Real Mission: Labo[u]r Day
For the past eight years, the first Sunday of September has been, for me and my husband Chris, a beautiful reminder of the joy of celebrating something you’ve worked hard for. A day to rest and rejoice in the fruits of our labor. A day to delight in an endeavor that we have devoted ourselves to, and a chance to re-commit ourselves to the work that lies before us. We didn’t know then, that the choosing of that day would provide such significant meaning years later. But as the years pass, we see that marriage truly is a labor of love; and like most things worth having, it requires a great deal of effort on account of [u]. Without you, your whole self, labor finds little meaning. The wage requires no sacrifice. The paycheck contains no significance.
Indeed, we did not have much choice in the choosing of our wedding anniversary. As postulants for Holy Orders, it seemed only fitting that we be married at the cathedral by our bishop. Seeing as September 2nd was one of only two Sundays without a scheduled parish visitation for him that year, we aptly choose the date accompanied by a long weekend.
Labor Day will never be the same, because now we know what it really means to work for something; what it looks like to commit your whole self to faithful relationship with God and one another.
Maybe it’s just the Anglophile in me, but I’d like to propose that we put the [u] back in Labor.
As the long weekend approaches, I’d like for you to consider re-committing yourself to the work which has been entrusted to you as a follower of Jesus Christ. Your labor is precious and deserves purpose. Your work is worthy of meaning, and your efforts have the potential to change the world in which we live.
At a time like this, it is imperative that we remind ourselves what feeds us, and what feeds the world. Does divisiveness and mean-spiritedness nourish our souls? Do pride and derision support our growth? Do we hunger for violence, or do we feast on unity and concord?
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. -John 6:27
At a time like this, we must ask ourselves, what am I working for? To what end am I striving? How do I spend my time? On what do I spend my money? Are my efforts spent only for myself, or on behalf of the community?
A dear friend of mine was recently asked by a family member what she does for work. She struggled to answer as she postured in paragraphs a lengthy explanation of the software she implements and the programs she manages and the people she employs. Days later, another friend asked her, “What do you do again?” again she searched for an answer. How could she explain simply her profession? She began with her daily schedule. Who she meets with and what they talk about. At the end of the explanation, the inquirer no better understood her job than they had before. That same week, a third person asked, “What do you do for work?” With some frustration she answered simply and aptly, “I help people with a lot of money make more money.”
The truth of her proclamation was a big wake up call for my friend, and since that day she has been searching for a job that gives more meaning to her life. Turns out, those jobs don’t pay nearly as much as the job she currently has.
As we question and search, as we ask ourselves what we give our labor to, we look to Jesus to point the way for us to go. Ask Jesus “What is my job?” How do I find work worth doing?
Look to Scripture. What does Jesus say that his job is?
Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. -John 4:34
And what is God’s work? God’s work is to create. To make order out of chaos. To add light and life to the world. To make things good. How do we find that kind of work? Work worth doing.
We need not search far for opportunities to create, to make things good, to add light and life. It’s as simple as taking your neighbor’s paper from their driveway to their door, or writing a letter, or baking bread for a friend, or teaching a child how to say sorry. Doing the will of God can be as easy as smiling at a stranger or giving them the right-of-way in traffic.
Working for the Kingdom can also be extremely difficult and require much of you; all of you, if you’re doing it right.
Doing the work of God is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult job you will ever endeavor to do. Like marriage, there are times when it is easy to love, easy to observe beauty and strength; and times when hope seems lost and anger and frustration make you want to give up. There are times of suffering and loss. There are things you will have to give up. Selfishness and independence come to mind from personal experience. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. Working for a paycheck is great but working for a life is better.
I am reminded by the burial service of the Book of Common Prayer that life is short, but love is long, rest follows the work, but now is the time to put our hand to the plow.
“Happy from now on are those who die in the Lord! So it is, says the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.” -BCP 492 (Revelation 14:13)
You are essential workers. Our society, and indeed the world, cannot thrive without you. The holiday of this coming Sunday is a celebration of life, a celebration of your labor.
You and I only have one life to live. Only so many hours with which to labor under the sun. While we are alive, let us labo[u]r for love. You could make all the difference.
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