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      This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

      God’s Partner in Work
      Genesis 1:26–31, Genesis 2:15
      Sept. 4, 2016

       T HIS IS LABOR DAY WEEKEND. Some of you might not know because you are through laboring. Some of you will labor this weekend anyway, regardless of what the calendar says. Labor Day is a day set aside for freedom from toil. It is not intended to be a day of labor but a day free of labor.

      I have been thinking about the story of the first humans. The Bible begins the story with the account of God’s blessings: the man and the woman are charged to populate the earth and to manage it (Genesis 1:28). In the context of the Garden of Eden, the Bible adds the idea that God tasked the first pair with “tilling” and “keeping” the Garden (Genesis 2:15). In other words, from the outset, God meant for human beings to do useful work in maintaining the world.

      This might come as a surprise to some of you. You think of Eden as paradise and paradise means a life of leisure. Free to roam the garden without a care in the world. Ride the elephants. Pet the zebras. Free to pick the fruit (except from the one tree) but not pick up broken limbs. But then even the very act of picking fruit is harvesting and harvesting is labor.

       † † † 

      ADAM AND EVE ARE TO TILL and keep the garden. Care for it and perpetuate it. Hoe the ground to get rid of weeds and protect the produce from rabbits and deer and caterpillars. It is their home and their source of food. To till and keep the garden are their divinely given vocation.

      (The work of gardening only becomes “toil” after the first pair eat the forbidden fruit.)

       † † † 

      THIS UNDERSTANDING OF VOCATION contrasts with contemporary distinctions between sacred and secular work. One of our problems is that we divide everything into secular and sacred categories. We say that over here is the secular, and over there is the sacred.

      Let me ask a question: Do you believe that what you do — at home, at work, as volunteers, as citizens — matters to God? Another question: Do you think what you do — at home, at work, as volunteers, as citizens — is holy and sacred?

      Sadly, most folks haven’t been taught or trained to see their labor as holy, to see their everyday efforts as important to God. For some reason we have begun to think that only work done specifically in and for the church qualifies as fulfillment of a Christian vocation.

      Your lives in the workplace or on your volunteer work or your role at home — you see these as distinct from your lives as disciples of Christ. Going to work is secular. Going to church is sacred. We spend the best hours of every day in the secular world.

      You might say, “I’d really like to serve God, but I have to spend so much time on my job.” I have to care for my spouse. I’ve committed to coach the ball team.

       † † † 

      HEAR THE WORD TODAY: What you do matters to God.

      You are God’s partner in doing God’s work in the world. Not just church work but what we unfortunately call “secular work” — implying that it has nothing to do with God. You are God’s partner as a receptionist, a doctor, a landscaper, a child-care worker. You are God’s partner in cultivating your children, caring for your family. You are God’s partner while you work for pay and while you till and keep after retirement.

      Any work you do — it might be as a volunteer; it might be a paid job; any labor for the good of others and creation — is work pleasing to God.

      What you do at home and work, while volunteering or being a good friend matters to God. You are a representative of God in your work.

      Keith Cardwell     

      Comments on sermons are welcomed and appreciated. 
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      23208 Swift Church Road
      Foley, AL 36535
      Phone: (251) 943-8367


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