Posted by: owizblog | March 5, 2019

Radio 4 Long Wave Daily Service Monday 4 March 2019

 

Good morning from Wellington Church, where I’m joined by the Choir of Glasgow University Chapel, just across the road from here

The Daily Services this week turn on the theme of “Discipline.” This morning we reflect on work. How do we experience work?

As creative labour, or discipline, or even punishment.

As profoundly personal, deeply fulfilling.

As deeply alienating of the self from itself.

Work as any, many or all of these things, and more.

How about work as offering gracious entry into the creative activity of God…?

Drudgery transformed into dignity, work into service, by openness to God in our daily reality, is the theme of George Herbert’s wonderfully simple hymn “Teach me, my God and King…”

MUSIC:   Hymn: Teach me my God and King  (Tune: Sandys)

1 Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything,
to do it as for thee!

2 A man that looks on glass,
on it may stay his eye;
or if he pleaseth, though it pass,
and then the heaven espy.

3 All may of thee partake;
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, ‘for thy sake’,
will not grow bright and clean.

4 A servant with this clause
makes drudgery divine:
who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
makes that and the action fine.

  1. This is the famous stone
    that turneth all to gold;
    for that which God doth touch and own
    cannot for less be told.

The choir this morning is directed by Katy Lavinia Cooper and accompanied by Kevin Bowyer.

And now let’s pray:

Creator God,

Son whose hands knew the callouses of work,

Spirit who brooded, endlessly creative, over the deep:

Our work now is worship,

Which is no heavy labour,

But joy and delight.

 

For many, work is not like that.

But dull, demeaning, insecure, even coerced;

Forgive us our complicity

In a world in which work

Is often oppression and not liberation.

 

Give us respect for the work of others,

And the dignity of creative toil;

Call us to your work

Of making all things new,

So that our lives may be the loving labour of witness

To the God whose work is love.

ALL:  Amen

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,

but he who hates reproof is stupid.

A good man obtains favour from the LORD,

but a man of evil devices he condemns.”
The Book of Proverbs is nothing if not direct.

It reflects an understanding of a world of hard reality, with which you have to come to terms – and the terms aren’t yours.  A world of limits, which reminds us constantly that we are limited beings, not the centre of the universe, not God.

Let’s hear now the rest of this morning’s reading.

We read from the Book of Proverbs, at chapter 12, and beginning at verse 11.

He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,

but he who follows worthless pursuits has no sense.

The strong tower of the wicked comes to ruin,

but the root of the righteous stands firm.

An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,

but the righteous escapes from trouble.

From the fruit of his words a man is satisfied with good,

and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,

but a wise man listens to advice…

Truthful lips endure for ever,

but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,

but those who plan good have joy.

No ill befalls the righteous,

but the wicked are filled with trouble.

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,

but those who act faithfully are his delight.

The world of the Book of Proverbs; a world of hard reality, we said, with which you have to come to terms – and the terms aren’t yours.

To my parents’ generation, that’s still the way the world really worked.

My generation saw culture decouple from the view of reality as harsh, and non-negotiable, and that the necessity of work was an aspect of that.  We grew up with the promise that work would be increasingly swallowed up in leisure, discipline become a matter of organizing your personal goals, life a vast smorgasbord of unconstrained choice; “Have it your way!” “Just do it!” “You’re worth it!”

For my children’s generation, the world changed again. And the measure of this is the experience of work. We seem to have gone in three generations, from work as just the way the world is, part of the discipline of life, to an ideal of work as a barely noticeable part of an endlessly fulfilling life, to new realities of work and income as fluctuating, uncertain, an unstable world of constant deskilling and reskilling, and the “gig economy.”  Is this how work should be?

Seamus Heaney’s magnificent poem “Digging” depicts deftly the humanity, potential and sometimes real, of work; and also its human solidarity, the poet-son contemplating the labouring dignity of his father.

 

Under my window, a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:

My father, digging. I look down…

 

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

 

By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man…

 

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

 

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.

One thing about work is certain: it involves effort towards something we hope will be worthwhile.  The sense of striving with discipline towards our goal is reflected in the Primitive Methodist Revival hymn, The Good Old Way.

MUSIC:  THE GOOD OLD WAY (A CAPPELLA)

Proverbs’  diamond-hard ethic of self-discipline in an unyielding, law-bound universe, which takes no account of our dreams or fantasies, can’t be the whole story, though.

God leads his people from slavery into freedom – a difficult, challenging freedom, yes, but one in which their lives and their work were their own. God labours in love to mend a broken, recalcitrant world, and a refractory human nature; God is at work; so hope can found in our relationship to work.

The underlying realities remain; the destructive power of greed indulged, over souls and societies; the need to live within bounds, to set sustainable goals, to discipline ourselves as individuals and a global human family, to reality and truth.

But work, engagement with the world as it really is, participation in God’s creative activity, can be our dignity and our joy.

 

Let us pray:

Creator God,

At your Word, all things sprang joyfully into being,

We come to the work of worship,

And find our rest in you.

 

The Son becomes the “son of the carpenter”.

Not exempt from the discipline of work.

He takes the timber of the shop,

And works with learnt, acquired skills.

He takes “the crooked timbers of humanity,”

And works with its grain, to remake lives.

 

In the discipline of love’s greatest work,

He “stretches out his arms of love

On the hard wood of the cross,

So that everyone might come within the reach of his saving embrace.”

 

Work in us your love and grace;

Draw us through the discipline of work,

Into your transforming work in the world,

Through the power of your ever-creative spirit.

 

And as Jesus taught us, so we say:

Our Father
All:

Who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name;

Thy Kingdom come,

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

For thine is  the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever

Amen.

 

God calls us to be a part of his work. That’s the theme of Howell Elfed Lewis’s great hymn, “Lord of light, whose name outshineth/All the stars and suns of space.”

 

MUSIC:   Hymn: Lord of light, whose name outshineth  (Tune: Rustington)

Lord of light, whose name outshineth
All the stars and suns of space,
Deign to make us thy co-workers
In the Kingdom of Thy grace;
Use us to fulfill thy purpose
In the gift of Christ thy Son:
Father, as in highest heaven
So on earth thy will be done.

By the toil of lowly workers
In some far outlying field;
By the courage where the radiance
Of the Cross is still revealed;
By the victories of meekness,
Through reproach and suffering won,
Father, as in highest heaven
So on earth thy will be done.

Grant that knowledge, still increasing,
At thy feet may lowly kneel;
With thy grace our triumphs hallow,
With thy charity our zeal;
Lift the nations from the shadows
To the gladness of the sun;
Father, as in highest heaven
So on earth thy will be done.

 

Send us out into the reality of the world,

Honest, eyes open,

Disciplined and conformed to how things are;

Full of faith to tackle what is set before us…
Send us out in the deep reality of hope,

Grounded in your transforming grace

God whose labour of endless love

Brings what should be and shall be

Even out of the difficult reality of what now is.

 

Resume in faith the threads and patterns of life.
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Be with you now, and evermore,

All:  AMEN

PROGRAMME ENDS AT 9:59’50”

(Ten seconds before the hour)

Pips start at 9:59’55”

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