“Our Heavenly Job Description”
Dooley Chan and Rev. Stacy Swain
A combined service with the two congregations that worship within the church, the Taiwan Presbyterian Church of Greater Boston and The Union Church in Waban.
Will you pray with us? May the words of our mouths and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer, Amen.
I have been in the work force for more than two and a half decades now. And in that time I have been evaluated countless times by my supervisors and I have also had the responsibility of evaluating dozens of people I supervised.
For those of you who have been either in the position of evaluating or being evaluated, you know how useful a job description is in the process of evaluation. To evaluate if one is or is not doing one’s job, if one is or is not doing what is expected, depends entirely on whether those expectations have been clearly laid out to start with.
The scripture from the Gospel of Luke takes up mid stream in what is a job evaluation of sorts. Jesus has been reviewing with the disciples what is expected of them; on what will they be evaluated.
And when Jesus has finished, the apostles cry out “Increase our faith!”
Did you catch that little word shift that Luke uses. Jesus addresses those with him as “disciples” but when they respond to Jesus’ words they do so as “apostles.”
Disciples are those who are learning. Who sit at the feet of the master and who follow the master in a practicum of sorts, doing what it is the master does.
Apostles are those that are to go out and spread what they have learned. They are to share the message of Jesus.
No wonder they cry out “Increase our faith!” It’s a lot of responsibility to bear witness to Jesus through our living, speaking, doing. Those are high expectations that we will be able to spread Jesus message of love and forgiveness to all, especially those who so dearly need to hear it.
But Jesus is completely, one hundred percent confident that we are up to the task.
Jesus tells them “You do not need more faith to learn what it is I have to teach you. And you do not need more faith to do what it is I ask you to do. Even a little, tiny bit of faith is more than sufficient.”
If more faith is not what is required to learn what Jesus would have us learn and do what Jesus would have us do as ambassadors of God’s love in the world, then what is needed?
A willingness, I believe, to simply participate in, what God is doing in the world. We are to do our job, our part, no more and no less.
For if we begin to think that it is all up to us, like when those apostles feeling perhaps overwhelmed at what Jesus was asking of them, when they felt they needed an extra dose of faith to do it, we can begin to expect and crave praise if and when thing go right. We can think that we deserve congratulations, special rewards, a gold star when things go particularly well.
We begin to forget that if we are able to love, to serve, to care, to open our heart wider to God and neighbor it is not because we are special, or particularly talented but simply because the love of God has found a way to work more fluidly through us.
Or we can swing to the opposite pole and become so fearful of failure or criticism that we are immobilized to act. One harsh, unkind word can send us into a spiral of self judgment and condemnation that can be immobilizing.
We can begin to forget that our God is a God of second changes, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. And that if we do fall down and do not live up to what it is God asks, God is not going to fire us. God is going to pick us up and dust us off and ask that we learn from our mistakes.
And that is the good news. For our ability to be of serve God, to fulfill our heavenly job description, does not depend on whether we are particularly wonderful, or faithful, or exceptional in some remarkable way.
Our ability to serve God, to fulfill our heavenly job description, depends simply on our willingness to step into what is asked and to bring the best of ourselves in service to each other and to God and then to simply trust that that is enough. God can work with us.
And if one day, in something that we say or do, we find that a mulberry bush has indeed been uprooted and planted in the sea, then let us look up with astonishment and cry out “Praise God!” For we will not have done anything beyond what God knew we could do. “We will have only done our duty!” Amen