I have never liked amusement parks. What is so amusing about standing in line in the hot sun for hours in order to ride on something that takes a few seconds? Wall Street has seemed like its own roller coaster recently. Up one day, down the next. Up one day on reports of X and Y, down the next on reports of A and B. Up one day on this company’s earnings report, down the next on this other company’s earnings. Well before the financial collapse of three years ago, I learned it’s all a game played by a few players. We pay in to watch, but instead of a thrilling game resolved in the bottom of the ninth, the players are the only ones who benefit; the spectators absorb all the risk. There is no one to cheer for.
This weekend is Labor Day weekend, a time that used to mark the end of summer and the wearing of white shoes or trousers. In Texas we laugh at the very idea of an end to summer—maybe there is a distraction here or there—and people don’t seem to follow fashion rules so much anymore. I hope your three day weekend plans include worship here or elsewhere—after all, the holiday is a day off from work; we know there is nowhere to escape from God. Whatever we do this weekend, perhaps this year is a good one to reflect on the gift of work. As employment and other economic news continue to concern us, we remember the words of Jesus: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27). Over Labor Day weekend, let’s reflect on this question: “What is the food you are working for?” Hear the powerful words of the Hebrew prophet Amos while you consider what food you should work for:
Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (5:11-15)
God challenges us to work for the food of justice for our neighbors—especially those who struggle. Let us be mindful of the millions of unemployed—and underemployed—and pray for God’s provision in their lives. Let us pray for those who are most vulnerable in our economy: those without a decent wage, who work more than one job and rarely see their families, those who work in difficult circumstances, and those who dreamed of retirement by this time of their lives but must continue to work.
O God, you have bound us together in this life. Give us grace to understand how our lives depend on the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of all who labor. May we be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness, and faithful in our responsibilities to them; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. United Methodist Book of Worship, 443.