Saints at Work

by | Mar 19, 2019 | 3 Meek

Saints at work make simple tasks sacramental with kindness.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Common sense religion places it in a compartment of our lifestyles. We worship on Sunday morning, say grace over meals, sustain family values, or even volunteer. Yet, the meek live their faith in loving obedience to God even when it defies common sense. Conventional wisdom tries to leave God at home when heading to work.  But God refuses domestication.  The meek understand that and always walk with God, even at work. They are saints incognito.

Our jobs may seem to constrain us with codes of conduct and narrow job descriptions. But we remain free to consecrate simple tasks to love God by loving our neighbors. The text below appears in my book, A Wakeful Faith: Spiritual Practice in the Real World. I comment on another book that offers first person accounts by saints who approach work that way:

Gregory F. Augustine Pierce edited a collection of essays by lay Christians entitled, Of Human Hands: A Reader in the Spirituality of Work.  In these chapters, the contributors discuss the spirituality of their work… 

Virtually all contributors pointed to relationships on the job as the most consistent source of spirituality in their careers. Two contributors struck me especially with their ethic of love…  Maxine Dennis, the cashier, wrote an essay entitled, “Compassion Is the Most Vital Tool of My Trade.”  She described how she uses “observation and perception” to sense the customers’ mood and needs of the moment, and she responds accordingly with a kind expression or remark, even with the way she bags the groceries.[1]

1-IMG_5284Rose Mary Hart, the letter carrier, feels grateful for her job stability because it enables her to establish a relationship of trust with the people whom she serves and with whom she works. She sees how the regularity of her brief visits makes a difference to the people in the community, especially the shut-ins.  Conversation about faith flows naturally with everyone in her work life.  Speaking out for justice, appropriate evangelizing, and pastoral care fill her work days with a rich abundance that most pastors would envy.[2]

Maxine Dennis and Rose Mary Hart re-enact Jesus’ acts in the upper room which reveal the kingdom of God in our midst… When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he showed them the humble servant leadership that characterizes the kingdom. Similarly, when Maxine Dennis bags groceries with compassionate attention to the mood and needs of the customer, she reveals the kingdom.  Jesus shared a meal with his disciples.  Similarly, when Rose Mary Hart delivers mail to a shut-in, going out of the way to share the hospitality of a personal greeting, she reveals the kingdom.

At work, we can find the kingdom in such small, inconspicuous places. If we open our eyes and awaken, we can see the Maxine Dennises and Rose Mary Harts in our midst, offering their unique holy communion in their labor.  If we follow their example and see our work tasks, however small, as opportunities to serve and reveal God’s reign, the doing will help us see the kingdom all the more clearly.[3]
 
[1] Maxine F. Dennis, “Compassion is the Most Vital Tool of My Trade,” in Gregory F. Augustine Pierce, ed., Of Human Hands: A Reader in the Spirituality of Work. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg/ACTA, 1991), 49-51.
[2]Rose Mary Hart, “The Power and Presence of God Is Guiding My Way,” in Pierce, Of Human Hands, 81-85.
[3] J. Marshall Jenkins, A Wakeful Faith: Spiritual Practice in the Real World. (Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2000), pp. 122-123..

2 Comments

  1. Bryant Steele

    Thank God for saints incognito, for there are rapscallions on every corner.

    Reply
    • J. Marshall Jenkins

      Well said! And I haven’t run across that wonderful word, “rapscallions,” in too long!

      Reply

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