Breaking Down the Walls Surrounding Sunday Mornings

It was noticeably easier to keep my attention squarely focused on Jesus and His Kingdom last week. “Coincidentally,” I had taken the week off work to drive down to St. Louis and spend five days around a conference table with several other brothers in Christ, listening and responding to various speakers addressing the overall topic of Faith, Vocation and Culture. Thursday, for example, my day began in private reflection on the Confessions of St. Augustine, followed by a group prayer over Psalm 90 and then reading aloud from Tree and Leaf by J.R.R. Tolkien. My wife took one look at me when I arrived home on Friday evening and could tell that I was completely on fire for the Lord, foaming at the mouth to co-labor with God’s Spirit to renew His good creation.

Less than 48 hours later, I find myself plunged headlong back into my “real world” of paying bills, dealing with parental discipline issues, fussing over scheduling, responding to stacked-up e-mails, and so forth. Whatever wild-eyed enthusiasm I had going for me when I got home on Friday night has already begun to fade, and I find myself feeling a bit wistful that my “normal” days do not often afford me the luxury of reading aloud from Tolkien with a band of committed brothers. My days are far more often consumed with meeting deadlines, coding Web pages, disciplining one (or more) of the kids, trying to make good on an overcommitted schedule, and so on. Already, it seems, exhaustion is far more likely to ring my doorbell than exhilaration.

But this dynamic is, of course, nothing new and certainly not unique to me. Most people, I would guess, find it much easier to focus on the Person of Jesus Christ when they are singing hymns, praying aloud, or worshiping God by listening intently to the faithful delivery of a Bible-saturated sermon. And the reverse is often true as well; it can be all too easy to lose our sense of Who Christ is and why it really matters when we are dealing with a difficult co-worker, paying far too much to put gasoline in our cars, negotiating our way out of unreasonable customer demands, arguing with our spouse over the evening meal or changing a flat tire. Rather than be grateful for the manifold blessings in our life in all circumstances, we are perhaps more likely to mutter under our breath, “Where is Jesus when I really need Him?”

The truth, though, is that He is every bit as present at the gas pump or the contentious dinner table as He is on Sunday morning. It’s not Christ who fades away from the everyday stuff of our lives; rather, it is our ability and/or willingness to see Him.

Which brings me right back to the week that I just spent at Covenant Seminary. For the next three years, I am told, I will co-labor not only with God’s Spirit but also with a clearly-defined group of men from all across the country as we seek to understand how to blur the sharp line that exists in the lives of many Christians, that being the line between what takes place on Sunday mornings and “everything else” that transpires in the course of a normal week. (If you are at all interested in more of the specifics, please take a few moments to check out this blog entry from my brother Mike Hsu at Grace Chapel in Lincoln, Neb.)

In the past few years, God has been very patiently trying to instruct me in the truth that everything – and by that, I really do mean everything – belongs to Him (Colossians 1:16; Psalm 24:1-2; Matthew 28:18). Previously, I have only ever been able to accept this truth as a theological lesson, but less able to apply the principle to the nuts and bolts of my entire life, falling time and again into the thoroughly-false sacred/secular method of categorizing life, i.e. “This is something I do for God, this is something I do to pay the bills.” But we will search the Bible in vain for passages that affirm the idea that only some of what we do really matters to God, while the rest of our lives are poured out in service to the mere drudgery of putting food on the table and a roof overhead.

Simply stated, it makes absolutely no sense to assume that God would ordain that His creation should spend the vast majority of its waking hours grinding away at something that is of lesser importance, reserving only one day a week (and usually only the morning at that!) to worship. We are called to worship God with our very lives, not compartmentalize Him into a portion of it. If we fail to find a larger meaning in our work, that is not God’s failure to provide us with meaningful employment, it is instead our failure to see the eternal value in a burger well cooked, a transaction accurately accomplished or a truly excellent PowerPoint presentation. And I am certainly as guilty of this failing as the next person; you need only re-read the first two paragraphs of this blog to firmly establish that point!

Assuming that we can retune our hearts to “allow” Christ to enter our workplace, we will (of course) find that He has been there all along. Readers should be prepared, however, to deal with a risen Lord Who will not remain satisfied to abide only within the church sanctuary and the office cubicle. The human heart is such that we desperately wish to retain lordship over certain aspects of our lives, seek to “control” the influence of Jesus as best we can, but a truly loving and nurturing God will have none of this nonsense. Christ has something to say about the way you worship on Sundays and the way you treat your coworkers, yes, but He does not “punch out” when it comes time for you to interact with the cashier at the grocery store or pause at the Redbox machine to select your entertainment for the evening. He can and will speak into all of those moments, assuming we welcome Him in.

As I write this, I have a fairly impressive stack of books in front of me, follow-up reading to my time at Covenant last week. All of it, in one way or another, takes up the topic of how what we do from Monday through Saturday really does matter to God. Not just what we do while in the office or standing behind the counter waiting on customers, but everything that folds in and around our work lives as well. This statement may well seem so immediately self-evident and obvious, and yet how many of us (myself included) “drop the ball” as soon as the alarm goes off on Monday morning, rushing madly into yet another week of spreadsheets, phone calls, e-mails, soccer practices, neighborhood barbecues and so forth? How can we Christians actively work toward the redemption of all things as we balance the demands placed upon us in the course of a “normal” day?

Maybe it’s because I spent my entire youth – far too many years – living in rebellion and a completely self-focused lifestyle, but I continue to struggle mightily to spend my time doing anything that doesn’t immediately look like “working for God’s Kingdom” without feeling like I’m wasting that time. I continue to find myself often thinking that I could be more effectively spending this bit of time reading, blogging, or reaching out to a troubled friend over coffee. What I think this stack of books – along with this three-year commitment to Covenant – is going to help me understand more fully is that I have the opportunity, even the responsibility, to redeem every moment of my life for Christ’s good purposes. Whether I am mowing the lawn, driving my daughter to school, working diligently for my boss or leading a Bible study – all of it belongs to Christ and should be given back to Him in worship. It’s all His anyway.

There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, “This is mine! This belongs to me!”
Abraham Kuyper

Revelation 21:5
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!”

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