Summary: We serve God and others in our daily labors and activities. As we share God’s love and the good news of Jesus Christ, God calls us to work hard and pray hard.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, 12:9-14 “Work Hard, Pray Hard”
For over one hundred years, the people of the United States have celebrated Labor Day on the first Monday of September. Labor Day began as a concession by the government for its poor, violent handling of the Pullman Railroad strike. The Day developed into a celebration of Union strength and the right to work for a fair wage. Now, it has evolved in to the three-day weekend that marks the unofficial end of summer.
Though Labor Day is not officially on the church calendar, this weekend might be a good time for us to reflect on our understanding of work, and the part it plays in our Christian life.
Our view of work varies tremendously. Many see work as a necessary evil—something that became the curse of humankind because of Adam and Eve’s sin. Others see it as a means to an end—we need to eat so we have to work. A minority enjoys their work, and even fewer see their work as a way through which they serve God.
The writer of Ecclesiastes sees work as one of God’s blessings and a part of life that is to be enjoyed along with food and drink. This is a profound shift in understanding God’s presence and movement in life. Historically, people have sought to experience God in religious rituals and in holy places. Humankind has a common understanding that God is found in mountaintop experiences—few and fleeting as they may be.
The writer of Ecclesiastes proclaims that God is in the middle of life. God is in eating and drinking and working. God is in monsoons, sunsets, and triple-digit temperatures. The writer invites his readers to look around themselves and see God.
God’s presence and work is not limited to miracles. We do not just see God in cancer remissions, or the extra one hundred dollars that come in the nick of time, or escaping a serious accident unscathed. God is also in a simple meal, for which we bow and give thanks. God is present in our daily health and recovery from a cold. God is in our work and our ability to pay bills and share our blessings with others.
Work is a gift from God, according to the writer of Ecclesiastes. One of the great blessings of life is to understand our work as a gift from God and to find enjoyment in our work.
WORK AND PRAY
The Benedictines have a saying that shapes their lives. That saying is, “Work and Pray.”
William Carey, a missionary to India in the nineteenth century once said, “Work like everything depends on you, and pray like everything depends on God.” These two sayings reflect a new and different understand of work and spirituality.
Work is not only a gift from God it is also a way that we serve God. Our work is a way in which we worship God. Which is more holy?
· Teaching a child long division, or singing a hymn,
· Nurturing a relationship over a cup of coffee, or listening to a divinely inspired sermon,
· Meeting our job expectations to the best of our ability, or teaching Sunday school,
· Taking pride in a job well done, or celebrating communion.
We have been taught to separate the holy from the mundane. When the cross of Jesus Christ and the new relationship it provides with God becomes real to us, all things become holy.
We have much to be thankful for this Labor Day weekend. God has richly blessed us. God has given us work through which we serve God, and bear witness to God’s love and presence in our lives. God loves us and invites us to share that love with the people around us.