Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 25
Wednesday after 4th Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The Third Way of Service – Work (continued)
We endeavour to serve others in active work trying to find expression for each of the three aims of the Order in our lives. Whenever possible we actively help others who are engaged in similar work.
From St Francis:
St Francis’ Words on Working
I used to work with my hands, as I still want to, and I want all the other brothers to work at a task which is honest and becoming to our manner of life.
Those who do not know how to work should learn, not because they are eager for the pay due their labour, but for examples sake and to banish idleness. And when we receive no pay for our work, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door. (The Testament of St Francis)
Apparently, according to Nick Clegg (Our Deputy Prime Minister when this blog was first written), I am a more valued member of our society as I am part of what he has termed ‘Alarm clock Britain’. Somehow because I have to rouse myself from sleep with an alarm clock each day (Sundays included!) my life is more valuable than the life of those who do not set their alarm clocks.
It seems that not all of us have a man servant to stir us to life each day
I think his compliment/complaint was aimed not so much at the idle rich but the underclass of British society which, if the tabloids are to be believed, is infested with benefit scroungers and disability allowance cheats. This is a sad dichotomy of our society and I think he was wrong to draw a line between us. It is not the mechanism we use to get up in the morning which is important but why, and for what purpose, we tumble out of bed.
I support organisations such as Emmaus, the group aimed at bringing homeless people back into society and uses the strapline ‘the charity which gives people a bed and a reason to get out of it!’. Work, whatever time of day we start it, is an important component of the human journey and is part of our divine identity.
God is a worker, being both the author of creation and the preserver of all life. God’s plan is for us to, like him, be workers. The LORD God put the man in the garden to ‘help it grow and keep it safe’ (Genesis 2.15). When God chose to show us how to live he sent his Son amongst us a Carpenter, not a landowner but a tradesman who had to earn his keep by the sweat of his brow. Jesus knew what it meant to be tired out by his labours and to see the fruit of his work. To be truly human is to be a worker.
This is why one of the aims of the Franciscan way of life is to be involved in active work and, if by reason of frailty or circumstance, we cannot tire ourselves in the service of others then we are to actively support those who can. It was for reasons such as this that the early Anglican Franciscans led by Brother Douglas cast their lot in with the homeless wayfarers who were moved on from parish to parish and ward to ward trying to scratch a living. Working alongside those who had no fixed home and hitching up their habits they worked in the fields of England with the least fortunate of society. The sweat of their brows becoming their most eloquent sermons.
Being a worker is not about having an alarm clock. Being a worker is realising that when we flex our muscles in the service of others we become co-creators with our Lord the Master Carpenter of Nazareth.
Some of us will be slaves to the alarm clock. Others long for the days of regular employment. There will be those amongst us who are distressed that Brother Ass no longer responds to their desires and feel empty and worthless because they can work no longer.
All of us need to learn to value work, appreciate the labours which we can attempt and be thankful for those who labour on our behalf.
Lord, you toiled at the carpenter’s trade:
we pray for all who work in industry and commerce, in agriculture and at sea.
Lord, you offered to the heavily laden your easy yoke:
we pray for all whose labour is hard , monotonous or exposes them to danger.
Lord, your ministry took you far from home:
we pray for all who serve their country abroad, and those whose work parts them from their families.
Lord, you constantly met the demands of the needy:
we pray for all whose work is deeply demanding or causes them stress.
(John Michael Mountney – abridged)
‘Work is a curse’ (Genesis 3v19) so the old saying reminds us but it does not have to be.
Volunteer to do some physical labour for someone who needs assistance
If you find physical activity difficult tell someone who works for or alongside you how much you appreciate them.
99 Words to Breathe:
We in Westminster live in an instant world. Dramatic events surround us, often one piece of breaking news succeeds another like the waves of the sea. Digital clocks urge us to hurry. Yet time, like music, should unroll slowly. We age gradually, wrinkle by wrinkle. Our seasons are subtle, spring edges in as flowers bud and leaves uncurl. Autumn comes slowly, celebrating and mourning to advance of each year.
It provides a lesson for politics. Human problems take time to resolve. Human hearts (and minds) build trust slowly. There are few instant fixes. Patience is the mark of statesmanship.
Shirley Williams – former Liberal Democrat leader of the House of Lords
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged