Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Strictly business,

As part of a Collegeville Institute fellowship I received, I spent last Monday and Tuesday meeting with other new-ish Minneapolis pastors and several Minnesota business leaders. The goal was to learn more about this sector of civil society and discern connections with religion. The conversations were full, enlightening and challenging. I slept hard when I got home!

Some of you already knew I was doing this, because of one advance homework assignment. I was required to identify three “business people” in my congregation, and ask them questions about their work and its relationship to faith. I’ll admit- I loved those conversations! I think they did too… We sat together over coffee for an hour each time. I asked things like, “When did/do you find joy in your business life?”, “Is this a calling?”, “What challenges does business face these days?” And it turns out- unsurprising I’m sure- we have some profound and faithful business folk in our church, my friends!

Indeed, I enjoyed myself so much, I wanted to “interview” more than those three. Alas, between the holidays and other stuff, I couldn’t get to everyone. Still, even though my assignment is done, I’d love to keep the practice going. So here’s an open invitation- I’ll buy the coffee if you want to chat with me about your business (or non-profit, or education, or government, or “family engineering”- as they call homemakers these days) pursuits and how faith plays a role. I know I’ll learn something, and maybe you will too. How often do you take time to explore those connections in depth? If you’re like most people, I’d guess infrequently. We usually talk about other things…

But we needn’t avoid the topic. Our PCCC folk and the business leaders my group met with last week shared a conviction that (at least, some of) what each did in their workaday lives held greater meaning than earning money. You know the caricature, surely, that working people suffer through their daily grind so they can finance what they really care about. I know that’s real for some. Their job isn’t some grand “calling,” but just what they can find right now that pays. And that’s totally fine. Indeed, the most important stuff for most of us- family, God, the Broncos- lays mostly beyond our employment.

Nevertheless, even for some folk who don’t like their jobs, opportunities for deeper meaning abound. Take an example I heard from several folk, none of whom claimed a great passion for their particular industry of employment. Yet situations arose where they had challenges to solve, and they enjoyed rising to meet those challenges. Or they had chances to impact others on their team, and they enjoyed helping those others do better. When asked, they claimed that these experiences brought additional satisfaction to their work, above and beyond the paycheck. And even if other parts of their jobs were numbing or brutal, there was more to the full story.

That shouldn’t surprise us. Wise theologians describe humans as “meaning making machines.” We created to not simply slog through our lives. It’s in our spiritual DNA to search for more... from our relationships with our coworkers, if possible, beyond complaining about our boss. More joy in what we do, when possible, beyond the fact it’s over when we clock out. If we can make a positive difference in another’s life- a client, customer, partner- we strive to do so, at least we can. And as Christians, who believe that every moment holds a possibility for grace, and who claim God’s loving presence throughout the week (not just Sunday), we should strive for that. We should take whatever we’re blessed to do nor and invest as much meaning into it as possible. Whether that’s sales or management, working at the local video store or being blissfully retired, God is with you and hopes you see that, not to mention help others see it too.

Anyway, you can tell I enjoyed those conversations, and I’m looking forward to…more. Seriously, call me. We’ll chat. I’m anxious to hear how God is present with you!

Grace and Peace,
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