Summary: For Labor Day Sunday: God is not finished with His work on us until we finish our work for Him. An experiential service.
The car in front of mine was carrying a puzzling bumper sticker. In large, readable print, it said, [hold up sign] “PBPWMGIFWMY”. Whatever could that mean? And what language was that? Polish, maybe? Swahili? Hindi? Serbo-Croatian? I inched a little closer, because there was something smaller on the lower half of the bumper sticker. It was a “translation” of PBPWMGIFWMY. It said, [hold up second sign] “Please be patient with me; God isn’t finished with me yet.”
I guess a lot of us could make that plea. God isn’t finished with us yet. I sympathized with the fellow driving that car, even though he did try my patience, since he took so literally the sign that said, “Speed Limit 25”. Preachers are not generally known for obeying that one, and I had to be reminded of the virtue of patience. God isn’t finished with him yet, nor with me. There’s more work to be done.
But I have a question. This thing of the work to be done on my life or yours: is that God’s work, or our work, or somebody else’s work? If there’s a lot of building that needs to be done, whose job is that: God’s job, or my job, or your job, or whose? If there’s a lot of maturing that your life or my life needs, just who needs to take hold of doing that? Can I just ask the Lord to keep on working on me? That sounds good. We always nod our heads in agreement when somebody says, “God will be the only one who can change that person”. Or maybe even when we say, “Only God can do in me what needs to be done.” Whose work is it to build us into strong, real, human beings? God’s work, with which He has not finished? Or whose work?
On this Labor Day Sunday, as our minds are turned toward the meaning of work, I want to guide you in an experience with the single most important Scripture passage about work. It’s all about God the worker. God the laborer. Genesis tells us about God’s work in creation. And from it we can learn not only about how God works, but also about how we can work.
This will not be a conventional sermon. It’s going to be more like an experience, a happening. It’s going to involve your using your creative imagination, as we find our way through God’s creative work. The Biblical story of the seven days of creation will guide us; but you and I and our music and the signs and symbols on this table will teach us today’s word. And that word is: It is finished. God’s work, please be patient with me; God isn’t finished with me yet. But – and here’s the puzzle -- at the same time, it is finished.
FIRST DAY WORK: SEPARATING
God began His work by the act of separating. He separated the earth and its waters from the formless void. He separated light from darkness. God began His work by separating what He would do from what He would not do.
God began His work by the act of separating. He separated the earth and its waters from the formless void. He separated light from darkness. The evening and the morning were the first day, as God separated what He would do from what He would not do. God chose priorities. God established His strategy. This is His world. And He will shape it according to His purposes. Separation. This the Father’s world.
This Is My Father’s World (43)
The work that must begin in us is also a work of separation. The place to begin, if we would be built up, is to separate what will be done from what will not be done.
Will you close your eyes? Clear your minds, be ready to let your imaginations take over. Imagine a large vat of soupy mud. Gobs of greasy goo. Yuck. Water and earth are mingled together. Some of the earth looks like red clay; some of it like grains of white sand. Some of the earth is rich, black loam; some of it sparkles with mineral fragments. And the colors! How many colors do you see? Red and yellow, black and white; and green; and brown. All stirred together. Now imagine: you are dipping your hands into this mixture. You want to separate the clay from the sand; you want to move the loam here and the minerals there. But how can you? These elements flow from one place to the next; they filter through your fingers. They will not stay put. How can you separate them?
And the colors. Are your eyes still closed? See these in your mind’s eyes. Splotches of liquid red and yellow; small pools of black and white. Dollops of green and dabs of brown. But they are mingling, aren’t they? Your vat of stuff is churning, and these colors are mingling. You are putting your hands in to prevent the mixture. You are trying to hold each color in its separate place. Are you succeeding? Can you do it?