Session 1 – The Calling
During this session participants will:
- begin to get to know each other
- explore what we mean by work
- share their own ‘Faith at work’ stories
- engage with Christian and other traditions to see what light they shed onto our experience
- be enabled to develop a fresh outlook onto the world where we live and work
Invite people to move around the room, aiming to talk to everyone else, introducing themselves with their name, an answer to the traditional question “….and so what do you do?”, plus one other interesting fact about themselves.
If group members don’t know each other very well, lead them in sharing the information that’s just been learnt – either by simply asking everyone to repeat it briefly to the group, or introducing the person on their left.
Introduce the theme of the session and then lead the opening prayer:
Lord God, who has made us all into one body in Christ,[Source: John Ogden]
enable us to honour one another in our working and daily lives.
Help us to understand the ways in which we depend upon one another.
Teach us to bear one another’s burdens and share one another’s joy.
In our varied occupations enable us to serve one another with dignity and carefulness.
May we receive with gratitude the work of other people.
So continue your work of binding us together in your human family.
What do we mean by work?
Thought-storm as many different possible meanings as you can.
After reflection in the group, is anything missing?
Did any of our ‘stock ideas’ of work (such as full-time v part-time, paid v voluntary v stay-at-home) influence our thoughts?
Did anything the church leaders said change your mind about what work is?
Was there anything you disagree with?
How do we think God feels about our work?
Thought-storm – don’t feel the need to be theological/learned – go with gut feelings
In future sessions there is one main Bible passage with possibly one of two others suggested for further study. In this session, we suggest looking at a larger number of Bible passages to get a fuller idea of how work is mentioned in the Bible. Unless you have a lot of time, it won’t be possible to look at all of these with the whole group. Therefore, be creative about how you use these passages.
You may have other ways of doing this, but one suggestion is that you copy all the references onto paper, divide the group into pairs giving each pair just a few passages to look at, and at the end of the time you’ve allowed, ask each pair to share briefly what they’ve learned.
From “How To Be a Disciple” by Dallas Willard:
“ …Consider just your job, the work you do to make a living. This is one of the clearest ways possible of focusing upon apprenticeship to Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus is, crucially, to be learning from Jesus how to do your job as Jesus himself would do it. New Testament language for this is to do it “in the name” of Jesus.
Once you stop to think about it, you can see that not to find your job to be a primary place of discipleship is to automatically exclude a major part, if not most, of your waking hours from life with him. It is to assume to run one of the largest areas of your interest and concern on your own or under the direction and instruction of people other than Jesus….
…if we restrict our discipleship to special religious times, the majority of our waking hours will be isolated from the manifest presence of the kingdom in our lives.”
Copyright (c) 1998 by The Christian Century. Reprinted by permission from the April 22-29, 1998 issue of The Christian Century. Subscriptions: $59/yr. From PO Box 422467, Palm Coast, FL32142. (800)-208-4097 www.ChristianCentury.org
You may have your own reflections on these passages, but if not here are some thoughts as a starter for teaching and/or discussion.
The Bible passages together illustrate that:
- God was the first worker, creating the world and then resting. He was pleased with what he had done.
- Although Genesis 1 v29 implies an absence of both work and leisure, by Genesis 2 v15 there is the suggestion that work becomes a natural activity. (Alongside this, Genesis 3 v17-19 implies that work was a punishment for Adam’s disobedience.)
- Generally, work is seen as creative and fulfilling, although the Bible also recognises that work can involve drudgery and alienation. It is also a sphere where both justice and injustice can exist.
- We often read that we are God’s servants but we are also God’s co-workers.
- All sorts of different occupations are honoured in the Bible – not just priests, prophets and Kings!
- Many of Jesus, stories and encounters with people are set in or concern their working lives.
- Whilst we are saved by grace, we are saved, called and equipped in order produce ‘good works’ that endure.
- Work is an integral part of our lives.
Leaders (and group members) who want more in depth theological reflection can find valuable material in CHRISM Paper No. 3 “Spirituality for Work”.
We’ve just seen and heard two people whose feelings about their jobs are very different – one who feels very motivated and enjoys her work, and one who no longer feels any real job satisfaction at all.
Do either of these stories chime with yours? Share in 2s or 3s.
