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Finding a Job You Can Love

A service plan based on Ecclesiastes 2:17-26 focused on selecting our vocation, which should be a source of productivity, satisfaction and meaning for us as image-bearers of God who have been redeemed in Christ in a series focused on vocation and how our faith and our work are integrated.

"Your Work Matters" Worship Service Series

Theme of the Service

This is the fourth in a series of five worship services on the general theme "Your Work Matters," based on the book by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks, Your Work Matters to God (Navpress, 1987). This service on selecting our vocation received its title, and a number of ideas, from chapter 10 of this book. Our daily vocation should be a source of productivity, satisfaction and meaning for us as image-bearers of God who have been redeemed in Christ.

* * * * *


Prelude: "Let All Things Now Living"

*The Call to Worship: 
Though the mountains may shake,
We are standing on holy ground!
Though the earth moves under our feet,
Christ alone is our solid rock!
Though the walls may crack,
Our refuge is the everlasting love of God!
Though fear may seek to set up camp,
God is our strength and guide!
(from Sourcebook of Worship Resources, Volume I, Communication Resources, Inc., Canton, Ohio, 1996, p.34.
Used by permission. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use,

*Song of Praise: "Let All Things Now Living" PH 554, PsH 453, RN 48, TH 125, TWC 53 

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Song: "Psalm 19: God's Glory Fills the Heavens" SNC 88


The Call to Confession

The Prayer of Confession

The Assurance of Pardon

Our Response of Dedication: "Take, O Take Me As I Am" SNC 215 

God's Call to Grateful Living from Exodus 20:
Hear, O people of God,
the law which the Lord speaks in your hearing this day,
that you may know his statutes and walk according to his ordinances.
Teach us, O Lord, the grace of your law, and give us life by your Word.
The God who saved us in Jesus Christ gave this law, saying:
I am the Lord your God! You shall have no other gods before me.
We will worship the Lord our God and serve only him.
You shall not make yourself an image of anything to worship it.
Living no more in bondage to earthly gods,
we will worship the Lord our God in spirit and in truth.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord.
We will use the holy name of God with reverence,
praising him in everything we do and say.
You shall observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy,
for in six days you shall labor and do all your work.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
The first part of the law is this great commandment:
That we love the Lord our God with all our heart,
with all our mind, and with all our strength.
The second part of the Law is similar to the first:
you shall honor your father and mother, that you may live long
in the land the Lord your God is giving to you.
As children we will be obedient to our parents in the Lord;
as parents we will correct our children and guide them
in the training and instruction of the Lord;
we will respect the lawful authorities appointed by God.
You shall not murder.
We will be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave us.
You shall not commit adultery.
We will use our bodies in ways that are holy and honorable,
and abstain from immorality and impurity.
You shall not steal.
We will do what we can for our neighbor's good,
and work faithfully so that we may share with the poor.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
We will speak the truth with our neighbor in love,
render judgments that are true and make for peace,
and not devise in our hearts any evil against anyone.
You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
We will be content whatever the circumstances
through the strength of Christ within us.
Thus we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
For the Lord requires of us to do justice,
to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. Amen!
(from the Psalter Hymnal, p.1017; alsoTWS, 2.7.17) 

Sung Response: "Take, O Take Me As I Am" SNC 215

The Children's Moment 


*Song of Preparation: "Take My Life and Let It Be" PH 391, PsH 288, TH 585, TWC 568, UMH 399; RL 475; TH 586
or: "Take My Life That It May Be" PsH 289, RN 150, SFL 74
or: "How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord" PH 419, RL 433, TWC 395

The Prayer for Illumination
Living God,
help us to hear your holy Word with open hearts
so that we may truly understand;
and, understanding,
that we may believe;
and, believing,
that we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience,
seeking your honor and glory in all that we do.
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (TWS 3.1.15)

The Reading from Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2:17-26
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Finding a Job You Can Love
Your Work Matters #4

The Prayer of Application


*Our Commitment to Follow in Faith:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
We will trust in the Lord.
My children, says the Lord, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments;
for length of days and years of life they will give us.
Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you, says the Lord.
Inscribe them on the tablet of our heart!
Then, O Lord, we shall find favor in your sight,
and good repute among the people.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Honor the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing and refreshment for your body.
Keep sound wisdom and prudence,
and they shall be light for your soul.
Then you shall walk on your way securely,
for the Lord will be our confidence.
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words, or swerve from them.
We will seek wisdom.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
We will guard our heart.
Now then, listen to instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.
We will hear the words of the Lord. (from selected passages of Proverbs)

*Song: "If You But Trust in God to Guide You" PH 282, PsH 446, RL 151, TH 670, TWC 636, UMH 142

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory Prayer
The Offering of Music: "If You But Trust in God to Guide You" 
We offer our gifts for..


