Our worklife is another area that we can think of as something to do with Kingdom of God. (As I blogged here.) So:
It’s about devotion to Christ. Work, like the rest of life, is something in the end that we do in front of an audience of One. That leads to the extra-mile contributions.
It’s now and not yet. Some stuff at work will never be put right until the end of everything. But we can make a difference today.
It’s internal and external. Our heart has to be right, not just our conduct. (The heart always spills over anyway.) It was said of the great reforming MP William Wilberforce that he kept on friendly terms even with his political enemies. The Christian faith calls us to love our neighbours, enemies, brothers, even, therefore, the awkward so-and-sos at work. We can’t just politely hate them. That’s awkward, but ultimately productive.
We come in weakness. Which implies patience, willingness to admit being wrong, persistence, gentleness. Not a doormat, but not a door-slammer either.
They are familiar words, ringing across at funeral services:
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)
The seed is the perfect picture for the now-but-not-yet, complete-but-incomplete, slow-mission Kingdom in which we live.
Some seeds look wizened. Y0u bury them in the soil. They are inconsequential. But a plant has spent a whole summer and all its strength manufacturing them. And they are packed with life: as the old saying has it, you can count the seeds in the apple, but you can’t begin to count the apples in the seed.
Seeds are complete but incomplete, fulfilled and unfulfilled, finished yet hardly started, old in one age, new in the next.
In Christian-world and Christian-speak I think that’s what we aspire to be. Wizened, inconsequential, easily forgotten; and at the same time, seasoned and refined by grace, fulfilled, and ready to carry all the good we’ve known into an unfolding future. We aren’t there yet, and we don’t get there except through death, but even through death we don’t lose anything of importance; we carry it all. Everything sown here–every hope, every partial work, every tear–find a harvest there.
[Jesus] also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’ (Mark 4:26-29)
January, the month of hope: the hope being that the rest of the year isn’t January. But perhaps we can add meaning to our trudging through the cold and snow.
Slow mission starts with where we’re going – that in the fullness of time (lovely phrase) everything will be headed up or summed up or brought together in Christ.
When time has filled its cup to the rim, as it were, Christ will be in and over everything.
We can’t actually make that happen. But in the interim we do what can, where we can, with whatever we have. We try to subject ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus, and try to extend his influence into whatever we touch. So all of life matters. This puts meaning into every day.
I am reading a series of devotional books by F B Meyer (1847 – 1929), one page on each chapter of the Bible.
From an entry on Psalm 62:
‘[Abraham] was left waiting till nature was spent… till all that knew him pitied him for clinging to an impossible dream. But as this great silence fell on him, the evidence of utter helplessness and despair, there arose within his soul an ever-accumulating faith in the power of God…
‘Slow mission’ is about huge ambition–all things united under Christ–and tiny steps.
I contrast it with much talk and planning about ‘goals’ and ‘strategies’ which happens in the parts of church I inhabit, and which have an appearance of spirituality, but make me sometimes feel like I am in the Christian meat-processing industry.
Here’s a summary of slow mission values, as currently figured out by me:
Devoted. Centred on Christ as Saviour and Lord. Do we say to Christ, ‘Everything I do, I do it for you.’ Do we hear Christ saying the same thing back to us?
Belonging. We sign up, take part, dive in, identify, work with others, live with the compromises. Not for us a proud independence.
Respecting vocation. Where do ‘your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger’ meet?1. Vocation is where God’s strokes of genius happen. That’s where we should focus our energies.
To do with goodness. Goodness in the world is like a tolling bell that can’t be silenced and that itself silences all arguments.
Observing seasons. ‘There’s a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.’2.The world will be OK even if we check out for a while. (Note: our families, however, won’t be.)
Into everything. We are multi-ethnic and interdependent. We like the handcrafted. We are interested in all humanity and in all that humanity is interested in. Wherever there’s truth, beauty, creativity, compassion, integrity, service, we want to be there too, investing and inventing. We don’t take to being shut out. Faith and everything mix.
Quite keen on common sense. We like to follow the evidence and stick to the facts. We like to critique opinions and prejudices. We don’t, however, argue with maths. Against our human nature, we try to listen to those we disagree with us. We’re not afraid of truth regardless of who brings it. We want to be learners rather than debaters.
Happy to write an unfinished symphony. Nothing gets completed this side of death and eternity. What we do gets undone. That’s OK. Completeness is coming in God’s sweet time. ‘Now we only see a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.’3.
Comfortable with the broken and the provisional. Happy are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for right, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the laughed-at. This also implies a discomfort with the pat, the glib, the primped, the simplistic, the triumphalistic and the schlocky.
Refusing to be miserable. The Universe continues because of God’s zest for life, despite everything, and his insouciance that it will all probably work out somehow. In sorrows, wounds and in the inexplicable, we join God in his childlike faith.