Only a few national holidays have found their way into the liturgical calendar. Today is one of them, along with Thanksgiving and Independence Day. Labor Day invites reflection on the ways our faith informs our common life. It has led me to reflect this morning on the intersection of faith and work.
It’s not exactly a new subject, because some years ago, I was privileged to be part of a monthly discussion group called Faith@Work. It was led by a few able parishioners who had spent time reflecting on values they brought to the workplace. I always regarded these leaders as on the front lines, while clergy were somewhat cloistered, sheltered. The group, as it reflected on intersection of Sunday and Monday, invited folks from the wider community who had wrestled with these issues to be our teachers.
For one session, Harry Kraemer was invited to speak. Mr. Kraemer is a business leader and teacher of note. I was struck with how seriously he took his faith, how he had developed daily spiritual practices to keep him on track, integrating faith and work. He shared his insights in a book called From Values to Action in which he articulated four principles which I think apply to each one of us, whatever our work situation may be.
1. Self reflection: The ability to reflect and identify what you stand for, what your values are and what matters most.
So let me ask: In what ways do you reflect on the values that matter most to you, your core values, values of the heart? How does such reflection shape your work? Maybe the gift of a day off will afford some time to do that.
2. Balance and perspective: The ability to see situations from multiple perspectives, including differing viewpoints to gain a holistic understanding.
So let me ask: This week, how can you try to look from another point of view or gain a broader view?
3. True self-confidence: Enabling you to accept yourself as you are, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and focusing on continuing improvement.
So let me ask: What’s your vision of self-confidence? Does it include a willingness to accept that you are accepted, giving thanks for gifts while acknowledging growth opportunities?
4. Genuine humility: The ability never to forget who you are, to appreciate the value of each person in the organization and to treat everyone respectfully.
So let me ask: Who in your life gives opportunity this week to express gratitude and appreciation?
Whatever your work in the world, whether you get paid for it or not, whether you are a leader or not, whether you like it or not, consider these four principles. This Labor Day, offer the prayer our church has crafted for the day (below). Notice the themes in that prayer: Our lives are linked to others. Our work is not just for ourselves. We are to be mindful of aspirations of others. We are to remember those who are out of work, the underemployed, those who are in painfully boring jobs, all in keeping with the principles outlined by Mr. Kraemer.
And read the passage from the Sermon on the Mount selected for today, Jesus’ invitation to reflect on what we treasure, what we value. Take time on this holiday to think about where you give your heart, and how your values can be put into action, how they can be put to work.
The Collect for Labor DayAlmighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
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