“Work”

GOSPEL | JOHN 4:31-38

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”  32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”  34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.  35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.  36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.  37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’  38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

This morning I woke up ready. It’s been a long time since the morning has come with the energy to face it, and on a Monday no less! All of the Lenten talk about my own sinful, lazy inertia has made me sick of my soul’s recent couch-sitting lethargy. My putting on a denim work shirt and stepping out into the sunshine helped, obviously.

Today’s passage stirs this readiness and energy within me: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work” (v.34). Meaningful, purposed work is sustaining and healthy. In fact, I am hungry for a growing sense in how the work I do is its own fuel, is a source of self-sustaining motivation for me.

But this passage does not tell me to go out and do just anything. Nor does Jesus tell me to go find what “fits” my temperament or gifts or passions or whatever. Neither does he invite me into that mythic sweet spot “where [my] deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (even though I do think this is good advice for discerning calling). No, Jesus’ “food” is not simply his satisfaction in his personal vocation, but in doing his Father’s work.

What is more, Jesus asks us to find ourselves in this same kind of shared, derived vocation: “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor” (v.38). I may find some satisfaction in the renewed vitality of today, but it ultimately won’t last (if my past has any bearing on my future), and when I find the tide of ennui and lethargy coming in as my motivation ebbs, I will need something more than the shifting sands of my forming vocation to build on. I need the solid rock of God’s effective activity to stand on.