Sunday, January 31, 2021

Combing out hard labour.

Propers for Septuagesima

Sermon for Septuagesima

We are now in an age in which we have major labour-saving devices: washing machines, microwaves, even self-cleaning glass in our windows. If our devices really do save labour, why are we still working so hard?


It doesn't really matter whether we are slugabeds or earlybirds, the work that faces each of us is hard and often we feel disheartened at facing our labours. Like the Red Queen on her run with Alice through the looking glass, we seem to put an enormous amount of energy into just staying still. If we don't, things just fall apart. Why?


When Humanity is cast out of the Garden of Eden, God tells us, "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

Notice God doesn't curse the ground. He tell us that it is cursed by us. Our hard work is as much a consequence of our disobedience as smashed china is a consequence of letting go of Grandma's favourite milk jug. God's creation is ordered and Humanity's free decision is to disorder it based on the Devil's lie. God tolerates this because He loves us enough to let us be free to choose.

It means that all of our lives follow paths like tangled hair. They knot and intertwine until our paths become hard and complicated. The more we look to do our own will apart from God, the more we knot and tangle not only our lives but the lives of everyone else! No wonder it hurts when we try to straighten things out. No wonder the prospect of God running a comb through our lives is frightening.


"It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness : for so he giveth his beloved sleep."

In our hard work, we often lose sight of ourselves and our relationship with God. We work in vain, our lives tangling and snagging on the result of our brothers and sisters trying to live their lives. We cannot escape hard labour.

But we can look beyond it.

God gives His beloved sleep.


We live our lives for God. While that doesn't excuse us from Life's hardship, it does allow us to see ourselves as part of God's Creation and in the light of His promise of rest with Him. God labours six days to create and rests when His labour is complete. We, too, have the promise of His rest from our labours.


Labouring for God is hard work indeed, whatever time we pick up our shovel. But it's end is God Himself waiting like the prize at the end of the race. We will weep, we will struggle, we will hurt and be in agony, but all things - absolutely all things - work for good for those who love God.

We just keep calm, carry on and keep praying. It's all we can do, but God will do the rest.

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