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Faith at Work: St Neots’ Deanery Evensong Sunday February 17th 2013. A sermon by Nick Gellatly

On Sunday February 17th the first of St Neots’ Deanery Evensongs took place at St James Church, Little Paxton.

The theme this year is ” Faith at work” and ALM  ( Authorised Lay Minister) Nick Gellatly preached on how  approaching our work with a positive attitude can make all the difference.

He called his sermon ” God goes to work” 

Nick began with a text from Ephesians and then a recipe for Shaker Lemon Pie!

Ephesians 6: 5 – 9

5 – Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.

 6 – Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.

7 – Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men,

 8 – because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

9 – And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that He Who is both their Master and yours is in Heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.

 Shaker Lemon Pie


This sourish pie, with its marmalade-like filling, is said to have been a specialty of the Ohio branch of the Shaker community.


2 large lemons

2 cups sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

4 eggs

4 tbsp. butter, melted

3 tbsp. all-purpose flour


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

10 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces

2 tbsp. vegetable shortening

  1. For the filling: Thoroughly wash lemons, then dry with paper towel. Finely grate lemon zest into a bowl. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice lemons very thin; remove and discard seeds. Add slices to zest and toss with sugar and salt. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.
  2.  For the crust: Sift flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or 2 table knives to work butter and shortening into flour until it resembles coarse meal.Sprinkle in up to 5 tbsp. ice water, stirring dough with a fork until it just begins to hold together. Press dough firmly into a rough ball, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Give the dough several kneads with the heel of your hand to form it into a smooth ball. Divide dough into 2 balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk eggs in bowl until frothy. Add butter and flour, whisking until smooth. Stir into lemon mixture.
  4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into two 12″ rounds. Fit one round into a 9″ pie plate and pour in filling. Cover pie with remaining pastry round. Fold edges of dough under, then crimp edges. Cut steam vents in top crust. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake until crust is golden brown, 25–30 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.



God Goes to Work


In my experience, Lent is one of those times when Christianity – or at least the concept of church – reaches out beyond the pews (or indeed rather attractive oak chairs) into the main stream. I know lots of people who would not claim to have faith – except perhaps in the sense that our fine peal of bells keeps the rumour of God alive in their hearts – but who will this and every year mark Lent in the traditional way —by giving up something they love or taking up something they don’t much care for. In my case, this year, I am doing the Couch to 5K running programme which I can tell you feels like very genuine suffering!


Already in 2013 there has been more church news on the front pages than would normally be the case outside Easter and Christmas. A new Archbishop,  same-sex marriage, religious symbols in the workplace – specifically the wearing of a cross – and, of course, earlier this week the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  All of these events link the sacred to the secular and demonstrate a continuing interest from many in faith and spirituality. Though of course, this is often manifested elsewhere than church buildings and formal worship.


And all of us, the Chruch-going minority – have a life elsewhere too and our faith calls us to be Christian in all our incarnations. As the hymn puts it: Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee.


Before I focus on our obligation as Christian workers, employees – or slaves as the Bible puts it – I;d like us all to think about our experience as masters, employers and more specifically, customers.

We’ve all had good and bad service. Sometimes the very lack of service makes the blood boil; while at others we feel welcome, comfortable and valued.


Most often it has little to do with the goods or services themselves but the people who are delivering them –at the checkout, on the phone and so on. The sense of misery or joy in the approach of those serving us can change completely our perception of the business or service we are using and it is the same in every sector of society. Even, dare I say it, the church.

 In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul’s shares with us some principles that will help make any employee—or employer for that matter—in any work place able to deliver excellent service, to do their job well and to approach their responsibilities with a sense of commitment and joy. There is nothing more likely to make working a pleasure and no better way to make the boss happy.

