A Labor Day Prayer
Along with Thanksgiving and Independence Day, Labor Day is one of the three national holidays that has found its way into the church calendar. What is it that makes today a holy day, something more than a civic observance, more than a welcomed day off at the end of summer creating one last long weekend, more than an opportunity for serious sales at the mall? We can look at the prayer crafted for Labor Day for answers, since in our tradition we claim that praying shapes believing (i.e., the way we pray indicates what we care about, where we give our heart). So this morning, grab a quiet moment and offer this prayer for Labor Day:
I’m struck in reflection on this prayer with the vision of our lives closely linked with one another, the call to do what we do not for self alone, but for the common good. I found myself stopping to think about how seriously I take the idea that all we do, affects for good or ill, all other lives. I was challenged to think about how literally I’m supposed to take that word “all”.
That challenge sharpened as I tried to align this prayer with Nicholas Kristof’s column yesterday in the Times, entitled: “Refugees Who Could Be Us.” Mr. Kristof is the son of a refugee who after World War II fled Romania, swimming across the Danube, ending up in Portland, Oregon, due to the kindness of strangers, an American family who sponsored him, who welcomed him. In his article, Kristof cites other notable refugees, like Albert Einstein and Madeleine Albright and the Dalai Lama, whose fate differed from Aylan Kurid, the three year old photographed lying lifeless on the beach. Aylan did not complete his journey to live with relatives in Canada.
The current refugee crisis is huge, way bigger than I realized from my cocoon. The number of people displaced (estimates of 12 million) outnumbers those displaced from Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and the South East Asia Tsunami combined. It’s difficult sitting in the comfort of my life to imagine a connection, let alone any helpful response. But there are models provided by people who have found a way to help. As refugees spontaneously marched out of Budapest, citizens provided food and water along the way. One woman traded her own running shoes for the sandals of a pilgrim. Kristof commends the people of Iceland who on Facebook have been volunteering to pay for flights of Syrian refugees, then agreeing to put them up in their homes. The Pope suggests that every parish in Europe house a family. Episcopal Relief and Development collects much needed financial contributions to support work with refugees in this crisis.
All of which is to say: There are in fact ways to work for common good. Wherever we are, whatever work we are given to do, we have occasion to affirm connection to all others. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, we are bound together in a single garment of destiny.
Our Sunday lectionary has been walking us through the New Testament letter to James. A portion of yesterday’s passage is printed in the column on the left (as well as a psalm of praise for a compassionate God). James’ letter challenges us with the notion that faith without works is dead. How might we bring faith to life in our broken world? I struggle with the answer. I don’t really know what can be done but it’s worth thinking about. Pray with me on this Labor Day that our work may be done for the common good, especially helping those in greatest need. May that prayer shape our believing. May our believing shape our actions.
– Jay Sidebotham
You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Hallelujah! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, for there is no help in them.
When they breathe their last, they return to earth, and in that day their thoughts perish.
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the LORD their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.
The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous; the LORD cares for the stranger; he sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
The LORD shall reign for ever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah!
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.