Communicating God’s Love in the Workplace

by Pam Tinsley

I walked into the gym the other day and struck up a conversation with a friend I hadn’t chatted with in quite a while. Eventually, our conversation led to her work as a labor and delivery nurse and her consideration of retirement. She shared with me that, as much as she loves nursing, after 40 years the physical demands of the profession are telling her it’s time to slow down.

My friend’s voice revealed how conflicted she was about this major transition in her life. Nursing was what God put her on earth to do, she told me.  Even as a small child she and her family recognized her vocation because of the care she showed toward others.

She went on to describe nursing as her spiritual calling. She expressed it as life-giving – not only because of the new lives she helps moms deliver, but because of the people she comes in contact with, from colleagues to patients and their families. The relationships she forges with others, even for a short time in the hospital, are life-giving and life-changing.

“Ah,” I responded, “you’re living out your baptism. Nursing is your baptismal ministry.” No further explanation was needed. Instead, she told me about helping a woman in labor who spoke no English. With the aid of an interpreter, she communicated maintaining eye contact with the woman throughout the conversation – thus respecting her dignity. She then posed a last question through the interpreter: Do you have any questions for me? To which the woman responded, again through the interpreter, “I just wanted to tell you that I see God’s love in your eyes.”

My friend found the common language of God’s love to communicate with her patient. Sharing Christ’s love with another in need, even if only through her eyes, is one of the many ways she lives into her baptism through her spiritual calling as a labor and delivery nurse.

Have you had an experience in your daily life – at work, in the community, in the local supermarket – where your actions were shaped by your belief in a loving God and a commitment to your baptismal promises? How might another person’s life have been touched by that experience? How was your life changed?

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Markings for the Baptismal Journey

by Edward L. Lee, Jr.

Here are several pertinent quotations for the journey of baptismal ministry in daily life.

“I believe that hope is awakened and revived, nourished by millions of solitary individuals whose deeds and works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. Each and every person, on the foundations of their own sufferings and joys, builds for all.” Albert Camus

To the question, What Does Love Mean?, come these responses by children:

“When someone loves you the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy, age 4

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.” Nikka, age 6

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica, age 8

“The role I see for Christianity is not that we’re to make all the world Christians. We are to serve the whole world, to bring it into brotherhood and sisterhood. Action on behalf of social transformation is such an essential part of being a disciple. It’s so essential that if it’s not there, we run the risk of religion declining into religiosity. What should be dynamite can become opium.” Fr. Niall O’Brien

“True liberation is freeing people from the bonds that have prevented them from giving their gifts to others.” Henri Nouwen

And finally:

“The Christian’s task is to so enjoy the Word in the world as to attest the veracity of the Word of God for all people in any and every event.” William Stringfellow

I’m Goin’ Fishing

by Fletcher Lowe

Peter-FishingIn John’s Gospel (21:1-14) there is a rather mundane, but, when we dig a little deeper, a quite profound Christian truth. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, some of the disciples are at the Sea of Galilee, and one of them, Peter, says, “I’m goin’ fishing.” As I said, it’s not very erudite, but it is profound: “I’m goin’ fishing.” He didn’t mean it in the same way that folks around a lake might suggest. They’re going fishing as a sport, as recreation, as a leisure activity. But for Peter, as you remember, it was his job, his work, his business; he was a fisherman by trade. So off he goes — to work. After a frustrating night of catching nothing, Jesus joins him and things change.

This is one of the times that Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection. Remember two others? One was with those two discouraged disciples traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus meets them along the way, and things change. The third was in a room where several of the disciples had been meeting, anxious and fearful about their future. Again, Jesus comes into their midst with the words, “Peace be with you.” And things changed.

It’s just like Jesus to be with people on their job, while they’re traveling, or when they’re meeting — in short, in the midst of the activities of their daily lives. That may seem all too obvious to you, but we don’t always make that connection between Christ and our daily lives. More often than not, there’s a gap, a gulf. So, for you, reader, what is the connection between Sunday and Monday, between your faith and your daily life?

We have those post resurrection appearances: Peter at work, two disciples traveling, several disciples meeting; examples for us of where Christ meets us in whatever occupies our daily life and work. And that is where each of us is called — to discover in our daily lives our particular calling and ministry. For that is where Sunday connects with Monday and where liturgy comes to life.

What is a successful congregation?

by Peyton G. Craighill

Thoughtful church leaders know that something is wrong with our congregations. The problem lies with the our definition of a successful congregation. The widespread assumption is that two features mark success in a congregation:

  1. A full church on Sunday morning.
  2. Offering plates with sufficient funds to support an effective church program.

According to our secular standards, this definition implies a good business plan for a congregation.

But this definition does not indicate why God established and continues to give life and power to our congregations. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to proclaim Good News. Christ established his servant community, the church, to help him with his mission of love and justice in “all the world.” Through our baptism, we become grafted into Christ’s Body, the church. We accept his Great Commission to share in his mission with him, Monday through Sunday, in everything we do in our everyday lives.

Based on this paradigm shift,  our congregations are changed from “spiritual filling stations” on Sunday morning to “base camps” for mission, Monday through Sunday. How do we get our members to accept this new meaning of church life?

The first step is that you and I must live out our baptismal covenant – in particular, the five promises that we make at the end of the covenant – in every decision we make and every action we take in all of our daily life activities. We have to let Christ transform us from “me-centered” to “Christ-through-me-centered” lives. That change in vision is essential to influencing our congregations to accept a missional approach  instead of an attractional approach to defining success in our congregations.

Prayers for renewal

by Peyton G. Craighill

These prayers began life as collects in the Book of Common Prayer. With extensive editing, the author has re-shaped them as prayers for the renewal of the mission of the church through the movement for mission in daily life.

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with us as we seek to renew the mission of your church as Christ’s mission working through us in all that we do. Teach us to seek first your wisdom and glory; Guide us to perceive what is your will, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, You prepared your disciples for the coming of the Spirit through the mission of your Son Jesus Christ: Make the hearts and minds of us, your servants, ready through your Holy Spirit to receive Christ’s mission, that we may be filled with the power of the Spirit’s guidance in everything we do in our daily lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

How’s your hangover?

by Fletcher Lowe

With Christmas and the Epiphany just behind us, I have a question: What effect did the shepherds’ experience with the Christ child have on their shepherding and their home life? Ditto the wise men. What effect did their paying homage to the Christ child have on them when they returned home to their jobs and families?

We have no Biblical answers, but is that not the key question of the Christian’s life – a yours and mine: What difference does our worship make in our daily lives? What kind of Monday morning hangover do we have from our Sunday morning experience?

If the congregation is like a base camp — there to nurture and support and equip us for our hikes — then our time there should prepare us for our daily hikes in our work and home and communities. After all, the base camp exists for the hikers, the hikers don’t exist for the base camp.

As Philipp Melanchthon, a 16th century reformer friend of Martin Luther, once said, “It would be a shame to be known by where we gather and not where we scatter.”

So how is your Monday morning hangover?