Saturday, July 23, 2022

CN | He Saw That It Was Good: A Good Calling (Surge Intro)

He Saw That It Was Good by Sho Baraka

How can we bring what we do every day—no matter how humble—into the story of creation and redemption that God is writing so we can join Him in healing this broken world? + Sho Baraka

As we continue to prepare for the next Surge School, I have returned to The Seamless Life by Steven Garber as well as He Saw That It Was Good by Sho Baraka to offer people a glimpse of how we will walk through what it means to have a deeply formed life that connects your work with God's work, your story with God's story

Below are some quotes from Sho as you consider how Surge School might be worth your time, creativity, and investment in the months to come.

He Saw That It Was Good: A Good Calling Inspires Rich Contentment & Creativity

We've already been given a good role. One that requires us to act out the image of God as we find our place in His story and to give of ourselves to make this world a little less broken. What if, instead of coping and complaining, we chose to believe this? To believe that we have a part to play—no matter how humble our role seems on the surface? What if we found the bravery to faithfully create in response to our calling, no matter how humble that calling is? What if we embraced the daily opportunities we are given to invest our time and our talent in our work?

God is good. And one of the implications of being made in His image is that we were made to cultivate good (towb). We were made to work—not for mindless profit but for the benefit of the good world. To contribute to the welfare of creation.

Brokenness in society reproduces itself when we create from an identity smaller than the one God gave us, instead of reclaiming our rightful story. When we reclaim that truer story, our creativity and calling can bring us the richness of contentment.

Contentment ignites the observation that all things have intrinsic value by simply being what they are. And here's what happens when we really get that: contentment removes the obstructions that keep us from seeing properly. We see things as they are—ourselves, our work, and God ... I remember hearing a quote that captures the heart of contentment: 
"If God has called you to be a trashman, don't stoop so low as to be a king."

When you have a high regard for your work, you can change the climate around yourself. God is preeminent over prestigious positions as well as the "restrooms" (or sanitation trucks) we manage. Whether we work in a palace or a lion's den, God provides opportunities for us to reflect His character in our calling.

We are not limited by what we do but by how we do it.

When our creativity is grounded in worship, we become deeply content. Our contributions are not about prestige or production. They are about faithfulness. The attic or restroom that serves as our office may not be as high a call as we want (it's okay to have ambition and want to expand our horizons), but it's a call we can see as holy. The more honor we bestow on even those humble positions, the more our dignity is affirmed.

(For example), it's easy to dismiss sanitation work as just collecting garbage. But let's think about how many ramifications there are if a city doesn't handle its trash. Garbage will collect on street corners. The waste will increase the risk of pests spreading disease. A lack of sanitation puts higher pressure on health-care professionals. The city begins to lose its aesthetic appeal. As a consequence, the dirty city brings in less business. This diminishes the community's value, and people don't take ownership of where they live. The citizens begin to care less about their neighborhoods and schools. They invest less. And the cycle continues. Sanitation work affects the economy and quality of life of the whole city. Whether or not we desire such work is irrelevant. Devaluing virtuous work is to say that God is not present in that activity. That is an evil philosophy. A demonic theology. The ability to solve problems is a direct reflection of our connection to God, our Creator. That is a creative life.

Even in the most undignified or exploitative settings, there were people who used their God-given creativity to reclaim their human dignity. We need to look no further than American slaves singing spirituals on the horrid plantations or chain gangs using crafty cadences to remind them of their humanity. The melody of the soul silences the mockery of our surroundings. Music, like all art, is the memory of virtue. 

No matter our setting, with imagination we can dignify it. Remake this broken world, even just a little.

Worship is not restricted to churches or cathedrals. If we believe God is sovereign, then we must believe that what he has made has a good purpose. We must see good not solely as what is good for me but as what is good according to the narrative of God. Within the narrative of God, neither our talents nor our work has ever been limited to what pleases us. Work can be for provision. Work can be for pleasure. Work can also be for purposeredemptive purpose. Good work helps repair the damage done when humans decided to swerve God as the preeminent architect of all creation. It reinforces the true story.

If your work is concerned only with wealth or upward mobility and not the well-being of others, then your God has become a slumlord. Work is not agnostic. Calling is spiritual. Every swing of a hammer is informed by an idea ... If we don't swing the hammer within the framework of our own convictions, then we swing it for the conviction of another. Are we creating with God's good vision in mind? Is our work building the kind of world that we see in the love and life of Jesus?

Very seldom in the Bible did people have the luxury of doing what they wanted. Many were called by God to fulfill a need. At times during this calling, the individual felt underqualified. This did not stop God from assigning him or her to the task. If anything, recognition of limitations makes a person more qualified for the job because of his or her dependence on God. Therefore, is it possible that our theology around calling should emphasize need over desire?

Here are some important questions to ask ourselves: 

Why has God placed me here at this time? 
What is the redemptive goal of my work? 
Am I working for the glory of God or the glorious dollar? 
God demonstrated the power of work and cultivation in Genesis. He hovered over the void and created beauty and meaning. As humans made in God's image, we have the ability to wake up every morning and create beauty and meaning too. Each morning is empty and without form. There is no narrative yet. We hover over the emptiness and make decisions to create. 
Will what we make be good?

+ Excerpts from pgs. 28-45 in Chapter 2: Good Call in He Saw That It Was Good: Reimagining Your Creative Life to Repair a Broken World by Sho Baraka.

An Invitation to Consider Surge School New England

If some of these thoughts intrigue you and stir curiosity and a hunger to learn more, consider participating in Surge School New England.

May God's Kingdom come, His will be done.
JesΓΊs nuestra Rey, venga Tu reino! 

Here are links to other recent City Notes (CN) books:

With presence, peace, and many blessings,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

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