13-17 Philemon 1-21
Proper l8C RCI
LABOR AND WORK
Credits: The Living Church 9/3/89,pp.9-10; 9/4/83, p.ll; Our Church Times 9/4/83 p.1
On this Labor Day weekend, I would like to share a few thoughts on Labor and Work.
It is called Labor Day, but there is probably no time of year when work is further from our thoughts. Some of our holidays involve a great flurry of activity - of work both domestic and commercial, but on Labor Day (except for those unfortunate enough to have to be at work) - most of us have in mind nothing more laborious than spreading mayonnaise for sandwiches, or holding a stick to roast hot dogs!
Most of us will manage to avoid real labor on this weekend, and we will bring summer to a happy ending, quite properly.
It is a good season, summer, but so will the fall be a good season, with young people returning to school, and football on television, and people picking apples, and a generally brisker pace of life.
Holidays by their nature point us beyond the here and now. Even a secular holiday like Labor Day gives Christians something to be thankful for, and to think about. The very word holiday originally was holy-day, and so it goes back to a religious festival. Holidays and holy days should all point, for believers, to that ultimate feast in heavenly places, that God has prepared for those who love Him.
If we celebrate Labor Day by keeping as far from labor as possible, nonetheless labor deserves recognition.
In an age when so many Americans, at least, see success in work as having plenty of money to invest, capital gains to receive, and taxes to avoid, we need to remember that ultimately the economy does depend upon productive labor, depends upon people actually doing things and making things. Work, hard work, labor, is associated with all sorts of virtues and worthy accomplishments, none of which would have developed or happened without the discipline of labor carried out day by day. And if we have work which is satisfying and productive, that is something to be very thankful for.
And if we spend this weekend happily and in leisure, we cannot forget that even in our supposedly affluent nation, many are unemployed or under-employed or wrongly employed. Many Americans who would like to be hard at work do not have that opportunity at the present time. Those who have recently been involved in employment interviews know that often many competent and experienced men and women apply for a single position. And in larger firms, hundreds may apply for a few dozen vacancies. I know some of you have had that experience. From an employer's point of view, there is often a vain search for the right employees, for persons with the right qualifications or training, and they cannot be found. So the job is un-filled.
We also cannot forget that work is often boring; people are in the wrong job or find their work is without meaning. If every worker could find that right slot where his or her abilities could be fully utilized, we could become a nation of fantastic abundance: workaholics, but loving to have it so!
Many of us, and many of our parishes, can indeed do something to help a person find that right spot, in which an idle or frustrated person can become productive and creative. This is truly a Christian act.
I read a while back about a parish in Texas (St.Matthew's in Austin) that has a noon-time support group for job-seekers. Each Monday maybe half a dozen job seekers and three or four supporters meet to share. Job seekers are invited to state where they are in their lives, and what kind of employment they desire. It is a time of true sharing of difficulties and disappointments, of trials and successes.
The group is not an employment agency, and this is stated right out front. What it offers is Christian concern and prayer, and it concludes with the prayer for the unemployed in the Prayer Book of p.824. Support people have joined the group from several other parishes, and the coordinator is a lady with 25 years' experience in operating a job-search agency.
Besides general advice and concern and prayer, the group offers help in writing resumes, and constructive criticism of resumes that have already been written. The parish has a lending library for job-seekers - books and articles that deal with job seeking. And it has an updated list of local jobs that are open.
Many who come to this group are not members of the Church, not even Christians at all. No questions are asked. The group simply offers the ministry of the Church - lay people reaching other lay people - in this particular manner; and it has been truly rewarding for those involved.
That is how one particular parish has dealt with the local situation, and I tell the story just for its own sake. Perhaps the Spirit will move some here to undertake a similar ministry. We are always being challenged to grow in our Christian life and commitment.
Well, I could say more. But maybe this is enough. We need to work, to fill our time productively. Be sorry for someone who has so much money that they don't need to work and have never had that satisfaction.
Think of those, pray for those of any age, stuck in a kind of death - of boredom at work and dullness of life. And reflect that Christ was born into this life and by the Cross brought new life into every kind of death that we face. That is something to be endlessly thankful for.