Lives in the Balance: "It's Just a Job"

[audio]Isaiah 6:1-8 Luke 5:1-11

Think about the language we use to talk about jobs. We call it a “vocation” – literally, a calling. We call it a “profession” – almost like an affirmation of faith. Or we say, rather hyperbolically, it’s “what we do for a living” – what, you mean breathe? In other words, we use near-religious language to talk about something we don’t feel too sacred about.

I think about this language when I think about my own family’s vocational journey. It was 1933 when my grandfather started Marthame Sanders & Co. General Contractors. My dad started working there after high school. After college and the Army, he went to work there full-time. Eventually he became President of the company. He had no choice.

My sister and I would spend our summers working there as well, even into college. But in 1990, the world changed for us dramatically. The company went bankrupt, a casualty of Atlanta’s building bust that year. My grandfather died. My father had a stroke, probably from the stress, and went into a deep depression that he dealt with his whole life. In fact, even though his mother lived another ten years, he never told her that the company had closed. I was away at college at the time. I had already made the shift away from engineering (a 37 on a math mid-term may have had something to do with that). And even though my dad never for a moment assumed that I would follow in his footsteps. It was there that I began my long and circuitous journey toward the ministry.

Being the third generation of Marthame Sanderses, I sense some kinship with Simon Peter and James and John, these citizens of Bethsaida, these sons of sons of sons of fishermen. It’s an intriguing lesson, this story of Jesus approaching the fishermen and calling them to be disciples. There are two things that jump out at me: Jesus, though a child of Nazareth, knows their job better than they do. And Jesus also sees something in what they do that can serve God.

What is it that Jesus would say to you about your job?

We’re continuing our conversations about living our lives in the balance. Is our job in the balance? Do we put the proper amount of time into it? Do we keep our work in perspective? Because of the jolt the economy took this year, those of us who still are fortunate enough to have jobs might be looking over our shoulders, working harder and longer to justify ourselves and our jobs. But the question is: what do we really do for a living, for a breathing?

If Jesus saw you, what would he say? Would he invite you to sell for him? Teach or study for him? Build for him? How would he see your vocation, your profession, as something that you can do for him?

There are three possible approaches. The first is to leave your nets behind and do something completely different. It’s the most terrifying option, because it’s what you know. But what is it that you know on an even deeper level? What is your “vocation”? What is it that you “profess”? What do you do “for a living”? Is it hauling in nets day after day that speaks to the core of your being?

The second possibility is to use your talents for God’s sake. There are many within the community of OPC who do just that. They bring their gifts of hospitality, financial know-how, organizational skills to bear on our community’s life. Some bring those skills directly from their jobs. Others are unable to profess them for money and so it is the church that gets the benefit.

Then there’s the third way of looking at it. How is it that you can serve God at your job? I’m not necessarily talking about offering Bible studies at work, or inviting co-workers to morning prayer. But I’m suggesting that we might be careful about segmenting our work life off in a corner where the rules of the kingdom of God somehow don’t apply. Do you take your values with you to work? Your love of family, friendship, humor? Your desire for justice, mercy, forgiveness?

I invite you, this week, to do one thing. First thing in the morning, pray. Even before you hit the snooze button. And pray this simply prayer: “Help me be faithful to you in all that I do today.” Notice what changes – in you, in the world around you. Give it at least a week, on a daily basis. I’m willing to bet that you’ll hear Christ calling to you from the lakeshore. May we all have the courage to follow.