Have you ever heard of Joseph Bazalgette?  I might wager a bet that you haven’t.  Aside from having a great name and a fantastic taste in facial hair, he was a brilliant man. 

Born on March 28th of 1819 in North London, he became the chief engineer of London’s Metropolitan Board of Works and he had a very difficult task ahead of him.  At that time, the city’s sewage flowed freely through the streets.  Subsequently, the River Thames had become quite the public health hazard as sewage overtook its banks, destroying any possibility for wildlife or many other redeemable purposes.

Bazalgette put a plan together for a massive renovation of the sewers which was daunting, to say the least.  As he made his preparations, he was quoted as saying, “we’re only going to do this once, and there’s always the unforeseen.”  This mentality had him double the pipe diameter of the sewers and after extensive work, the job was complete. 

You may ask why Bazalgette has earned a place in a blogpost for a church in the mid-west of America nearly 160 years after the completion of this project.  Well, it is said that 60 years ago, at the centennial anniversary, London’s sewage system would have overflowed but because he was working for something beyond himself and his day, the system is still in use generations later.

I make the case that this same concept is an important aspect of the Christian life.  We call it the ministry of vocation.  This practice recognizes that all Christians have incredible opportunities for ministering God’s love and hope, as well as acting out the Great Commission, in our individual vocations.

For any of us who have more typical work situations, our work ethics, conversations, and general attitude in the presence of others carries significant weight in testifying well to God.  For stay-at-home parents, there can hardly be a more important way to make known the glory of God.  Steadily impressing His goodness on those that He has given us responsibility over in our homes can seem overwhelming, but it is a motivating factor that keeps our eyes set on the Lord.  Even for pastors like myself who have fewer opportunities to share the love of God with unbelievers, a ministry of vocation can still be found in our being tasked with creating a culture in the church that encourages believers to live a Christ-like life out in the world.

This concept, I believe, creates spiritual thriving despite the thistles and thorns that God speaks of in Genesis 3:17-19 when the curse of the Fall was passed down.  He said that mankind will now work hard to make a living – that the ground, which had once been worked so easily and joyfully as Adam and Eve lived in communion with Him (Genesis 2:15), would now grow thistles and thorns and would be worked through the sweat of their brow.  Though work will continue to be difficult for the Christian, there are ways to thrive and that comes through living beyond both ourselves and our day, as Bazalgette had a mind to do, but with the incredibly important addition of doing so by yielding results for God as opposed to our own self-focused ends. 

Next week, there will be a ‘part 2’ which fleshes out this concept even further.

Love you all,

Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff

Thriving Despite Thistles & Thorns

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