*Words of Sending: 1 Corinthians 10:31

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Lord, Be Glorified" RN 172, SFL 71, SNC 43, TWC 537 

Postlude: "Prelude in Classic Style," Young

* - You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

Consider beginning the sermon with a story of searching for vocation. John, for example, was an eleven year-old boy when he came to America. He was one of ten children in an extremely poor family. He never went farther than sixth grade in school because he had to help his siblings support their family. He never had many opportunities and worked in a large factory his entire life. Late in his life he shared with his children that he had never loved his job and had always wanted to be a school teacher. Yet his children were impressed with the fact that, though he had had no opportunities to pursue his dream, he always did his best at his job and gave it his all. He typifies a generation of people who had very few opportunities for growth and vocation yet approached their daily work with a high level of motivation.

When you write this sermon, it would be wise to remind yourself of several considerations:

  • Most people today are faced with a myriad of vocational choices. Particularly those who are graduating from school often feel overwhelmed by the number of options.
  • Many in our congregations from their early teens into their thirties experience much anxiety over vocational choices.
  • A recent marketing and research corporation reported that between 50% and 80% of people feel they are in the wrong job. Another group reported that as high as 80% of all people do not love their job.
  • Even though the young feel much anxiety about their vocational choices, vocational choices are not limited to only one chapter in life. Studies show that most Americans change jobs 3-5 times during their lifetimes, which is approximately every 7-10 years.
  • Within the heart of image-bearing humans rests the fervent desire to find meaning and satisfaction in their daily vocation.

The author of Ecclesiastes can serve as a "reverse teacher." This book is a candid and honest journal about the search for meaning in life. Some people teach us because they say and do the right thing. This author teaches through the opposite, his fruitless searches. He complains about the fruitlessness, "vanity," "meaninglessness" of his work that is a "chasing after wind" (Eccl.2:17 NIV). In verses 18-23 he catalogues the reasons for this meaninglessness. His reasons are not very different from what we hear from others (and ourselves) every day. In verses 24-26 we begin to see some light coming through. He realizes that there is no hope except for connecting it all with God. The sermon-writer must be sure that additional instruction and insight from the New Testament is drawn in to make this a message of good news. Ecclesiastes shows us traps to avoid, but the full message of scripture will show us the faith-filled search we need.

Our search for a "job we can love" must be built on the conviction that God has designed us, that he calls us to exercise wisdom in all our choices in life (see Proverbs 1-4), and that we practice our faith through trust in God, i.e. our sense that God will lead us (Ephesians 5:15-18). With these three as our convictions, we search for our vocation with five activities:

  • Assessing where we stand with Christ. Though Solomon knew only Old Testament revelation, we have the full knowledge of the renewing work of Jesus Christ and his desire that we walk with him. (See Matthew 16:24-28.)
  • We ask long-term questions, not merely about what we will make, or what advancement this work will provide, but whether it will honor God by giving us a valuable opportunity to serve God and make a contribution to society in the long run. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.)
  • We aim for a challenge. We need a challenge that will draw the best out of us and develop our potential. (See Matthew 25:16-18.)
  • We must be true to who we are. God has formed us to be unique persons with certain abilities and gifts. The person with five talents ought not to compare herself with the person with two, etc. (See Matthew 15.)
  • Seek advice from others who are Christ-honoring. God brings other very wise people into our lives so that he can use them to nudge and steer us in the direct he wants. These encouragers and counselors can be parents, teachers, and friends. (Listen to Paul serve in that capacity with the Ephesians in 4:1-3.)