Before I read the text, a word of caution, Paul lived in very different times – he doesn’t talk about colleagues and business leaders – he prefers words like slave and master – not an endorsement of slavery;  simply, like so many things in the Bible, the culture of his day. God uses Paul to help people in any culture to understand how they can live out their faith in the workplace…live it out so that they can find joy and fulfillment in their labour…whatever that may be.  If you’d like to follow along, please use your Bible or the pew sheets as I read from the book of Ephesians – chapter 6 verses 5-9.




 Ephesians 6:5 – 9 ( as above)

When members of the churches heard this part of Paul’s letter for the first time, I’m sure all ears perked up because these were words that applied to their lives directly. And they are timeless principles which – language excepted – apply to our lives as employees—and employers alike—Biblical principles that help us do a better job of being a Christian at work.

 And let’s be honest—there are times in the work place where people feel they are enslaved. This is why gloomy songs like “Monday Monday” became popular. It’s why people say, “Thank God it’s Friday!” It’s why our culture has designated the time when the working day ends as “Happy Hour.”

Have you ever felt that way about your job? I mean do you ever find yourself taking four or five coffee breaks BEFORE lunch? Do you keep a large calendar on your desk at the office and use a big red marker,  crossing off the days until your next holiday?  

 Well, if you feel this way you’re not alone because any number of surveys indicate that 7 or 8 out of 10 are dissatisfied with their jobs and DREAD going to work.

 But, it doesn’t have to be that way because the principles in Scripture help us to change our attitude towards work so that it goes from being a chore—to being something that brings us joy. Paul describes two principles that I believe both employees and employers must embrace in order to find fulfillment as Christians at work.

  First, Paul says we must have the right ATTITUDE. Look at the phrases he uses. To slaves he says, “Obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart…Serve wholeheartedly.” To the masters Paul says, “Treat your slaves in the same way.”

  So—to bring this into the 21st century—wherever we are in the corporate hierarchy Paul says we must respect one another and the different rolls we play in the workplace. On top of that we are to embrace an attitude in which we always do our very best at work. We must work hard—we must strive for excellence. Ecclesiastes 9:10 puts it this way: “Whatever your hand finds to do—employers and employees—do it with ALL YOUR MIGHT…”

  Today, this ‘work ethic’  is increasingly rare. Many of us – like those in the businesses we don’t like – do just enough to get by, to get through to five o’clock, to almost justify the pay packet. 

 Recently, I found an item on the internet – it was called, ‘Ten Excuses for Sleeping at Your Desk’. It expresses well the attitude I have just described and here are a few of the best ones:


  • They told me I might nod off when I gave blood earlier.
  • This is the 15 minute power-nap I learned on that time management course you sent me to.
  • You got here just in time, I must have left the lid off the marker pens
  • I was meditating on the company mission statement
  • I was doing a Yoga exercise to relieve work-related stress

And finally:

  • …in Jesus’ name…Amen

 Almost half the British work force admit to phoning in sick, when they are not sick…and the sad fact is that Christian workers can be just as guilty of this as anyone else. Paul says that part of being a Christian is going against this flow by striving to be effective at work.  Of course he is right.  We must always give our best—whether our job is to clean the office or to chair the board. Actually, it should be a fairly easy rule to follow because the fact is we enjoy our work more when we strive to do our best.

  A great example of this is seen in the work ethic of the Shakers—or United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing to give them their full title  – a sect of believers that existed until the late 19th century. They had some odd doctrines and practices but they built some of the world’s best furniture. Here is what they taught their craftsmen: “Make every product better than it’s ever been done before.  Make the parts you cannot see as well as the parts you can.  Use only the best of materials even for the most every day items. Give the same attention to the smallest detail as you do the largest.  Design every item you make to last forever.”

 It has been said that every Shaker chair was made fit for an angel to sit on. Their recipe for lemon pie is still world-famous and even has it’s very own page on Wikipedia. They were Christians who were known for the way they loved their work—and they loved it—because they did it with the right attitude!  They learned that when we give our all at work—whether we are boss or employee—our labours become more fun—more meaningful!

