EMPLOYER VS EMPLOYEE: A SERMON ON THURSDAY, FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
Recently, I met a man who greeted me by saying ‘God bless your ministry!’ and this got me thinking. Who is the employer here and who is the employee. Is my ministry as a priest a job given to me by God or a job I have given to God. If the work is mine and God is there to bless it, then this man’s prayer will make sense. But if the work is the work of God and God has employed me to participate in that work, then how did it become my ministry. There is still value in this prayer, but it is a misleading prayer. I do not have a ministry. God is the minister who has employed me to work in His ministry.
At that time: Jesus said to the Jews, “If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true; there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony which I receive is from man; but I say this that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not recieve me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father, it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. If you believe Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writing, how will you believe my words?”: In so many parts of the Gospel, Jesus speaks of Himself as being sent by the Father, and He speaks of Himself as being committed to do the will of God. This helps us to understand our own liturgy. In our liturgy, we gather to participate in the work of God, in what God is doing in our life. Some people have interpreted the word ‘Liturgy’ to mean ‘Work of the people’, and this has misled many people to think that the liturgy is about the people. The word ‘Liturgia’ comes from ‘leite’ and ‘ergos’. ‘Leito’ reminds us of the english word ‘Laity’, which refers to people, while ‘ergon’ which is ‘to do’, i.e. ‘work’. The confusion comes from the distinction between the words ‘leito’ and ‘laos’. ‘Leito’ means ‘public’ and ‘laos’ means ‘people’. The word from which ‘Liturgy’ is formed is not ‘laos’, but ‘leito’. Interestingly, th non-cleric part of the church is called ‘Laity’. In other words ‘Liturgy’ is not ‘Work of the people’, but ‘Public work’. The difference is that if we understand it as ‘work of the people’ it will mean that the people own the work, and that makes God an employee. But if it is ‘Public work’, it means that the work belongs to God and the people are His employee.
This understanding will save us from idolatry, which is the worship of other gods. The emphasis of our worship is not ourselves. There are two ways by which we place emphasis on ourselves. Some people come to worship God because they have a problem that they want God to help them solve. As important as it is to present our problems to God, if that is the only reason a person is worshiping God, then the person is worshiping his problem instead of God. Another way we fail to worship God is when we come to mass thinking the most important thing in the mass is the homily. So, what is most important to us is to learn something. In this case, the emphasis is still on ourselves. Sometimes the whole attention is on the priest. All these are subtle forms of idol worship.
In those days: The Lord said to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they have turned aside quickly out-of-the-way which I commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people; now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; but of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses begged the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you did swear by your own self, and did say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.'” And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.: Our stories may not be different. The Israelites were very concerned about themselves and God was like their employee. If you have an employee, and the employee does not work according to your standard, you reserve the right to sack the employee and employ someone else. Many people’s relationship with God can be like that. If we wait for God to help us and He delays, then we will help ourselves. This shows that it is not really about God but about us.
The true meaning of worship is to forget about ourselves and concentrate on Him. Worship, or ‘Worth-ship’ as I like to call it, is to consider God to be of the greatest worth in one’s life. Otherwise, whatever is of greater worth in my life, or whoever is of the greatest worth in my life, that thing or that person becomes my god. The worship of a golden calf can be symbolic of the worship of ‘the gold’ and ‘the calf’, which represent money and wealth. Is it true that our places of worship are places where money and wealth are worshiped? When this man prayed that God bless my ministry, what was he saying? The times I have heard that expression in the past, it was always used in relation to giving something towards the ministry. Today a church is said to be successful if it has a lot of money in the bank account, never mind how many souls are converted. When we pray, do we focus on what God is doing in our lives, or do we focus on what we want God to do in our lives? The implication of having God as an employee is that we determine how the work should be done. In our liturgy, we worship God, not the way we want to worship God, but the way God himself has asked us to worship Him. If not, we would be worshiping other gods without knowing it. This is what makes the difference between worshiping God and worshiping idols. The whole mass is structured in such a way that our emphasis is on God. We do exactly what Christ has asked us to do, irrespecive of what we would have wanted to do. But if we are not careful, we can revert the emphasis to ourselves. May God bless the work which is His own.