Working in the vineyard

This past Sunday I spoke on Jesus’ parable of the vineyard owner who had two frustrating sons. When asked to work in the vineyard, one son told his dad to take a hike. Later, however, he changed his mind and indeed went to the vineyard. The other son quickly agreed to help with the work. Unfortunately, he was all talk and no action – he didn’t lift a finger to help his dad. A number of things can be said about this parable including the importance of our words matching our actions – and God’s grace when they don’t.

The Gospel of John - A Commentary by F. Dale BrunerCommentary writer Frederick Dale Bruner pointed out a couple interesting things in this parable that I didn’t have space for in my message.

First is the obvious observation that the father has a vineyard and work needs to be done in it. Likewise, our God our heavenly Father has a people and we are called to work with one another and for the benefit of one another. When Jesus calls us to life in His name, He is inviting us, among other things, to come to work. The Kingdom of God is growing and expanding around us; it will continue to grow and expand with or without our help, but blessed Vineyard photo found via Googleare those who serve God and one another and are part of God’s Kingdom-building enterprise.

Second is the attention to the urgency to the father’s request: “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” It’s not a panic, but there’s certainly pressure to get going. Likewise, there is urgency in our calling to work in God’s Kingdom. Regardless of our age in life or stage in faith, God has put us right where we are for specific reasons. Each one of us has connections and can help others in ways that maybe no one else can. God calls us to make the most of those opportunities today because tomorrow could be too late.

The Holy Spirit of God breathes life in the people of God, equipping us to work – and to do that work promptly and eagerly. This week I’m working on cooperating with Him.

Religion in the workplace

CBC featured a news story yesterday about a Trinity Western University (TWU) graduate who alleges she was discriminated against by a wilderness tourism company because of her religion. After applying for a position with Amaruk Wilderness Corporation, Bethany Paquette received a rejection email from the company’s hiring manager who described TWU’s community standards that prohibit “sexual intimacy [outside] the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” as discriminatory. The rejection email included the explanation that “unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want.” Lawyer Geoffrey Trotter reviews Bethany Paquette's human rights complaint with her. (Photo from CBC)Further email correspondence ensued in which it became increasingly clear that Ms. Paquette’s Christianity is incompatible with Amaruk’s business values. Ms. Paquette is now in the process of making a case against Amaruk with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

While I find it troubling that someone was rejected for a job on the basis of her Christian faith, I’m almost more troubled by a quote from Ms. Paquette herself in which she claims, “My beliefs have developed who I am as an individual, but they don’t come into play when I am doing my job.”

Really?

I would hope the opposite is true – that one’s beliefs have a profound impact on one’s work.

I would hope that my faith helps me see work in general as rooted in God’s original intent for creation: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Work is not a result of the fall into sin; humans are called to meaningful work already in Paradise.

I would hope that my faith informs me of where the skills with which I work come from. Whether it is serving, teaching, or leading, showing up daily at a farm, a factory, or an office, the talents I have are gifts from God Himself, given for the common good of those around me.

I would hope that my faith equips me to work honestly and with integrity while building community among those with whom and for whom I work. After all, I want to be like Jesus who perfectly models “speaking the truth in love,” balancing honesty with grace in every relationship.

I would hope that my faith inspires me to work hard, obeying the apostle Paul’s command: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Ultimately, my work is in service to God who calls me to glorify Him not only on Sundays, but all week long.

In summary, I’d encourage Ms. Paquette to proudly assert how her faith comes into play on the job. It’s quite possible that discriminating against that faith actually cost Amaruk one of the best employees it could have ever hired.

::– –::– –::

Trinity Western University logoAn aside: TWU is the same university that has come under scrutiny by various Canadian law societies in recent months because of its community standards. Advocates within the LGBT community voice concerns that the university’s stance against homosexuality will create biased lawyers in its new law program. In the early 2000s when TWU was seeking to accredit its teacher training program, the BC College of Teachers took TWU to court over similar concerns that TWU would produce teachers who would discriminate against students based on sexual orientation.