  The late Methodist minister, William L. Stidger  (who died in 1949) tells the true story of the owner of a small US drugstore who hated his job. One day, for some reason, he decided to have fun with his work by striving for excellence in delivery times. When a customer who lived nearby called in with an order in on the telephone, the man would repeat each item being ordered and his assistant would listen and prepare  the order as he spoke.

  The owner would keep the customer on the phone while a delivery boy would rush out the front door. When the delivery boy reached the home of the customer, who was still on the phone to the drugstore, the customer would excuse herself for a minute to answer the door. Coming back to the phone she would express great surprise at the quickness with which the order was delivered. Well, news got around about the drugstore that filled orders so promptly and soon Charles R. Walgreen, founder of the great Walgreen drugstore empire, had more business than he could handle. He found the JOY OF ACCOMPLISHMENT in work  he had once despised because he strove to be the best at what he did! There is better news too – Walgreens have recently taken over Boots the Chemist.

  When we team up with God in our work by using the talents and abilities he has given us we develop CONFIDENCE in ourselves and in God. You see, when we discover the good work he prepared us to do—and then strive to do it—we learn to trust him more. We also grow and mature SPIRITUALLY in other ways. I mean, if we stay at our jobs until they are done right even when it is frustrating to do so, we develop PERSEVERANCE.

  When we resist the temptation of an unethical practice we develop HONESTY. By working alongside colleagues who annoy us we learn TOLERANCE and PATIENCE.  So…our jobs can indeed help us to develop as disciples of Jesus. Our workplace can provide a degree level knowledge of character development that can transform our lives and free us to be the men and women God wants us to be.

 But the BEST reward of doing our jobs with the right attitude is the fact that we are then given an opportunity to SHARE OUR FAITH.

 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your GOOD WORK and praise your Father in Heaven.” We must do this because our colleagues are the congregation God has given us…those specific people for whom he has called us to be salt and light.

Look back at our text. Verse 7 says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does,  whether he is slave or free. And masters…do not threaten [your slaves] since you know that He Who is both their Master and yours is in Heaven, and there is no favouritism with Him.”

 Paul is saying that as Christian workers we must remember who our ULTIMATE boss is…and with that in mind, we need to think of all our labours as service to Him. You see, in the final analysis, we are not working for our earthly boss—or for the company that pays our salary —no…we are working for God. We are fulfilling the calling—the work—he has given us to do in this life.

  When we look at work in this way—when we think of God as our boss, our jobs become much, much more than jobs. They become one of the ways that we worship. In Romans 12, Paul puts it this way: He said the way we live our every day lives—which would of course include our jobs—should be considered a spiritual act of worship. That’s how we’re supposed to think of our work. So, as 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

 You see, wherever we work, whatever our job description, our ultimate boss is Jesus Christ. When this life ends—when the REAL clocking-out time comes—he is the one we will want to please. Ephesians 2:10  puts it like this:

 “We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand”  

As we allow God’ Spirit to bear his fruit in our workplace…in our interactions with others…God’s kingdom grows. Our acts of kindness…our striving for excellence…our honesty…our integrity…our witness both non-verbal and verbal—has eternal consequences! In our work—we can further one part of God’s kingdom.


 Almighty God, thank Thee for the job of this day.

May we find gladness in all its toil and difficulty,

its pleasure and success,

and even in its failure and sorrow.

We would look always away from ourselves,

and behold the glory and the need of the world

that we may have the will and the strength to bring

the gift of gladness to others;

that with them we stand to bear

the burden and heat of the day

and offer Thee the praise of work well done.


The next St Neots’ Deanery Evensong is on Sunday February 24th at St Mary’s Church Gamlingay and the preacher  will be Julia Chamberlain, the Ely Diocesan Children’s EWork Advisor. The service starts at 6pm.

February 23, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment