Continued from part IV
Wesley and Sheldon help us answer important questions about working in the modern world, addressing today’s tangle of injustices, our oppressive systems and structures, and the broken people all around us who need healing. But one more question remains:
4. Where is God in the work itself—the everlasting grind of creating goods and services for others? Can our work—even in workplaces whose missions may seem so far from Godly—actually connect us with God and his mission on earth?
Again, Martin Luther gets us partway to an answer—teaching us that in our work, we become the hands of God for his provision to our neighbor, so that every kind of work we do in the marketplace, the home, and the civic sphere is truly a vocation from God.
However, in reaction to strains of works-righteousness in late medieval thought, Luther felt he had to insist that no kind of earthly work has any direct relation to our spiritual lives—our preparation for eternity, our progress in sanctification and salvation.
Intensified by Luther’s contemporary Ulrich Zwingli, this nervousness about the “outer,” physical life as spiritually irrelevant (at best) or dangerous (at worst) has continued to weave its way through Protestant piety ever since. Protestants have not much expected our “active lives” to connect us to God. We seem to have lost Gregory’s teaching that in our most mundane work, if we have but ears to hear and eyes to see, God does meet us and minister not only through but also to us.
If only we had a modern teacher who had adopted and absorbed the sacramentalism of Gregory and his era! I’ll suggest that in fact, we do have at least one such teacher:Continue reading