A Prayerful Look at Labor Day
You may have taken time to read the article in our September Newsletter about the gift of Labor Day. Now here, we expand on the history and dynamics of the day, and have a prayerful look together at what this coming weekend is really about...
As we honor the gift of a day for laborers, we speak prayers of blessing and justice over our communities. We remember the History of Labor Day and notice the need yet for justice and mercy and steadfast love to be values of our employers and all those who are in positions of power and authority, especially in this country that we call home. We invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our own areas of employment, of laboring, of searching for meaningful work and caring for those to whom we have extended an invitation to work, whether in our homes, our businesses, our farms, our churches or in our larger communities.
We recognize a deep chasm between those who make minimum wage and those who make CEO's wages, and we deplore the evils that are afflicting our world in the arenas of greed, weath, hoarding and abuse of power. Although we recognize that globalization has created abundance for some, we recognize the abuse of global networks and international companies that rely heavily upon impoverished communities and turn a blind eye to unhealthy working conditions as well as paying poor wages which keep the workers under terribly oppressive and unhealthy systems. On account of the globalized economy, many nations have suffered the loss of indigenous plants, animals and traditions in order to make room for crops and produce which are exported to feed the empirical power countries of the western world. And, even here in our own country, there is a growing economic desparity between those who have much and those who have little. The middle-class is a shrinking group, and many families and individuals of various backgrounds, particularly those of minority status, continue to be kept in near-poverty status, without hope of expanding into a better life.
Here in Tillamook County, many people have to choose between having a place to live in subsidized, "low income" housing, or taking a pay raise and loosing their place to live. Rent is incredibly high, and owning a home has become a pipe dream acheived only by a select few locals and those who purchase vacation homes from various places beyond the coastal region. And so, the laborers are forced to maintain a very low income status or to find housing elsewhere and drive a very long way in order to work. So, it is not only the globalized economy that is troubled; the local area is rather distressed as well.
As United Methodists, we are called to seek justice, to share mercy and to always do our best to offer steadfast love and faithfulness for our communities. Our Social Principles say this:
As United Methodists, we follow in the footsteps of our founder, John Wesley, who sought to improve the lives of those who suffered from debilitating conditions such as poverty, starvation, illiteracy, imprisonment, slavery, addictions and disease.
We decry the widening gap between the rich and the poor and the concentrationof wealth in the hands of ever smaller percentages of the global population. We lament that too many of the world’s people lack the basic resources necessary for survival and pledge ourselves to work toward the eradication of the roots and effects of poverty. We further lament the multiple causes of poverty, such as war, famine, diseases and desertification.
We reject religious teachings that view the accumulation of wealth as a sign of God’s favor and poverty as a sign of God’s disfavor. We confess that we have not always heeded the words of Jesus, who preached good news to people living in poverty, taught that they were not far from God’s coming reign, and challenged the rich young man to give up all that he had to follow him (Luke 6:20; Matt. 19:23–25).
We commit ourselves to be in active ministry with impoverished communities by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and by supporting their efforts to secure equal opportunities and meet human needs, including food, water, health care and education. We reject preferential treatment in the church on the basis of wealth and income. We also commit to work toward eradicating unjust practices, policies, and systems that have condemned entire generations to live in unrelenting poverty.
The Revised Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, 2020 edition, pages 15-16.
And so, on this Labor Day, rather than snatching up the latest sale or seeing this day as a time to have barbecues and the last summer hurrah, let us take time to reflect on the meaning of this Labor Day, to pay attention to the history of why this day came into existence, and let us pray a prayer like this from the Bread of the World website:
Almighty God, Creator of the world, we give you thanks for the gift of stewardship and work. Deliver us, in our various occupations, from the service of self alone, that we may do our work in truth and beauty and for the common. God of justice, we pray for all workers, that they would receive fair compensation and treatment in their labor. For those who seek work, provide jobs — both citizen and immigrant alike. For those who cannot work, provide sustenance. Make those who lead the industries and commerce of this country responsive to your perfect will. Build up in the leaders of our country a respect for all labors. Deliver us, Lord Jesus, from the maligning evils of greed, sloth, and gluttony that we may lead lives of holiness in service to you and our neighbor. We ask all these things for our good and your glory. Amen.
As we turn our hearts to the needs that prompted Labor Day to emberge, may we reflect on the social systems that we can impact in our local and larger communities. Let us pledge to purchase Fair Trade products whenever it is possible, so that there is less disparity between the labor and the wage. Let us spend time in prayer, asking God to help us in our mission to do justice, to share mercy and to offer steadfast love and faithfulness to living the Gospel to the best of our ability.
For, we remember that Jesus said:
“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers and sisters or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Luke 14:12-14, NRSV - Updated Edition
So, once again, as we honor the gift of a day for laborers and we begin our sermon series on "Having Words with Jesus," we speak prayers of blessing and justice over our communities. We remember the History of Labor Day and notice the need yet for justice and mercy and steadfast love to be values of our employers and all those who are in positions of power and authority, especially in this country that we call home. We invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our own areas of employment, of laboring, of searching for meaningful work and caring for those to whom we have extended an invitation to work, whether in our homes, our businesses, our farms, our churches or in our larger communities. And we look to the words and teachings and the lifestyle of Jesus to be our guiding light as we seek to do what is right and good and joyful in the world, so that truly we will be living out the Good News in His name. Amen.