Now we seem to have a Christian pushing back, claiming that she is the one being discriminated against because of her religious beliefs. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Calling

KarenFor the next few posts, I’d like you to meet some cool people doing cool things in God’s Kingdom. Karen, together with her husband John, is part of the Telkwa CRC family and is a phlebotomist (a.k.a. medial lab assistant) at the hospital in Smithers. Her work is definitely more than “just a job.”


She’s spunky, chatty and full of giggles as she pulls her little four-year-old body up into the chair. I’m not really sure what she’s expecting at this little visit, but as I begin to do my job she becomes very quiet and still. I realize she’s never had a blood sample drawn before and I attempt to put her mind at ease. “It’s OK, sweetie. We’ll be done in no time. Your job is to just hold your arm really still. I promise it won’t hurt more than a little mosquito bite.” She’s a little reluctant but the promise of a sticker keeps her in the chair long enough for me to do my job.

I love my job!

My job at the local hospital allows me to come into contact with all kinds of people that I would not normally see or spend time with. My job helps me to see people differently. The recovering addict dying of AIDS despairs that his loved ones won’t listen to his pleads for them to stop using. I try to encourage him. The young man battling HIV shares how hurtful it is that his own mother doesn’t dare to touch him – how the social aspect of the disease is far worse than the disease itself. I rub his arm as he gets up to leave. The woman afraid to death of finding out whether or not she has cancer sobs on my chest as I wrap my arms around her. These are just a few of the complete strangers that I get to meet and have meaningful contact with.

My job is so much more than a job. It’s a calling.

I don’t doubt for a moment that I am meant to be where I am. I believe that God is using these people to enrich my life and that I am being used to enrich theirs.

We are fortunate to have a job, but we are oh so blessed when our job is more than just a job.

Working the graveyard shift with God

During the summer holidays between school years at King’s, I worked at a Petro-Canada gas bar and convenience store in Abbotsford.  At the time, Whatcom Road PetroCanadawe were tied with a gas bar in New Westminster for being the busiest Petro-Canada in BC (maybe even Canada).  A lot of my hours there were logged working the night shift, from 10pm-6am the first couple of years, then from 11pm-7am the last couple of years.  Some weeknights, I worked that shift alone.  Although I didn’t mind the job overall and the management rewarded their employees generously for work well done, I found that being awake at such hours left much to be desired.  In fact, I found little redeemable in working the “graveyard shift” and continued to feel sorry for people who are forced to be awake at such God-forsaken hours.

Because of my recent reading of Psalm 134, I feel a little differently today and no longer perceive the graveyard hours as God-forsaken.  My TNIV Study Bible refers to this psalm as “a liturgy of praise – a brief exchange between the worshippers, as they are about to leave the temple after the evening service, and the Levites, who kept the temple watch through the night.”

Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD
who minister by night in the house of the LORD.
(vs. 1)

The psalm reminds me of two very salient facts:  First, that the Levites continue their work through the night reveals that God is worthy of worship 24/7.  God does not allow His people to reduce worship as something one schedules (or squeezes) into specific slots at “a decent hour” into one’s calendar.  God is worthy of ongoing, nonstop worship.  Regardless of the hours you find yourself awake, God can be praised!  I wonder, if we fall asleep thinking of God, are we able to worship even in our sleep?

Second, that the Levites continue their work through the night reveals that God is present with them.  God did not call His people to keep a night watch at the temple so that He could sleep until morning!  God was with the Levites through the night as surely as He is with us through the night, whether we’re awake or asleep.  What’s more, God is not only awake, but actively at work in the world, inviting us the moment we awake to partner with Him in what He’s been up to while we’ve been sleeping.  Oh that we are alert more often to His divine activity around us!

Do you work in the middle of the night?  Welcome God into your graveyard shifts.  He is with you, and you can praise Him even then.

Photo:
Google Maps “Street View” of 2054 Whatcom Road, Abbotsford BC.