From Monday to Saturday

In the chapel at Queen of Apostles, Mississauga Ontario (photo by Martin Malina 2 May 2023)

We are: “God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us….”[1]

This address from Peter oozes confidence. Here is a description of a people boldly going where no one has gone before! – To believe that what you do, even the smallest action, matters. In this confidence, then, there is meaning, hope and joy.

Or maybe you are like many whose confidence is shaken. Maybe you’re not so sure. Well, you’re not alone. I’ve come to believe that so much in the world today shakes our confidence. Maybe even snuffs it out.

I like the way Cameron Trimble puts it. She writes that in recent years, “we have experienced economic meltdown, climate countdown, racial throwdown, political breakdown, technology showdown, and religious letdown.”[2]

No wonder the mere suggestion that people of faith have something positive to offer our world today falls on deaf ears. When we are tempted to think, “It doesn’t matter, nothing we do matters,” then we know we’re in trouble. The church has a crisis of confidence to deal with.

What pulls the rug from under our own feet? Would we face what it is that keeps us from living out our faith in confidence?  

Is there a way to rebuild that confidence?

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”[3] It is a mental picture that Jesus draws for us in the Gospel for today. It’s not a physical house, one that we can walk into and look around right now. The space is not material. It is a vision Jesus paints before us.

And more than that, it is a vision to which each of us belongs. Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you … I will come again to take you to myself.”[4] A vision to which we belong, lies before us.

And here is another reason why we might fail in believing what we do matters. Because this vision lies ahead of us, we may think that what we’re doing now doesn’t really count, that our work is inconsequential. We can’t or won’t hold the vision, the big picture, before us. Therefore, we don’t appreciate the value of the smallest work, our smallest action.

But what we do now is part of God’s vision. As people of faith, who believe in God, we trust that the future will be good. We hope that things will eventually work out. And we want the future to reflect that vision of God.

Our confidence grows when we regard our present work as building toward that vision. “The future will be different if we make the present different.”[5]

And that is why every time we come to church to worship, what we are doing by being here and engaging the experience of worship is declaring that hope: that whatever happens now, in all that we do from Monday to Saturday, is linked to the vision of God. So, everything we do, 24-7, flows from a heart of faith.

As part of the agenda of the Eastern Synod Deans’ meeting, one evening this past week the group of us visited a Lutheran Church in Markham, near Toronto. The congregation treated us to a fabulous meal. We listened to the stories of several of the newcomers who are now members there, from Hong Kong and Ukraine. They spoke of displacement from their home country, their struggles in war zones, their immigration to Canada and how they have settled in the past year. 

One constant theme from all the testimonies we heard—and we heard many Chinese and Ukrainians—was the central place that the church had in this turbulent period of transition in their lives. The congregation was intentional to welcome them, support them, and accompany them in meeting their needs and giving them joy and hope for the future.

Everyone was engaged now in this larger vision. Members were living out their faith in every way imaginable: cutting grass, cleaning toilets, preparing meals, delivering furniture, etc. They were living out that vision—that bigger picture of the future and present of God’s kingdom.

One member of the congregation—his name is Max—came to Canada from Bermuda decades ago. He started up a Toronto moving company. Recently he delivered furniture driving in his white van to the homes of Ukrainian and Chinese newcomers to Canada. 

Max told us the story of bringing a single mattress to a house address on one of his workday delivery runs across the city. When he knocked on the door, first nobody answered. So, he waited a few moments before trying again. Then, he saw it: A face slowly rising above the windowpane of the door. And when the newcomer to Canada saw the mattress leaning against the door, the smile and joy that sprouted on their face warmed Max’s heart. He said in that moment he knew he wasn’t just delivering a mattress. He was doing God’s work.

During our visit to the Markham church last week, there was one word that was never once mentioned in all the testimonies we heard from newcomers, the pastor, the council members, board members, church members. The one word all of them never said was “volunteer”. Nobody there was ‘volunteering’. Instead, they were living out their faith as disciples of Jesus. Discipleship.

I think we need to practice not using the word “volunteer” in the church. We don’t need volunteers. That language compartmentalizes our life into separate boxes: A Sunday box; a work box; a play box, a leisure box, a hobby box, etc. The church doesn’t need volunteers. The church needs disciples. We need to see all our work that everyone does—in the church, in our lives—as our discipleship, an extension and expression of our faith which changes over time but still is part of it.

In the Gospel text today, Jesus talks first about knowing God and believing in God. But it’s not just Thomas that doubts. Philip, too, has trouble believing just the spoken words. “[Don’t tell us about] Show us the Father”, Philip demands.

And Jesus answers, if they don’t believe by the words he says, “then believe me because of the works themselves.”[6] Belief sometimes needs action to start the whole ball rolling. Often belief is not the best starting point to God. It’s the doing. The action, first, will lead to a stronger faith and relationship with God. The action will grow the community of faith and strengthen relationships of faith.

As if to underscore this truth, Jesus takes it to the next level. He says something audacious and, frankly, very hard to believe—that the person of faith will do “even greater works than these”—than what Jesus ever did![7]

“Greater works”, from the context of the early church, refers to the ever-widening circle of the church’s mission to the Gentiles[8]—to those who fall outside the traditional religious circle of the day. We must translate that missional dynamic into our world today. 

I think I witnessed a present-day example of the vision of God in Markham earlier this week. We’re not going to do exactly the same thing they are doing. The point is the attitude and heart and disposition they bring to church life. And I pray we as Christians and people of faith can catch the Spirit of the living God, to live into the future which is ever hopeful and expansive.

It may start by simply asking the question: “What do we care about—beyond ourselves?” As a congregation, a community of faith, what do we care about—beyond ourselves? And can we do that, together?

In closing, I want to return to the original vision in this Gospel text—the roominess in the house of God. A Lutheran theologian, Robert Jenson, suggested that God’s roominess described here relates not so much to the space, but to the time, God has for us.[9] God is roomy. God has all the time in the world for us.

All of it belongs, even everything we do from Monday to Saturday. And God is ever-patient with us. God is always opening for us ways to live out the gift of faith in our lives. 

[1] 1 Peter 2:9

[2] Cameron Trimble cited in “Fly Loose: Transitions”, Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations (, 5 May 2023)

[3] John 14:2

[4] John 14:2-3

[5] Peter Maurin, cited in Daily Prayer for All Seasons (New York: Church Publishing, 2014), p.114

[6] John 14:8-11

[7] John 14:12

[8] Donald Senior, “John 14:1-14” in David L. Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary Year A, Volume 2 (Kentucky: WJK Press, 2010), p.471.

[9] Cited in Cynthia A. Jarvis, ibid., p.469.

“From Monday to Saturday” – a sermon by Rev. Martin Malina for Easter 5A

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