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Friday, May 02, 2014


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“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy May Day!

What is May Day, you ask?

Today marks the mid-point between spring and summer, which is hard to believe since these past few days have been a little reminiscent of winter. In case you are wondering, the converse is true six months from today; November first is the halfway point between fall and winter.

More importantly, in recent years, May 1 has been marked as a day to celebrate and campaign for workers’ rights – commonly known as International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day. Over 80 countries recognize this day with a public holiday.



All of us have been called to a particular vocation, from teaching, accounting and farming to being a stay at home parent and banking. Some of us are nurses and doctors, lawyers and retail workers, food service and administrative assistants, parenting and engineers and mechanics. At some point in our lives, we have all had to work. My first paycheck came from my elementary school: not for my high marks in the classroom, but from the summer I spent painting classrooms and hallways.
I am fortunate enough to have found alignment in my personal and professional vocations. It is a joy, privilege, and immense gift to work among you as Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Dorothy Day was right when she said, “You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know. You will know when it's right.”

But on a day like today, when protests and civil unrest unfolds in countries across the world, I am mindful of those who struggle not only to find work, but in pursuit of fair compensation. I am mindful of those who have lost their jobs and now find it hard to make ends meet.

Fruit from last year's work in the Presbyterian
garden here in Lincoln, Illinois.

I am also mindful of those who have let their labors control their lives. I am mindful of those who have forgotten that work is not a purely private enterprise. The goal of work is not only to enable us to get ahead; the purpose of work is to enable us to get more human and to make our world more just.

On a day like today, we as God’s people are reminded that we, in all we do, especially with the particular work in which we are currently engaged, are called to be co-laborers with God. Our call is not to be workaholics, priding ourselves on the amount of time spent in the office or the pile of work we do from the office in our home. No: work, as a spiritual practice, is participation in God’s ongoing creativity. Work is therefore co-creative. Keeping a home that is beautiful and ordered and nourishing and artistic is co-creative. Working in a machine shop that makes gears for tractors is co-creative. Working in an office that processes loan applications for people who are themselves trying to make life more humane for people is co-creative.

Participating with love in the world around us is co-creative.

Essentially, work is commitment to God’s service. God the creator goes on creating through us. Ultimately, a life spent serving God must be a life spent giving to others what we have been given. This means that we are unable to “opt out.” If we refuse to act, if we refuse to seek justice and equal opportunities for others, we are not a neutral party. Instead, we participate in an unjust system that denies the humanity of others. When what we do becomes more about personal success at the expense of others, the result is our own death. What was a privilege becomes a prison, not only for our own hearts, but for those who can’t find work of their own.

So on this May Day, may we not only give thanks for the work to which we have been called, but also begin to think critically about the way in which our labor perpetuates or liberates the service of others. Most importantly, may we in the work we do bring our communities together with labor to create a just community—a Beloved Community.

In the words of Leslie Knope, “We need to remember what's important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn't matter, but work is third.”

[Adam Quine
First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]


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