Sermon at Commissioning Service for Teachers

This is the outline of a sermon delivered at a commissioning service for teachers at Bethany Community Church (Seattle, WA). 

Thesis: seeing our work as contributing to the common good.

Video:

Keep being awesome! How can you not love that kid, he already thinks you’re awesome?

Teachers are pretty incredible-

If you are, or know a teacher, you know that the job description isn’t entirely forthcoming of what they’re getting themselves into: (should say something along the lines of)

  • Be prepared for questions about ANYTHING (including but not limited to the topic you’re currently teaching)
  • Graciously receive gifts – some will be thoughtful & others will be a balled up mound that your student will refer to as the hamburger he made for you.
  • You are a role model; for the rest of your life you will run into your students. Sometimes you will be glad to see them, other times you will take drastic measures to avoid them seeing you.

(Pause)

Tonight, we want to do a couple of things:

  1. We want to commission & dedicate this coming academic year; the staff & faculty who will impact the lives of future generations.Those who are about to do 12 months of work in 10 months.
  2. We want to have a brief conversation, that applies to us all, on the integration of faith & work. How we see our work.

Whether or not you work at a Christ centered non-profit or a corporation that stack ranks you against your coworkers based on your performance, every single one of us lives in a tension of faith & work.

Often times to survive in this tension we express our faith & do our work as functionally two separate things. BECAUSE:

1. “We love Jesus & read the Bible but this excel spreadsheet isn’t going to fill itself out,

Or

2. Jesus calls us to be compassionate & kind but we still need to address poor performance in those we’re responsible for

Or

3. We’re told to have a good work/life balance but the security of our jobs often depends on us working longer & harder than those around us.”

Sometimes this tension exists because of hard & unexpected situation & other times because we’ve been taught an insufficient theology of work.

I have yet to meet someone, myself included, who doesn’t feel this tension, no matter what they do for work, which is why we’re talking about it tonight because in actuality our faith & work are inseparable.

Might think we’re separating but we can’t.

We can no more separate our faith from who we are & what we do than we can separate ourselves from the family we grew up in. Of course, both are constantly being evaluated, looked at from different angles, & modified but they fundamentally contribute to our I.D.- to who we are & how we operate in the world.

Some of this tension & resulting separation comes from how we answer the question: “why do you work?”

Think about that for a second, don’t have to share it: why do you work?

(PAUSE)

Dorothy Sayers in her essay “Why Work?” challenges the reader that if they answer the question by saying:

To make money, Gain recognition Because I have to

That we’re narrowing the definition, our understanding, & the joy that comes from work itself.

In the creation narrative found in Genesis we see God working- he’s creating stars, animals, land, water, humans, etc. And he’s loving it. He keeps saying it’s good. Work is not part of the fall, it’s not a result of the curse- it’s part of creation.

Part of how we express our humanity is through work, suggesting that work isn’t the thing that we do in order to live but instead the thing we live to do.

It’s obviously not the only thing we live to do but it’s part of how we were created.

My birthday is coming up & part of how my family is celebrating me, loving me, is by repainting the inside of my apartment- they’ll use work to bless me.

Dorothy Sayer’s hope for humanity & society is to think of work in terms of the work itself that is done & what kind of contribution it makes. We can & should, take pride in work that is worth doing.

Work that promotes the common good- the betterment of humanity & society.

She goes on to say when we talk about work the question isn’t: “what does it pay?” but rather “is it good?”

Some vocations more quickly come to mind when answering this “is it good” question: education, health care, the arts, specific ministry jobs- those are all obviously good right?

Maybe…

but I’d challenge us that virtually every vocation has the potential to be good… to contribute to the flourishing of humanity, or equally not good, & whether it is or not is dependent on us as practioners.

Because if we go back to the creation story & see that work is part of what we’re made to do & how we express the image of God in us, then as we work for the common good at the same time we’ll be moving people toward God & giving him glory.

This makes the work we do, your job, is as true of a vocation as any call to ministry that ever existed because your work, what you create (tangible or not) is a medium of divine creation.

As image bearers of God, we too are creators- we don’t create it from scratch the way God did but humans are constantly revealing God by creating stuff.

Through human work we see God’s:

Creativity      sense of humor      practicality

The tiny part that you play in making a plane fly, a computer connect, a person a little more whole, a child safe, a space beautiful, a gift given, is how you contribute to the common good & how you give glory to God.

My hope for all of us with this coming year is to ask the question- is what I do good? Is it worth celebrating? The answer is not limited to a direct correlation of saving someone’s life or bringing them to Christ. But is what you do, & sometimes more importantly how you do it, contributing to the common good?

As we think about that question we also want to intentionally commission those who are working with students this year.

Every single one of us could name a teacher, coach, administrator, who played a part in us becoming who we are today & you are those people for many.

It’s an important job & you’re about to do it again, so if you could make your way down to the front here, we’ll pray for you.

(Give them a hand as they come)

Invite those who know these folks to come down & join in prayer.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I ask that you would fill these people’s hearts and minds with true knowledge and the art to teach those you’ve given them influence over.

Give them patience and understanding, justice and discernment, humility and reverent fear.

Grant them both wisdom and mercy so that with a pure and holy love of you they themselves may enjoy all the gifts you’ve given them as they teach & pass them on to others.

Lord we ask that those they teach this year will be instruments of your peace in their homes, in our land, and in the family of nations as reflects our ID as children of yours.

Please bless all who teach and in all who learn through the Holy Spirit who is the Love of the Father and the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Topics: Preaching