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Work and the Cosmic Worker

Corona-Liturgies and Counter-Liturgies Part 6

'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.'

“How’s work going?!”

I don’t think that question would ever have such a varied range of answers as it does now.

For some, the answer is “Ah yes, work’s what I used to do before I discovered the term ‘furlough.’” For others it’s more like “work’s pretty much the only thing I do these days.” Others are in the “work’s the thing I squeeze in around the edges of everything else” camp.

Then there are those whose work finished a while ago, and whose hopes or routines for have been thrown in the air.

All of us have had different experiences over the last 3 months—most have experienced a lot of change somewhere along the line.

Change tends to exaggerate our usual responses. Small frustrations which usually drift by become bigger wrinkles in our day. Fluctuations in mood grow from small ripples to enormous waves.

And one of the most common features of work is frustration isn’t it? Since Genesis 3 work has yielded thorns and thistles. Sometimes we till the soil and sew the seed with care and attention, but find weeds growing alongside, or even instead of the fruit we want.

At the same time though, we were designed to work. Genesis 2 contains gardening, biology, geography, creative writing, probably with music, and apparently mining (engineering?!) at the very least! We were created in the image of the Cosmic-Worker and given work to do. Which means we’ll also experience frustration when we can’t work too.

I’m pretty sure most of us will relate to that, somewhere. The altered routines and habits of our workdays, or not-workdays will have been riddled with it.

My friends who have been furloughed report uncertainty, followed by perhaps a couple of weeks enjoying more leisure, followed by a creeping feeling of fruitlessness and, as one friend put it, being “just a bit bleurgh.” Meanwhile other friends have found been frustrated by having more work to do with less time to do it.

The resulting workday liturgies will mould and influence our views of ourselves and what we’re made for. Frustration causes us to feel the need to get rid of it for a truly fulfilling life. The frustration of not working suggests that work might fulfil us. The frustration of work can whisper that what’s needed is not-work.

And yet, whilst being created human means being created to work, it doesn’t mean being created for work. Being images of the Cosmic Worker means being limited workers. We don’t work all the time. Instead, rest brings significance to the work we do.

Which is why Jesus’ words are so helpful: 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.' (John 5:17).

God is always working. He rested from his creating work but goes on sustaining the world he made, calling people to salvation, and working out his plan to see creation released from frustration. Which means we can relax a little about work, not-work and their frustrations.

Instead, perhaps we might receive a counter-liturgy. When frustration rises, we can turn towards God in prayer, yearning for that day of release, and relying on him as the Cosmic Worker who goes on working well beyond any limit.

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