Faith at Work LXXVI

November 2010

I don’t know if I can keep this up – we’ve covered a wide range of topics since I started looking at the numbers from two upwards, but there is a limit, isn’t there? Some wise fool once said: “all numbers are interesting – after all, the first one that isn’t becomes interesting by being the first one that isn’t!”

Last month, we thought about the six days of creation leading to the seventh, holy, day when we rest and reflect on all that has happened during the week … or at least some of us do. It is not possible, as the Victorians liked to do, to stop all kinds of work on Sunday and reflect on higher things. We need to look after each other, cater for emergencies and provide services of all kinds. One thing leads to another and before long, we find ourselves doing things that would certainly have been frowned at not so very long ago. I, for one, am not convinced that we need to be able to shop every day. Given a bit of foresight, we can usually plan ahead and avoid the need to shop on a Sunday, though there will be exceptions. There’s no reason why sales should go up because of Sunday opening, but the staffing level needs to and consequently the prices need to too, especially if paid work attracts double to counter its unsocial element.

Thought about the other way round, does our worship of God need to be restricted to one day? George Herbert, the seventeenth century priest and poet, didn’t think so when he wrote "Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee." … that’s something I firmly believe in, that we need to be consistent in the whole of our lives. The prayer and praise that we engage in on Sunday needs to flow out into the whole of our lives … and that’s one reason why I go out into the workplace during the week as a chaplain, to acknowledge the spirituality in everyday life. You will all recognise that in your different ways with family, with friends, with work colleagues. That’s why we are dismissed at the end of Sunday worship to "go in peace to love and serve the Lord."

The number seven is associated in the Bible with completeness: the seven days of the week in Genesis; the seven seals in Revelation; seven appears all over the place if you look for it. In Matthew’s gospel, Peter asks Jesus how many times does he have to forgive his brother – seven times? The answer comes back: "not seven, but seventy times seven" … that’s heading towards perfection! The Narnia Chronicles by C.S.Lewis are seven in number and they contain a huge amount of allegorical and allusory material to give us clues about the universe we live in (see Michael Ward’s book "Planet Narnia" about how complete it is). Let’s return to Herbert to finish:

Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee;
in my heart, though not in heaven, I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort to enroll thee:
e’en eternity’s too short to extol thee.

This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
and subsequent experience during ministry in the parish of Codsall and the BCUIM.
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