Music Notes
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude, introductions and alternative accompaniments for the opening hymn can be found in the following resources:

ASH GROVE/THE ASH GROVE ["Let All Things Now Living"]

Carlson, J. Bert. A New Look at the Old. Augsburg 11-11009 [1999] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 2. AMSI OR-3 [1981] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Triptych on The Ash Grove. Augsburg 11-10971 [1999] (M-D)
Held, Wilbur. Those Wonderful Welsh, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-842 [1992] (adaptable for
piano, E)
Kosche, Kenneth. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 2. Concordia 97-7015 [2003] (E)
Schulz, Christine. Variations on The Ash Grove. Morningstar MSM-10-708 [1995] (M)
Sedio, Mark. Recessional on Sent Forth by God's Blessing. Concordia 97-6864 [2000] (E-M)
Stoldt, Frank. Five Hymn Settings. Morningstar MSM-10-931 [1988] (E-M)
Wood, Dale. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 3. Augsburg 11-9320 [1974] (E-M)

Leavitt, John. How Sweet the Sound. CPH 97-6891 [2000] (M)

Moklebust, Cathy. Let All Things Now Living. Choristers Guild CGB-170 [1995] (3-5 octaves, D)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 3. Ludwig O-10 [1986]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Note that the response of dedication "Take, O Take Me As I Am" surrounds the call to grateful living.

Suggestions for offertory music are as follows:

NEUMARK/WER NUR DEN LIEBEN GOTT ["If You But Trust in God to Guide You"]

Bach, J. S. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005] (E-M)
Bach, J. S. Six Organ Chorals (Schubler, ed. Riemenschneider) Ditson [1952] (M)
Bach, J. S. The Liturgical Year (ed. Riemenschneider) Ditson [1933] (E-M)
Bach, J. S. Twelve Chorale Preludes (ed. Glynn) Schirmer 1441 (M)
Carlson, J. Bert. A New Look at the Old. Augsburg 11-11009 [1999] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 8. AMSI SP-105 [1991] (E-M)
Curry, W. Lawrence . Chorale Prelude on Bremen. Abingdon APM-283 [1963] (E-M)
Hildebrand, Kevin. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 3. Concordia 97-7052 [2004] (E)
Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M)
Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm. Twenty-one Chorale Preludes. Augsburg 11-9506 [1967] (E-M)
Peeters, Flor. 30 Chorale Preludes, set 2. Peters 6024 [1950] (E-M)
Powell, Robert J. If You But Trust in God to Guide You. Morningstar MSM-10-873 [1994] (E-M)
Sedio, Mark. Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ. Augsburg 11-10718 [1996] (E-M)
van der Panne, Wim. Variaties over Wie maar de Goede God laat Zorgen. Musicript MR122
[1986] (M)
Walcha, H. Chorale Preludes, bk. 1. Peters 4850 (E-M)

Boertje, Barbara. Piano Improvisations for the Church Year. Unity 70/1194U [1998] (E-M)
Nordquist, John. Four Hymns for the Concert Pianist. Hope 301 [1983] (M-D)

Clisham, William F. If Thou But Suffer God to Guide You. Agape 1337 [1988] (3 octaves, E-M)
Kerr, J. Wayne. Danza. Choristers Guild CGB 340 [2003] (3-5 cctaves, level 3)
Lowenburg, Kenneth. If Thou But Trust In God to Guide Thee. AGEHR AG-23005 [1992] (2-3
octaves, M)

We suggest you craft some verses to "Lord, Be Glorified" that reflect and respond to the theme of the sermon. These could include: "in my life, Lord"."in my work, Lord"."in my service, Lord."

The organ postlude suggestion "Prelude in Classic Style" by Gordon Young is published by SMP NPO [1966] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes

1. Again, it will be helpful if worshipers are reminded of the theme of this service and series at the very beginning. Mentioning the theme prior to the Call to Worship can set the theme in their minds immediately.

2. God's Call for Grateful Living is taken from Responsive Readings of the Law, (5) As a Rule of Gratitude (Psalter Hymnal p. 1017). To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

3. We suggest that the comments made to the children be consistent with the theme of this service. Therefore, this message can focus on our response to someone we love. When we love someone and are grateful to them, we desire to obey them and live the way they want. Use illustrations to make this clear. You have opportunity here not only to teach them grateful obedience, but also to explain why God's law is read after God's pardon. It is also an opportunity to instruct them in the form of Christian liturgy; that is, why confession is followed by pardon that inspires gratitude, which results in obedience.

4. The words of Our Commitment to Follow in Faith are all taken from various selections from the book of Proverbs. Traditionally, these are considered the words of Solomon, as Ecclesiastes is. In this reading, God's instructions to us are followed with our promise to obey. As this is introduced, use a few words to point out the seriousness of what we are saying!