EDITORIAL: A different work

“O, prosper the work of our hands.”
Psalm 90:17 (NRSV)

“One night when my whole heart was open to hearing from God what I was supposed to do with my life, God said, ‘Do anything that pleases you . . . and belong to me.’”
Barbara Brown Taylor
“An Altar in the World”

“What each one of us needs to do is identify what we most dearly love, what interests excite and compel us, what we are passionate about. That is your vocation, what God calls you to, and what God has uniquely equipped you to do. If you can earn your living doing it, you are profoundly blessed.”
John Buchanan
Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago

Millions of people in the U.S. wish today they could find the certainty expressed in the Psalm, by priest and writer Barbara Brown Taylor in “An Altar in the World,” and by pastor John Buchanan in a recent sermon.
Few things teach the value of a job – especially a satisfying one – more than losing a job, wondering where a livelihood, much less prosperity, or much less happiness, will come from today or tomorrow.
The importance of jobs, and especially understanding how a job also can be a calling grounded in matters of the spirit, intensifies when work is absent and it’s tough to understand anything meaningful in the poetry of a Psalm exhorting, “O, prosper the work of thy hands” when there is no work.
Perhaps most people aren’t looking at work in the right way, Buchanan suggested in a sermon at his downtown Chicago church.
“One day a young man was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. His name was Jesus. He was from Nazareth. He saw two men working, fishing. ‘Follow me,’ he said, and they did just that: Simon and Andrew dropped their nets and followed. A little later he encountered two more fishermen, sitting in their boat, working on their nets. ‘Follow me,’ and James and John stepped out of the boat and followed. There was no job description for following Jesus. There was just his invitation and their response …
“The decision to follow him, then and now, may or may not mean a change of jobs. It is to embrace a vocation – to belong to him, to live for him, to be his man or woman for as long as we live.”

Another level
The story of the calling of those first disciples suggests that even though the four men may have been happy in what they were doing, they also recognized another level of work that would lead to higher fulfillment. Andrew, Peter, James and John were people of faith who opened up to an expanded calling to be the person God created them to be.
The kind of face-to-face encounters those four young men had with Jesus along the shore were limited to time and place, but encounters with clarity aren’t extinct. It’s not improbable to believe, as Taylor did, that answers could be forthcoming. She heard the voice in her mind, and that was powerful enough at the end of a long process of discernment.
Like the four fishermen, her life went in other directions for a different reason than she had sought before.
We never should limit how we understand what it is that prospers the work of our hands.

NEMS Daily Journal