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Religion and Work - Do They Mix?

A service plan based on Exodus 20 and Colossians 3 addressing our attitudes toward daily work and what our faith has to do with shaping these attitudes in a series focused on vocation and how our faith and work are integrated.

"Your Work Matters" Worship Service Series

Theme of the Service

This service introduces the series that will conclude on Labor Day weekend. This first service will ask questions and raise issues about our Christian vocation that can be answered during the remainder of the series. What are our attitudes toward our daily work, and does our faith have anything to do with shaping these attitudes?

* * * * *


Prelude: "All Things Bright and Beautiful" 
or: "Beautiful Savior"

*The Call to Worship 
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven, so thank our God
for joy in living,
for the beauty of his world,
for the changing of the seasons,
for the regularity of night and day,
for sunshine and rain.
And we welcome God's call to serve him in this world
to work with creation and its resources,
to provide for one another,
to use our gifts and abilities productively.
We give thanks for the days of this week to do our work.
We've tried to do it with all our heart.
At times it has been difficult,
and we have become weary.
Let us come to worship our Triune God.
We come to be renewed in grace and strength.

*God's Greeting and Congregational "Amen"

*Song: "All Things Bright and Beautiful" PH 267, PsH 435, RL 15, SFL 90, TH 120, WOV 767, UMH 147, THC 57
or: "Beautiful Savior" PsH 461


The Call to Confession

The Prayer of Confession

Gracious Lord, you have put so many valuable things in our hands. We enjoy the gift of freedom, a land of prosperity, bodies and minds that are healthy and active, and relationships that are special. You have provided employment and vocations so that we may provide for our loved ones, serve others and find satisfaction.

Yet, we must confess that we have done so with a poor attitude and a warped spirit. We have grumbled when we should have been grateful. We've done sloppy work when you called us to give our best. We've been lazy when we should have been industrious. We've tried to please others when we should have been more concerned about pleasing you. Sometimes we've worshiped our work instead of you.

Forgive us, we pray, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

The Assurance of Pardon

Our Song of Praise and Dedication: "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" PsH 286, RL 68, TWC 565

God's Call to Grateful Living

The Children's Moment 


*Song of Preparation: "Holy Spirit, Mighty God" PsH 278, RN 95

The Prayer for Illumination

The Readings from Scripture: Exodus 20:8-11 and Colossians 3:23-24
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Religion and Work: Do They Mix?
Your Work Matters #1

The Prayer of Application


*Our Affirmation:
In our work, even in dull routine, we hear the call to serve our Lord.
We must work for more than wages, and manage for more than profit,
so that mutual respect and the just use of goods and skills
may shape the work place, and so that, while we earn or profit,
useful products and services may result.
Rest and leisure are gifts of God
to relax us and to set us free
to discover and to explore.
Believing that he provides for us, we can rest more trustingly
and entertain ourselves more simply.
("Our World Belongs to God", par.51) 

*Song: "Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go" PsH 324, RL 79, TWC 397, UMH 438 

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory Prayer
The Offering of Music: "Canto de esperanza/Song of Hope" 
or: "Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go"
We offer our gifts for..


*Words of Sending: Colossians 3:23-24

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Canto de esperanza/Song of Hope" PH 432, SNC 282

Postlude: "Fugue in G Major," J.S. Bach 

* - You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

For this series, "work" or "vocation" should be understood in the broadest possible sense. It may be in the home or out of the home, part-time or full-time, with a paycheck or not. Work is whatever tasks of service occupy us for large amounts of our time and energy.

Most worshipers can benefit from examining their attitudes toward daily work. You may want to think about what kind of response hearers would have to the series title. Will it be agreement, skepticism, or cynicism? Three attitudes toward work are common: resentment of work (a necessary evil!), idolatry of work (I get my identity from it!), and the secularization of work (I live in two separate worlds of religion and work.). All three will likely be present in your congregation.

Is God aware of and interested in our daily work? If we say "no," we relegate him to a place of relative unimportance in the part of our lives in which we spend the greatest amount of time and effort. If we say "yes," we give our work significance, but we must also ask what difference this makes in our work and our attitude toward it. The two Scripture passages teach us the integration of our faith and our vocation. God's desire is that the two interact with each other. Reformed Christians have called this a "world-and-life-view."

When God met Israel at Mt. Sinai to give them the moral code for their new society, he gave them a structure and rhythm of life which included both work and Sabbath. Since this is the first table of the law, God is telling us that one of the ways we love God is to retain a healthy rhythm of work and rest. Work, rest and God all go together!

When we move to the New Testament and listen to Paul writing to a congregation of young Christians, he addresses the same subject. These Christians were living in a very pagan environment that was not friendly to a Christian lifestyle. After addressing the variety of roles they have (wives, husbands, children, parents, slaves, masters), he addresses the integration of their belief and their work. "Whatever you do." is a reference to work (v.23). "Work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord." is a reference to the expression of their faith and love toward God (v.23). "It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (v.24) points to the direction of their living.

Israelites who had been slaves in Egypt, Colossian workers, and laborers today in a secular society may find these hard words to swallow, but this integration holds a hope of lifting our daily activities to a much higher level of significance and provides ways for our new life in Jesus Christ to find daily expression.

