Sermon “Labor Day”

Sermon:. “Labor Day”
Have you ever considered how strange of a holiday Labor Day is? Have you ever sent anyone a Labor Day card? No. Not even the greeting card industry has figured out what to do with Labor Day. It is a day when we celebrate Labor by not laboring. This country was built by those who worked, who worked hard and worked smart. The fact that the United States embraced democracy and free enterprise made it unique among the countries of the world. People were free to develop their inventions and innovations and receive the reward for those ideas. It was such a revolutionary idea that it has literally changed the world in which we live. The Christian work ethic had a lot to do with this success.

From the beginning mankind has used work as a service to God. Even before sin came into the world, God had work for man. Genesis 1:27-28 reads, “So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. God blessed them and said, “Be fertile, increase in number, fill the earth, and be its master. Rule the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that crawl on the earth.” And Genesis 2:15 says,
“Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to farm the land and to take care of it.” After sin entered the world the nature of work changed. It became harder. Genesis 3:17-19
Then he said to the man, “You listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree, although I commanded you, ‘You must never eat its fruit.’ The ground is cursed because of you. Through hard work you will eat food that comes from it every day of your life. The ground will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat wild plants. By the sweat of your brow, you will produce food to eat until you return to the ground, because you were taken from it. You are dust, and you will return to dust.”

When God choose an earthly father for his son, he selected a working man, a carpenter. Jesus was a carpenter too. He learned how to work with wood and stone. He had calluses on his hands and so did his first four disciples. Though we don’t know the occupations of all of the disciples, most likely they were also from the working class.

Our labor is a form of worship to the Lord, if we have the right attitude about it. That’s what Colossians 3:23-25 says, “Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly as though you were working for your real master and not merely for humans. You know that your real master will give you an inheritance as your reward. It is Christ, your real master, whom you are serving.” Another translation says to “work heartily” (ESV). Yet another says to “work willingly” (NLT). The Amplified Bible adds “from the soul.” Ephesians 6:7-8 shares a similar concept: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” In essence, this is the Christian work ethic. We are commanded to put forth our best efforts, to work from our heart and soul at whatever we do. We are accountable to God and stewards of the gifts He has given us. Our work flows out of our gratefulness to Him.

When I read Leviticus 23:22 once more, I saw something that I’d missed before. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God” Did you see it? God does not tell the people to harvest everything and then simply give food to the poor. Instead, He tells them to leave enough of the grain to allow the poor to work for themselves. Work has a way of giving us a sense of purpose, productivity, and dignity.
The Proverbs and Ecclesiastes contain some wise sayings regarding work. Proverbs 14:23 says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 6:6-11 says, “Go to see the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” A strong work ethic is confirmed, with warnings concerning slackness.
The New Testament contains another important principle regarding work: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10); that is, the refusal of an able-bodied man to work should have the consequence that he lacks food. Paul also says that an “idle” man who refuses to work should not be part of the church (verse 6). Paul and his companions set a good example of hard work: “We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (verses 7-8).
Christians should work hard. Work is integral to life, and approaching work as God-given will give us more pleasure in it. We can work cheerfully and without complaint because we are working for the Lord who loves us and has redeemed us. A good work ethic can also be a witness to others. “Matthew 5:16
In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). The world takes notice of our efforts and wonders why we do what we do.
It is important to note that the Bible does not condone workaholism. We do not work merely to amass worldly wealth (in fact, Matthew 6:19-34 warns about this). Matthew 6:19-20
“Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don’t destroy and thieves don’t break in and steal.”

We work to bring glory to God. We also do not work ourselves into the ground or to the extent that our health is damaged or our families suffer.

God is more interested in relationship with us than He is in what we do. God instituted the Sabbath at the beginning of creation. He did the work of creation for six days and then ceased. God is omnipotent; He did not need rest; He was setting an example for us. In the Ten Commandments, God confirmed both the importance of work and rest. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:9-10a). Though, by the times Jesus began his earthly ministry, the Sabbath traditions had made it into something that bound men rather than give them rest. Jesus rebuked those restrictions and said, “the Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). It is a gift that we are wise to accept. So, while Christians are called to have a strong work ethic and to work hard at all that they do, they are also called to take times of rest.

Here’s the Good News this Labor Day weekend Sunday morning, you don’t have to be scared where St. Luke says that Jesus said, “… none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” There’s more to what the Carpenter’s Son was getting at in the context of that reading. (Luke 14:25-33) So don’t sell your car or your big screen TV, or take your baby’s favorite toy away from him. You do not have to take that line literally.
… Now for the bad news. A better, more accurate English paraphrase makes Jesus’ true point more clearly, “You can only be my disciple if you are willing lay everything on the line for God’s sake- for the sake of love, social justice, and for the common good of God’s people and world.” You need to be willing to lay it all on the line.
That’s what Jesus was getting at. And, like any carpenter’s son- which meant in Jesus’ time that he was a carpenter too- Jesus knew that in order finish what you want to build you need to plan your work, work your plan, get your materials together and be sure to count the cost AND, once you commit to it, you need to be willing to lay everything on the line to get it done. That’s what commitment is. That’s the cost of discipleship, the willingness –the spirit and the drive to keep the faith once you commit to building your life within the Kingdom of God. And we do need to take that seriously.
Now Jesus also talked like a carpenter in today’s teaching. He didn’t waste words. He got to the bottom line quickly, and he offered down to earth examples emphasizing the wisdom and necessity of being as sure as you can be about helping build the Kingdom of God from this day forward and, most importantly, that you commit to it.
You heard His curt directive, “You can’t just SAY you want to follow me, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and pick up the cross itself and follow me.” Again, you have to be willing to lay it on the line for love-for God, and we need to commit to seeing it through until all God’s children are safe and secure and free – until we are whole. That’s the spirituality behind our identity as people of Christ. It’s a spirituality wherein whatever we do is influenced – is informed by- is strengthened by the commitment to doing our best job, seeing things through, and respecting the efforts of others who are working God’s plan as well.
God has spoken through the prophets and specifically through the life of Jesus Christ to say that the plan is the same for all God’s children: That we learn to live together and thrive together in peace – in balance with nature-in union with God and in peaceful co-existence with all. That’s THE PLAN, that’s the noble goal God made us to help accomplish.
And little by little humankind has made strides toward the goal over the centuries in many respects. I believe our growing awareness of ways to protect nature and care for our local ecological systems is a true gift IF we will take up that cross, IF WE WILL COMMIT OURSELVES TO IT.