Area clergy were asked to share — from a spiritual perspective — a reflection on Labor Day. Their responses ranged from a mini lesson in Hebrew, to words from Pope John Paul II, the Apostles and even Flip Wilson.
The Labor Day message came early for the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island as they concentrate on the preparation for the High Holy Days.
Rabbi Edward Maline’s Aug. 23 message focused on the spiritual perspective on Labor Day. He reminded his congregation that Labor Day is not really a time for end-of-summer celebrations, barbecues and cookouts, sales in department stores but a time to reflect on the value of labor and its contribution to society.
The Hebrew word for labor “Avodah” also means worship.
“When we labor, no matter what we do, we indeed worship God — laborers, professionals, doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, whatever we do whatever our tasks that we perform, whatever our calling and or labor choice we are contributing to our society, our nation and the world and participating in the unfolding of the process of creation. Work seen from this spiritual perspective is not toil, drudgery, but an act of worship from the Jewish point of view.”
He urged everyone to pause on Labor Day to honor all those who participate in this awesome task.
For the past eight years St. Mark’s Episcopal Church has incorporated a special blessing for labor and leisure activities into the Sunday worship service before Labor Day. Parishioners are asked to bring a symbol of how they use the time that God has given them to church where they are laid on the altar for a blessing.
“We offer up our prayers on all national holidays,” said the Rev. Dr. Kyle Bennett, St. Mark’s rector in a phone interview. The church will also pray for those seeking jobs.
He has performed a special Labor Day blessing throughout his 18 years of ministry.
“It’s another opportunity to have grateful hearts and to give thanks.”
However, he noted there are more golf clubs and tennis rackets than hammers and other tools on Marco than there were in Mississippi where he began his ministry.
San Marco Catholic Church’s Parochial Vicar the Rev. Russell Ruggiero shared a quote via email from Pope John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical “On Human Work”:
“Work is a good thing for (the human person) — a good thing for (one’s) humanity — because through work (a person) not only transforms nature, adapting it to (one’s) own needs, but (one) also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being.’ ”
The Roman Catholic Church, beginning with Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor,” has been involved with the rights of employees and employers and the dignity and respect of a person’s work.
The Church has taken Christ Jesus’ gospel message to every dimension of life, including the ability and need to work. The Church’s teachings on social justice issues such as economics, just wages for labor, and the need for countries and their leaders to implement labor markets that are fair to all people, especially the poor and the working poor, illustrate the Church’s respect for all people to express themselves, even in their work.
“Work is more than a means of provision,” wrote Ruggiero.“It is another way in which the human person lives out her/his image and likeness of God by being a steward and co-creator and caretaker of God’s creation and building a society that honors the values of God’s kingdom.”
We also received, via email, the following from New Life Community’s Pastor Thomas McCulley:“Flip Wilson’s excuse, ‘The Devil made me do it,’ never convinced anybody that he wasn’t guilty.”
However at the other end of the behavioral spectrum, he mused,“What does God make people do?” The current state of the world proves that the answer is not much. But God does want us to do a great deal, as the Apostle Peter attests: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
That doesn’t just sound like work it sounds like hard labor.
He also thanked God for the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians where there is a division of labor: “for it is God who works in you”
“The Devil will try to stop us from discovering that whenever we labor in God’s will, God will labor within us too,” he concluded.“Every day should be this kind of Labor Day.”
Capri Christian Church’s Pastor Curt Ayers reflected on Ephesians 4:28: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need”
“We were built by God to work using our abilities and talents to provide for our families and to help others,” wrote Ayers in a message. When individuals are prevented from working to provide for those they love, they can lose their self-respect and sense of accomplishment. People may have bare necessities provided by government or others but they don’t experience the satisfaction that comes from working hard and bringing home a paycheck.
“I know from my own experience there is great joy in working and helping others,” he wrote.“You were made by God to work and to share with others. Maybe it’s time we re-examine our attitude toward work.”
Have a restful but inspiring Labor Day.