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 and alternative harmonizations based on the opening hymn suggestions are as follows:

ROYAL OAK ["All Things Bright and Beautiful"]

Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 6. Morningstar MSM-10-763 [2002] (E-M)
Kolander, Keith. (1998) Augsburg Organ Library - Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7
[2003] (E-M)
Miller, Aaron David. Improvisations for the Church Year, vol. 2. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-
7676-9 [2004] (E-M)
Visser, Larry. The Creation. Wayne Leupold WL600164 [2002] (M)
Wood, Dale. Wood Works on International Folk Hymns. Sacred Music Press 70/1070 S
[1995] (E-M).

Kinyon, Barbara. All Things Bright and Beautiful. Agape 1733 [1995] (2-3 octaves, E-M)
Larson, Katherine Jordahl. All Things Bright and Beautiful. CPH 97-6878 [2000] (3-5 octaves,
level 2)
Siebert, Roberta. All Things Bright & Beautiful. Flammer HP-5277 [1989] (3-4 octaves with
organ, E-M)

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


Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 1. Fred Bock B-G0548 [1980] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 3. AMSI OR-6 [1983] (E-M)
Harris, David S. Ten Hymn Preludes in Trio Style, set 2. H. W. Grey. GB643 [1978] (E)
Hobby, Robert A. For All the Saints. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7537-1 [2002] (E-M)
Johnson, David N. Beautiful Savior. H. W. Grey. 935 [1967] (E-M)
Peeters, Flor. Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, vol. 6. Peters 6406 [1966] (E-M)
Stearns, Peter Pindar. Twelve Hymn Preludes for General Use. Flammer HF-5145 [1987] (E-M)
Young, Gordon. Chorale Preludes on Seven Hymn Tunes. Flammer HF-5002 [1960] (E-M)

David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (E-M)

Moklebust, Cathy. Meditation on "Beautiful Savior". Choristers Guild CGB-175 [1996] (3-5
octaves, M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Wasson, Laura E. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The text of " Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go" is paired with a variety of hymn tunes. We are suggesting using either DUKE STREET or TRURO. Pairing a relatively new text with a familiar hymn tune allows a congregation to pay more attention to what they are singing without matching up new text with a new tune. When the song serves as a response, it is probably better to be able to sing with understanding, rather than working at negotiating a new tune. Alternative harmonizations for both of the tunes can be found in the following resources:

DUKE STREET ["Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 3. Ludwig O-10 [1986]
Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964]

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

TRURO ["Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

Suggestions for offertory music are as follows:

ARGENTINA ["Canto de esperanza/Song of Hope"]

Tucker, Sondra K. Canto de Esperanza. AGEHR AG35190 [2001] (3-5 octaves, level 3-)

DUKE STREET ["Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go"]

Bender, Jan. Five Festive Preludes on Easter Hymns. Concordia 97-5495 [1979] (M)
Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 4. Fred Bock B-G0776 [1985] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Easter Season Hymn Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-403 [1990]
Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 1. Morningstar MSM-10-846 [1992]
Callahan, Charles. Partita on Duke Street. Concordia 97-5998 [1988] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. Two Festive Organ Pieces. Morningstar MSM-10-761 [1999] (M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 3. AMSI OR-6 [1983] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. Festival Hymn Preludes. SMP KK329 [1985] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (E)
Held, Wilbur. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 1. Augsburg 11-9318 [1972] (E)
Hobby, Robert A. For All the Saints. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7537-1 [2002] (E-M)

David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (E-M)

Sherman, Arnold B. Jesus Shall Reign. Agape 1708 [1994] (2-3 octaves, E-M)

TRURO ["Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go"]

Albrecht, Timothy. Grace Notes VIII. Augsburg 11-10970 [1999] (E-M)
Bingham, Seth. Twelve Hymn Preludes, set 1. H. W. Grey. [1942] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Four Hymn Improvisations for Holy Week. Morningstar MSM-10-318 [1995]
Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations Lent-Easter. Summa SP-112 [1998] (E-M)
Kerr, J. Wayne. (1998) Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (E-M)

The organ postlude suggestion "Fugue in G Major" by J. S. Bach is familiarly known as the Gigue Fugue. It sustains the energy of the closing song even though it is a classic, Baroque organ work. It can be found in many editions of Bach's preludes and fugues. (M-D)

Liturgy Notes:

1. We suggest emphasizing the theme at the beginning of the service. You may want to introduce the call to worship by highlighting the theme. The Prayer of Confession also is theme-specific. Making worshipers aware of the theme will be helpful for them.

2. During the Children's Moment, speak to the children about their parents' vocations. Learn from them the variety of work within the group and point out that their parents' work is not just to make money but to serve God and others.

3. "Our World Belongs to God" is from the Contemporary Testimony adopted by the synod of the Christian Reformed Church. The excerpt here is from paragraph 51. The entire text can be found in the Psalter Hymnal (pp. 1019-1038). To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

4. Including the words of Paul from Colossians 3:23-24 as the Sending will reinforce the message of the entire service.