he killed Abel.
Isn’t that the way sin can ruin work.  You know, I look at how we produce, produce, produce.  The way I see it, we often produce, produce, produce–a lot of junk.  One day, my daughter told me she no longer wanted Barbie Dolls.  She told me that she didn’t want them because the heads fall off too easily.  Who wants a doll whose head falls off?  What god would want us to go through our days just doing enough to earn a paycheck?
This is the message of John the Baptizer today.  He is out preaching a strange sort of Good News that sounds a lot like hell fire and brimstone.  Struck with fear, these people come to him and say, “What are we to do?”  Now does he tell them to run off and join a monastery?  No. (Although St. Procopius and Sacred Heart Monastery are great ways to fulfill your calling.)  Does he tell them to leave their occupations and become priests (although that would be good, too.)?  No.  He tells them that to prepare for the Kingdom we need to live out our present lives wherever we are, but to live them out differently.  In whatever we are doing, be it tax collecting, or soldiering, we need to do it honestly and ethically as we would offer that work to the Lord, just like Patsy White’s stole.
Do you remember that John is telling people how to get ready for the coming of the Messiah?  He tells them, to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, live out your work according to the commandments.  That is how this Advent, as we prepare for the second coming of Jesus, we can prepare for the salvation of God: do all that we can in work as an offering to the Lord.
Now, some may say, “but my job is unbearable.”  Well, maybe it is because you see no purpose in what you are doing.  But if that is the case, then you may need to find other work.  But in the mean time, whatever you are doing in that awful job, offering it to the Lord will give it meaning and purpose.
     If you teach, teach like you are teaching the precious creation of God in your care.  If you are in the medical field, practice medicine like you are the hand of God healing the sick.  If you are a carpenter, plumber, heating and cooling technician, offer your work to the Lord like you are working in his holy temple.  If you are delivering packages, do so like you are delivering packages from heaven.  If you are homemaking, make a home for the Lord.  If you are parenting, parent for the Lord.  If you are making steel, working in government, or working in fast food, do it as if what you are doing is a way to fulfill the purpose of God.  You are the messengers of the Lord in whatever you do.  What you do sends a message.  So why not send God’s message with what you do?
It will say a lot about who we are.  We can be craftsmen once again and not just workers if we give it to the Lord.  That change in our attitude and perspective will speak volumes to others around us who will want to know how it is that we can keep up the quality of work we are doing.  That is a door for us to walk through and say, “It is because I am not working for a paycheck, I am working for the Lord our God.”
Be sure to not pass up this opportunity.  When people question why it is that you want to put in the effort, be prepared to tell them that you are just offering your work to God.
Every morning at 7:00 a.m., Dana Hansen drove her Chevrolet Blazer into the parking lot where she worked.  Every day she carried a bag filled with things that will help her do her job that day.  You could tell by the shape of the bag that every night when she got home she prepared for a new day at her job.  I used to see her pull into her job every so often, get out and bounce into her work place in anticipation of the day.  She was a teacher at Nobel Elementary School in Gary, IN when it was still open.  Every day, when I drove my children to the bus stop, she arrived a full hour before her classes started.
It would’ve been easy to give up teaching in the Gary schools, and I believe that there are plenty of teachers who have given up and left.  But mixed in with these people are teachers who work very hard to teach and challenge.  They face negativity from parents, administrators, and children.  They also face negativity from other teachers who have given up.
     Even in the church, there can be more concern about getting along and doing things just so than there is about salvation.  But as we can see from the calling of John the Baptizer to the multitude, ‘good enough just isn’t good.’  Even work is a gift, and it ought to be a gift, to the Lord.  
So, for those people who are already doing their best and being demanding of themselves in their work as an offering to the Lord I say, keep it up.  This is exactly what God wants from you.  To those who are just collecting a paycheck I say, you can offer your work to the Lord.  What you are doing is not a dead end if you do it for the Lord. Find hope in the Baptizer this day.  Even in doing what you do not like, if you do it to the best of your ability, it is an acceptable offering which brings pleasure to God.  So, how is it that you can make your work an offering to the Lord and not just a job?  Think of some ways and let me know what changes you have made, if any.  Amen?  Amen.
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