Summary: Unless our labor is for the Lord our lives will be empty.
Laboring for the Lord
Rev. Brian Bill
September 5-6, 2015
With six NBA titles, five MVPs, ten scoring titles, 14 All-Star appearances, and many stellar last-second shots, Michael Jordan’s legacy on the basketball court is unmatched. According to a post by Matt Smethurst called Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike? When Greatness Meets Emptiness – Michael Jordan at 50, life off the court hasn’t come close to the same accolades for MJ (BTW, this is posted on the “Sermon Extras” tab on our website).
The Hall of Famer recently stated, “I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball.” Jordan used to have an insatiable drive to prove himself on the court and that same intensity is still present…he just hasn’t found significance, security or satisfaction.
Jordan has a code name given to him by the private security team assigned to overseas trips. They call him Yahweh, a Hebrew name for the Great I Am. ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson adds, “Jordan is used to being the most important person in every room he enters and, going a step further, in the lives of everyone he meets…people cater to his every whim…his self-esteem has always been, as he says, ‘tied directly to the game.’ Without it, he feels adrift…he has been running, moving as fast as he could; creating distractions, distance.”
In his 2009 Hall of Fame speech, Jordan called the game of basketball his “refuge,” the “place where I’ve gone when I’ve needed to find comfort and peace.”
So here’s a question. Where do you go to find your comfort and peace? Where’s your refuge? Are you looking for peace through another person, a possession, or some kind of pleasure? Are you seeking your worth through your work?
Have you ever noticed how many times people answer the question, “How are you?” with this phrase, “I’m busy” or “I’m crazy busy” or “We’ve been going in a hundred different directions this summer.” It’s almost like we need to validate our lives by letting people know how busy we are. That reminds me of the song sung by Archibald on Veggie Tales: “I’m busy, busy, dreadfully busy; you’ve no idea what I have to do; busy, busy, shockingly busy; much, much too busy for you.” When people tell me why they haven’t been to church lately, the number one answer I hear is, “We’ve just been so busy.”
Samuel Gompers, the founder and long-time president of the American Federation of Labor, said “Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country.” While we set aside this weekend as a national tribute to the contributions that laborers have made to our country’s strength, growing up it always meant something much more profound -- summer is now over!
Isn’t it interesting that we celebrate work by taking a day off from work? This doesn’t really help me however, because my day off is Monday! I think I’ll start a campaign to have Labor Day moved to Tuesday so I can have two days off this week.
For our final message in our Praying Through the Psalms series, we’re going to look at a song about labor. Turn to the first two verses of Psalm 127 (found on page 657 in the pew Bible). Notice the preface: “A song of Ascents.” Since Jerusalem is located on a high hill, whenever someone traveled to the city, they would go up, or ascend. There are 15 “Songs of Ascent” (120-134) and they were sung when worshippers would head to Jerusalem for the three main Jewish festivals. Jewish priests were also known to sing these songs as they walked up the steps to the temple, singing a different psalm on each stair. In a more general sense, this section of the Psalms helps us go up, or grow in our faith.
The next phrase tells us who the human author of this psalm is: “Of Solomon.” While David wrote about half of the psalms, Solomon wrote at least two of them. According to 1 Kings 4:32, Solomon was a prolific compiler of proverbs and also a song writer: “He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.” This particular psalm reads like a proverb with each phrase standing as a memorable maxim.
Notice verses 1-2: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
The first step in studying the Bible is to read the passage. The second step is to make some observations. Here are a few things that jump out at me.