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Why Should I Work So Hard? - Colossians 3

A Labor Day service plan focused on hearing and responding to God's call to service in our daily work in obedience to God. This is part of a series addressing life's toughest questions for Christians.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

We usually prefer not to observe the events of the calendar that are scheduled by secular society; however, we make an exception for this week. The observance of Labor Day in North American society gives us an excellent opportunity to address the matter of our daily work from within the Biblical perspective, a perspective needed so urgently.

We have tried to address the matter each year, placing our focus both on adults in the workplace and students as they return to school (their "labor" during this chapter of life). The theme of this worship service is that in our daily work we seek to hear the call to serve our Lord. Hearing and responding to such a call is an integral part of our obedience before the Lord.


Prelude: "Variations on 'Let All Things Now Living' ", Schulz [organ]
or: "Let All Things Now Living", Moklebust [handbells]
or: "Let All Things Now Living", Leavitt [piano]

The Call to Worship

*Opening Litany

Let us declare the greatness of God,
who fills this earth with his beauty.
He set the earth on a firm foundation,
and nothing shall ever shake it!
He blanketed the earth with oceans,
and covered the mountains with deep waters.

He started the springs and rivers,
and sent them flowing among the hills.
Meanwhile men and women go out to their work,
busy at their jobs until evening.
He calls us to be his servants,
caretakers of his entire creation.
Oh, let me sing to the Lord all my life long;
sing hymns to my God as long as I live!
(based on Psalm 104, THE MESSAGE. Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996,
2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.)

*Song of Praise: "Let All Things Now Living" PH554, PsH453, RN48, TH125, TWC53

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
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.

*Response of Praise: "All Creatures of Our God and King" st. 1, 5 PH455, PsH431, RL4, RN47, TH115, TWC356


The Call to Confession

This morning God's Word reveals that God sees us as workers in his creation. Let us confess that we have not always been such faithful workers.

Our Prayer of Confession

Lord, you know how often we have resented our work;
Forgive us, Lord, for our ingratitude.
And you know how often we have neglected our abilities;
Forgive us, Lord, for our poor stewardship.
And you know how often we've been careless in our studies;
Forgive us, Lord, for not using our minds.
And you know how often we've wasted time on the job;
Forgive us, Lord, for our heart's insincerity.
And you've seen how shoddy some of our work has been;
Forgive us, Lord, for our carelessness.
And you've heard how often we've said we can't wait to get out;
Forgive us, Lord, for not working with all our heart.
And you know we've often worked only to please others;
Forgive us for failing to remember it is you we are serving.
Hear our prayer,
and in the mercy of Jesus Christ,
cleanse us for his name's sake. Amen.

The Assurance of Pardon

Song of Response: "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" Miniver: PsH286; Slane: RL68, TWC565

The Children's Moment

Song: "Lord, Be Glorified" RN172, SFL71, SNC43, TWC537

Suggested verses:

1. In my life, Lord.

2. In our work, Lord.

3. In our schools, Lord.


The Reading of Scripture: Genesis 2:15 and Colossians 3:22-4:1

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

*Song of Preparation: "Earth and All Stars" PH 458, PsH433, TWC357

The Prayer for Illumination

Lord of all creation, we acknowledge that there are many times when we never make a connection between you and our vocation, between your will and our daily work. And so now as we approach your Holy Word, may your Spirit speak to us in such a way that the connection will be clear, your will may be set forth, and our hearts may be willing to follow. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Sermon: Why Should I Work So Hard?

(Life's Toughest Questions - #5)

The Prayer of Application

Concluded with the singing of "Take, O Take Me As I Am" SNC 215


Song: "I Offer My Life/All That I Am" SNC 218
or: "Take My Life and Let It Be" Hendon: PH391, PsH288, TH585, TWC568; Hollingside: RL475; St. Bees: TH586
or: "Take My Life That It May Be" PsH289, RN150, SFL74

The Offertory: "Lord, Be Glorified", Hayes [piano]
or: "Take My Life That It May Be", Jordan [organ]

Our Affirmation of Faith:

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.
Grateful for the advances
in science and technology,
we make careful use of their products,
on guard against idolatry
and harmful research,
and careful to use them in ways that answer
to God's demands
to love our neighbor
and to care for the earth and its creatures.

(Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, st.51,52, © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI, 1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.)

Anthem: "With Every Breath", Medema

The Prayers of the People

*Song of Commitment: "Forth in Thy/Your Name, O Lord, I Go" Gonfalon Royal: PsH324; Angels' Song: RL79; Daniel:TWC397


*God's Charge to Faithful Workers - Colossians 3:23,24

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*The Moment of Meditation

Postlude: "Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go", Burkhardt

* - you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

It might be helpful to begin by identifying the confusion Christians often feel about Labor Day. Our society has a very secular view of the day - viewed by many as a holiday to end the summer, and viewed by labor unions as a time to promote their causes. Christians have often had an uneasy conscience about the day and we would do well to address the purpose of such a day, and our daily work, from the standpoint of our world and life view.

