Labor Day

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work…. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
         —Deuteronomy 5. 13-15

For ancient Hebrews, the Sabbath was more than a religious observation: it was a weekly labor strike. Once a week they laid down their tools and walked off the job, refused to work, refused to contribute to the economic machine of the powerful and the wealthy. A weekly day of rest was unheard of in the ancient world. Rest and leisure was for the ruling, wealthy class, not the working class. And it certainly was for people who were free, not for slaves. Yet the Jews observed it, and as more than a labor negotiating strategy—it was a commandment of God. God desires that people be free, and be valued unconditionally for their very existence, not according to the profit they can gain for another.

The Sabbath is a day to relinquish our hold on our earned worth, and rest in the grace of God. And it is a day to grant justice to those who labor, to free them from the having to earn their keep, and remind us that our economic world exists within the greater world of God’s desire for justice. Taking a day off reminds us that our life is more than our work, and our work is more than our job.

Although Labor Day is a secular holiday, it is an opportunity for Sabbath. It is a day to acknowledge our dependence on those who labor, especially in the most menial, dirty, dangerous and dreary jobs, who make a more leisurely life style possible for everyone else. It is a day to remember God’s demand for justice for those who labor, and freedom for those who are in bondage. And it’s a day to affirm that in the Real World, we do not earn our keep: it is a gift.

Whether or not this is a day off for you, remember those who labor, especially those who receive no rest. Give thanks for those who pick your fruit, mine your coal and make your clothes. Pray and work for the day that the rich do not oppress the poor and the poor are not indentured to the powerful for their survival. And give thanks for the gift that without having earned it you are beloved.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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