“No work is
insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has
dignity and importance and should be undertaken with
― 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
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.”
First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]