Pastor Devin Strong
Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church
Labor Day is coming up on Sept. 6. For most this day off from work marks the traditional end of summer, but of course, the day has a deeper meaning.
The possibility of a “working man’s day off” was first discussed at the height of the industrial revolution in this country, in the later part of the 19th century, but it wasn’t until 1894 that the first Monday in September became a federal holiday. Today the economy is diversified, and labor unions have waned, so we think a lot less about the traditional factory worker than we probably should. Still, Labor Day is a good time for all of us to think about vocation.
“Vocation” is a rich term in Christian circles. It has to do with finding one’s calling in life, using your work and your skills to God’s glory, and finding a purpose beyond a paycheck, but these days we change jobs and whole careers so often that the idea of having a vocation in life seems old fashioned. Sure, maybe superstar athletes are born to do what they do. Perhaps teachers, and in a stretch, artists of various sorts have a calling, but most people associate the world “call” exclusively with religious types: pastors, priests, and nuns. The rest of us, we say, just have jobs.
I want to challenge us to think differently about this. For sure, we clergy-types are called to holy work. Leading worship, presiding at the sacraments, caring for God’s people in times of sorrow and joy is meaningful stuff that I believe is of God, but that doesn’t mean that working behind a desk, driving around in a squad car, or ringing up a cash register is any less holy!
God truly needs us to do those jobs, and countless others, for the healthy care and nurture of God’s people and community.
Martin Luther, the founder of my denomination, coined the term “the priesthood of all believers.” He did not mean that any fool can lead worship, though I personally believe that an occasional sermon by a layperson can be refreshing. Luther meant that each Christian is called, by virtue of their baptism, to be faithful to God’s ways in all that they do.
The problem is that we in the church have done a terrible job of honoring the labors of anyone who doesn’t stand up front on Sunday mornings! The job of the soldier, the cook, the banker, and school bus driver matter as much to God as the work of any pastor, and all work, no matter how routine, can certainly be done with the Lord of Life in mind.
The question for you is, how can you glorify God Monday-Friday? How can you show God’s care and gentleness for others as you go about your responsibilities? How can you stand up for what is right and make God proud? How can you work toward excellence as if the Lord is your direct supervisor? How can you find joy in your work, as if your efforts care for God himself?
The question for all of us is, how can we honor the effort of the fast-food worker, the janitor, the bagger, and the lawn mower so that they can see in our eyes and hear in our voices that we KNOW that their labors are meaningful and holy?
Happy Labor Day!
God Loves You, and So Do I!