If they were your friends what would you say to them if you were in the opposite situation to them? Share in 2s or 3s.
Share important points within the whole group, leading into a general discussion:
- How do you think the Bible passages studied earlier might speak into these situations?
- Do you think faith would make a difference in either situation? (At some point, group leader might want to let group know that Mark is a person of faith who finds that his faith and his voluntary work within the community sustain him even though he finds his paid work is unfulfilling.)
- Do the Bible passages, or the Dallas Willard reading, shed any useful light on the situations that Jeanne and Mark find themselves in?
- What connections are there with your own discipleship and working spirituality?
This isn’t on our YouTube Channel or the DVD for copyright reasons but, if you have both time and facilities, this clip provides a good link between Word and Worship:
Heavenly Father, you call us to be disciples in all aspects of our daily life, in all that we do and are. Help us to bring to you the challenges the joys and sorrows, the opportunities and disappointments of all our daily experiences and encounters. Give us wisdom to discern your will for each of us in our lives together and as individuals. Guide us in the way you would have us go, strengthen us to walk in that way, and give us your grace to do it for Jesus Christ sake. Amen.
Play some Taizé or similar kind of music to lead into a reading of Colossians 3 v22 – 4 v1 (Working as for the Lord).
Use silence or play music afterwards to allow people time to reflect on what the reading might mean for them.
There isn’t a specific section for intercessory prayer in this session. However, for future weeks, encourage people to bring newspaper cuttings about topics they’d like to pray about, and they can be used to structure the intercessory prayer.
In addition, make sure that you have a work-related symbol available into which prayer requests can be placed each week – eg a lunchbox, first aid box, filing card box (be creative!) – plus paper & pens. In future weeks, this should be available as people arrive, and they’re invited to place prayer requests in them at that stage. This week give everyone a piece of paper now and invite them to write on it anything relating to their faith/work/daily life that they would like to bring to God at this time, and place it in the box. Names can be used or the papers can be anonymous, however people wish. Then lead a time of open prayer. Those who are confident in praying out loud should be encouraged to take a piece of paper and pray appropriately. The leader should make sure that all requests are prayed for.
Each bidding could end with:
- God who calls us to work for him the world
- Answer our prayer and keep us faithful to our calling
God calls, equips, and enables us all to do good works.
Have copies of the following Bible verses written out on card: John 15 v16; Ephesians 2 v8-10; 2 Timothy 2 v20-21; 2 Timothy 3 v16-17. There should be enough for everyone to be able to choose the same one if it’s a small group, or at least several of each if it’s a large group. Invite people to take a card. Give them time to read it and share it with someone near them. Encourage them to take this with them and think during the week of how it applies to them or how they might be encouraged by it.
Did your faith or personal beliefs influence the kind of work you do?
Does your faith make a difference in how you feel about what you do day-by-day?
Do you see your job as a vocation?
Reflecting on these three questions, find a way to encourage someone in your workplace or daily life who isn’t feeling fulfilled at present – or if you’re not feeling encouraged yourself, find someone who you can share that with, who’ll support you.
For the next session, identify one of the biggest challenges to your discipleship in your daily life, and reflect on how you wrestle with it. Try to come up with an ‘action plan’ if you feel you need support. Is there any good practice you can share with others?
Before saying the prayer together, everyone is invited to sit quietly and comfortably. In a short time of silence, think about your whole body and the many different uses you put it to each week. In your mind, pick out one use that you think works well for you and one that doesn’t. Offer them both to God, asking him to continue to bless the first as well as encouraging you with the second. Be brave, why not ask God to help you even to enjoy the second!
After a suitable time of quietness, say the closing theme prayer together:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands on earth but yours,
No feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he goes about to do good,
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands,
Yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes,
You are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Look at your hands
See the touch and the tenderness-
God’s own for the world.
Look at your feet,
See the path and the direction-
God’s own for the world.
Look at your heart,
See the fire and the love-
God’s own for the world.
Look at the cross,
See God’s Son and our Saviour-
God’s own for the world.
This is God’s world
And we will serve him in it.
[(John L Bell & Graham Moule, Wild Goose Resource Group (from A Wee Worship Book, 1989)]