“It’s so wonderful that you’re doing the Lord’s work.”
With parents who have worked their entire adult lives in parachurch ministry, this phrase was second nature to me from a young age. Other people did things like graphic design, plumbing, and selling computers; my parents were “God’s hands and feet”. What was the Lord’s work, according to the evangelical mindset from which my spiritual consciousness emerged? It was ministry, missions, the pastorate; it involved preaching, baptizing, sharing the gospel, and praying. It was for pastors, priests, missionaries, and ministry directors. The Lord’s work was accepting a spiritual vocation. Everything else was normal life, for normal people.
But what of the Lord himself? What was his work? It is easy, even from reading scripture itself, to divide Christ’s life between his formative early years, and the beginning of His ministry.
And yet, were the lines so firmly drawn? Was Jesus’s work delineated so distinctly between the spiritual and the non-spiritual? Surely the Gospels themselves are our guide.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. - John 1:14
In Jesus, an intangible, impersonal concept became a tangible, palpable person. In the person of Christ, Eternity stepped into time, and the two narratives were inexorably merged. The story of redemption doesn’t start with the Cross; it starts at the very moment Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and was made man. The incarnation of Christ was a promise embodied in our space and time, of the complete restoration which was to come, body and soul.
The Gospel writers never let us off the hook, thinking that Jesus’s story can be relegated simply to the redemption of souls; all four are chock full of the visceral humanness of Jesus. Before he spent his final three years doing the work of His Father in Heaven, Jesus spent decades doing the work of His father on earth; building, crafting, and creating, using stone, wood, and clay. When his formal ministry began, He used His hands to heal the sick, to bless fish and loaves for five thousand people, and to turn over idolatrous money-lending tables in the temple. He laughed, cried, ate, drank, and celebrated with those around him. He washed his disciples’ feet, and then sweated tears of blood in the hour of his great anguish.
Of course we know all of this about Jesus’s life; and yet, somehow, we get to the bit about the crucifixion and the resurrection, and suddenly we have the glorified Christ walking through walls and ascending to heaven in resplendent light. It’s easy to become so distracted by that magnificent glory that we lose sight of the humanity seemingly palpable prior to the resurrection. But this is not the image scripture gives us of the glorified Christ. The same Jesus who ascended to the right hand of God walked miles on the road to Emmaus, dust caking his feet, and when he arrived, He broke bread with real hands, the same hands that bore the wounds which Thomas touched. Christ, the Bread of Heaven, made a meal for his Disciples on the beach, and restored his disciple Peter with food first, before restoring him to ministry. What we are left to wrestle with is that Jesus, in His resurrected, glorified state, is more human than us, more embodied than we could possibly dream of being this side of eternity.
Perhaps, then, the reality that we truly face is not that Jesus is too distant, but that he is too present. He is ready to be made real in everything we have, not just our spiritual actions.
It would certainly be simpler if we could relegate our Lord to our prayers, if we could exclusively encounter him in liturgy of the Mass. But what about the liturgy of nature, the sanctuary of a wooded glen? What of the prayer of thanksgiving that the heart casts forth, after laughing with a friend? In the Gospels is a Jesus who stubbornly insists on being real, not simply mediating spiritual restoration to humanity like some sort of enigmatic mystic, but rather engaging fully in every aspect of human existence. As our glorified savior, he wants to live through us, transforming our whole being, not just our spirituality. In Christ, not only are we made righteous before God in preparation for eternity; we become more fully human right here, right now, in this space and time. God has already entered it, and the imprint of eternity is all around us, if only we have eyes to see.
What, then, is the Lord’s work? It is in the embodying of His presence in everything. From soap suds to Holy Water, from plumbing pipes in a house to plumbing the depths of the human heart, there is nothing safe from Christ’s redemptive manifestation. The truth is that Jesus doesn’t just want the prayer of our lips, he wants the prayer of our actions. He desires our worship, but he delights in our work just as readily, and He sees no reason why our work can’t be worship. In God’s eyes, no work done as worship is anything less than the most sacred of things.
Why then would we try to put asunder what God himself hath joined? So go do the Lord’s work; heal sickness and souls; litigate and lay hands; wash dishes and feet. Cook a delectable dinner for friends and family, and then partake in the Lord’s Supper, knowing that in doing both, you show by example to those outside the doors of the Church that Christian faith is not simply intellectual ascent or spiritual belief, but rather tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.
JOEL CLARKSON '15
From the soaring, cinematic sounds of his film music to his melodic, pensive piano works, Joel Clarkson is an award-winning composer who is known for the vibrant colors of sound he paints with his music. Joel has provided original music for numerous feature and short films. He has also received high praise as a concert composer and orchestrator, and his creative contributions to concert music have been heard around the world to great acclaim. For more information, please visit www.joelclarkson.com.