ORA et LABORA
Recently we’ve had the great privilege of coming together to consider our Lord’s teaching on the Kingdom, and how we are to picture it in our minds. I say “picture it in our minds” because rather than presenting a lecture, He chose to start by drawing two pictures with words for His disciples and listeners.
The first picture was that of a tree – a great tree growing from a mustard seed. The wording in the translation we heard in worship used the phrase “a grain of mustard seed”. In this way, the translators link the idea of the seed with the word “grain” which helps us picture the scale of its size. Wikipedia reports that the average mustard seed is 1-2mm in diameter. This is also the size of a “course” grain of sand. In other words, very, very tiny.
But this same tiny grain, although hidden underground for a time, will sprout to life and grow like a mighty tree, providing a home for the birds from all around.
Or the leaven powder a woman hides inside the giant lump of dough, slowly fermenting the whole three measures [~60 lbs].
We’ve already considered together what this picture implies. The Kingdom begins very small – with only a handful of believers and then is hidden underground. Just like our Lord was hidden in the ground of a garden, His Church was driven underground at first, literally having to worship underground and in catacombs at times because of Roman persecution. This situation is still taking place among Middle Eastern and Asian peoples, and so we continue to pray for the day when the Kingdom comes on earth and the great branches and leafy canopy fill the sky above our heads.
But faithful prayer is only half of the equation. Our other duty is faithful work.
And this is reflected in the beautiful Latin phrase we’ve been given in Church History: Ora et Labora.
So I would like to remind you of it and ask you to continue to keep it before yourselves, especially in this green season of “ordinary time” and growth when we are starting back up into the school year and plowing forward once again into the rhythms of the year. This is the time of summer slowly coming to a close and fall harvest work beginning.
A dear pastor friend of mine from Niceville is fond of saying: “You cannot change the world, but sometimes God gives you a little piece.” And he is right. But how do we change even our little piece? The answer is faithfulness – faithfulness in prayer and faithfulness in labor; lives lived in this duality of faithfulness among us and our children and our children’s children. Covenental faithfulness. Generational steadfastness. Incremental advances. This is how our Lord taught us to think about how His Kingdom would grow.
There is a great poster I saw once on the internet, illustrated after the fashion of the British WW2 poster, it said: “Keep calm and Ora et Labora.” These are our marching orders. So go forth, praying and laboring. The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that much of our human work "under the sun" is vain because of the fall and curse. But not all life is vanity and not all work is vain. So do not grow weary in doing good work, but persevere, knowing that when you work in the Lord, your labor is not in vain [1 Cor 15.57-8] .