Many folks have been telling me it feels strange for school to start so early and that it is difficult to really focus on the school year pattern until after Labor Day. Well, Labor Day has come and gone. I received a cute piece someone posted on Facebook this last weekend: "Happy Labor Day from nurses and health care workers for whom this day is....just another day to work!" It has become a catchword in the current presidential campaign: "You didn't/ did build that yourself"! Something about this back and forth banter bears a look as we think about the importance of our lives and work.
The two opposing ideas are these: "This is a nation where one can go as far as one's ingenuity, talent, and hard work can take them." (This is the narrative of the "rugged individualist"). The other story is one that we have often heard in scripture: ("no one lives to themselves..."; "love your neighbor as yourself"; "care for widows and orphans"). This is a major theme of the Biblical book (letter) of James which we in our congregations will share in September.
We are reminded that God's dream for us is that we not primarily build things for ourselves, but through our labors, build up and care for one another. Paul, the first great Christian evangelist and preacher, is a great fan of personal effort and hard work: "Let him not eat (at common table) who is not willing to work!". However, he and all the apostles and fathers and mothers of the faith are adamant about the point that individual success is to be judged not in terms of the one person, but in how each person gives back to and supports their community in thanks for what they have first received from God and others. Yes....we and our ancestors did build it. Yes, we stand on the shoulders of many others. We didn't do it alone. Both narratives are true because....God has first given. We pray for work that gives nobility to all our brothers and sisters, but above all, we pray that the work of God will be done in and through all of us!
May God grant us meaningful work and/ or volunteer experiences, and may God continue to bless and protect those who serve us all in the military, law enforcement, fire protection and first responders, and in health care professions. Especially, I lift a prayer today for all those in the gulf states who have again had their lives disrupted by hurricane winds and floods. May we all have cause again to thank God for the helping hand that we are or that we receive. We built that...but we also built upon and received the work of others.
Thanks be to God!