The first question is a basic one - is God interested in our daily work? To say "no" is to relegate him to a place of unimportance in the very part of life in which we spend most of our time and energy, and from which we get much of our identity. To say "yes" is to put him in the center of our lives where it's possible for him to redeem and revolutionize it all!

The second question is about our motives for working. Many illustrations of common motives are available, but the two Scriptures passages that undergird this sermon provide a Biblical perspective on motives for working. A careful explication of Adam and Eve's instructions from God in the garden, and of Paul's instruction to new Christians in Colosse will help us to see the mind of Christ in the matter. In these studies, four considerations will become clear:

1. Work originates with God.
2. Work became hard because of the fall into sin.
3. Both work and the worker are renewed in Christ.
4. Christian obedience calls for the integration of our work and our faith.

(Note: you will find a book by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks, Your Work Matters to God [NavPress, 1987] a helpful and insightful study in the preparation of this sermon.)

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)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. The suggestions for prelude music can be found in the following sources:

- "Variations on 'The Ash Grove' " by Christine Schulz, published by Morningstar MSM-10-708 [1995] (M)
- "Let All Things Now Living" by Cathy Moklebust, published by Choristers Guild CGB170 [1995] (M) for 3-5 octave handbell choir
- "Let All Things Now Living" by John Leavitt in "How Sweet the Sound", published by CPH 97-6891 [2000] (M)

  1. Encourage your congregation to sing the descant on the 2nd stanza and/or incorporate that into the accompaniment - either on keyboard or with a solo instrument. The trumpet is ideal! (Note: TH does not have descant.)
  1. If you choose to sing all the stanzas on the Song of Response in the "We Are Renewed in Grace" section of the service, you may wish to provide some variation in the singing: all on the first, third and last stanzas, and men or women on stanzas two and four.
  1. The suggestions for the initial song in the "We Respond to God's Truth" section provides two different settings of "Take My Life That It May Be" - PsH 289 provides a more contemporary text and tune of the more familiar setting found in PsH 288. Note other hymnals listed have different tunes, as well as different number of stanzas.
  1. The suggestions for the offertory can be found in:

- "Lord, Be Glorified" by Mark Hayes, published by Word 301 0047 312 [1990] (E-M)
- "A Season and a Time" by Alice Jordan, published by Broadman 4570-37 [1977] (E)

  1. The anthem "With Every Breath" by Ken Medema is published by Shawnee A6792 (E). This anthem works well with a full choir, a smaller ensemble or even with a quartet.
  1. If your congregation is not familiar with the tune of "Forth in Thy/Your Name, O Lord, I Go" we recommend singing the text to an alternate tune. Truro or Duke Street both convey the spirit of the text. A song of commitment should be sung in a way that allows the congregation to "own" the text as their commitment - if the melody is unfamiliar or very difficult, the energy needed in negotiating the melody will distract from the strength of the words.
  1. If you use an alternate tune for the closing hymn, here are suggestions for the postlude:

- Duke Street - "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" by Michael Burkhardt in "Five Easter Season Hymn Improvisations", published by Morningstar MSM-10-403 [1990] (E-M)
- Truro - "Lift Up Your Head" by Michael Burkhardt in "Four Hymn Improvisations for Holy Week", published by Morningstar MSM-10-318 [1995] (E-M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. In keeping with the theme of this service about the importance of our daily work as an integral part of our discipleship, you will notice that the opening portions of the liturgy (the litany, songs, and the prayer of confession, etc.) present that theme immediately. It might even be wise for the leader to point it out during the call to worship.

2. Because there are two Scripture passages, we would encourage the use of two lay readers, each taking one passage. Because of its brevity and lack of context if read alone, we suggest that the reader of the Genesis passage either explain its context (in the garden...) before reading it, or select a broader portion to read which includes the context (such as sts. 8-17).

3. Note the multiple ways in which worshipers will be responding to the message. In songs, offerings, a reading from Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, and prayer, their responses will be expressed corporately.

4. Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony is a contemporary formulation of faith and commitment that was adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in 1986 for use in its worship (PsH p. 1035). For copyright permission, please contact CRC Publications at (616) 224-0819, 1-800-333-8300

5. The Prayers of the People will have deep meaning if it is crafted in such a way that it includes relevant concerns many have about work. Petitions should include the usual needs of the congregation, but on this Sunday pay special attention to those who are unemployed or underemployed, those making vocational choices, those who have work but resent it and find it unfulfilling, those who feel oppressed in the workplace and a victim of its injustice, and those who have been successful and need God's wisdom to receive and use such success for God's glory, etc. This prayer could be structured in several ways:

-the pastor leads the entire prayer

-the prayer is a responsorial prayer, written in sections for different needs, each of which is concluded with a response such as:

-a verbal response of "Hear our prayer, O Lord"
-a sung response such as "Let Us Pray to the Lord" (RN171, SFL51, SNC202)

-several persons join together to lead the prayer, each focusing on a different need or set of needs.

6. God's Charge to Faithful Workers at the close of the liturgy repeats one of the passages on which the sermon was based to reinforce it in the minds and hearts of the worshipers.