Laboring prayer

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

We loaded 47,650 pounds of pumpkins off the truck yesterday. Our church will sell them through October to raise funds for missions. I ended the day tired, sore and happy. My knees in particular went to bed with a keen memory of the work.

Work it was, picking up and passing (or tossing) 2,656 pumpkins down the line, out of the truck and into the church yard. Some weighed as much as 40 pounds. Deep in the bowels of the semi trailer, it was dark, dusty and sweaty. Pumpkins were tumbling down from the pile, flying through the air, swinging down the line. And in that labor there was joy. There was laughter. Had we not been grunting so much there could have been more singing. (There was a brief chorus of “47,000 pounds of pumpkins on the truck.”) There was a sense that we were passing more than fruit from hand to hand. (Yes, pumpkins are fruit.) And in the end there was the satisfaction of a job well done.

For a few hours we joined in the song of laborers, the dance of mind and muscle. We joined all those whose labor is their lives and their prayer: stevedores unloading ships; ranch hands bucking hay; trash collectors heaving out our garbage; bellhops carrying luggage; stonemasons hauling bricks; fruit pickers, fishermen, roofers and miners. And for a moment we also joined those for whom labor is not a joy but an oppressive burden, those who harvest our chocolate or sew our shirts or dig for our diamonds, whose labor is dangerous, and done under duress. I give thanks for all their labors, and lift them up as offerings to God.

Sometimes our prayers are wordy things; sometimes they are silent thoughts. But sometimes our prayer is labor, our shoulders put to the weight of the world, our hands laid upon the rough and the smooth, our backs familiar with the heft of life.

Give thanks for all that you can do. Give thanks for the strength of your flesh. Give thanks for the simple jobs in which you can praise God, serve your neighbors, and make the world a little more beautiful. And when you’re done, don’t forget to say “Amen.”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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