Celebrating work

by Demi Prentiss

The Book of Common Prayer offers this collect for Labor Day (BCP, p. 261):

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“All we do affects … all other lives: So guide us in [all] the work we do….” God calls us to bring God into every aspect of our daily lives, and aim to make our work holy, an expression of our relationship with God – regardless of whether our work is paid or unpaid.

How can we better remember – not just on Labor Day, but throughout the year – the work that the vast majority of people in our churches do, every day – work that is beyond the church walls?  How can we equip people to work for and with God, in our work as well as in our worship? So that we are equipped to recognize

  • the hopeful expectation of Advent among, for instance, all those in the medical profession – doctors, orderlies, researchers, lab techs, administrators;
  • the joyful celebration of Christmas and Easter among, God willing, those in the field of education – students, aides, teachers, janitors, principals, parents, and presidents;
  • the penitence and spiritual growth of Lent within and among the people involved in the legal profession – paralegals, judges, guards, lawyers, inmates, court reporters, legislators;
  • the overwhelming animating spirit of Pentecost among those in performance and entertainment careers – musicians, scenic artists, writers, dancers, directors, roadies, editors.

What if we take a page from the Black Lives Matter movement and dare to “say their names” – of their vocations – in our prayers and liturgies? What if, in addition to blessing backpacks as we head back to school, we extend our blessings to all those working in schools and colleges? And on St. Francis Day, as we bless the animals, we also bless all who interact with God’s creatures – as vets or zookeepers or scientists or pet caregivers? What other times and seasons might we dedicate to celebrating the Monday through Saturday lives of God’s people?

The psalmist prays, “[O Lord,] Prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork” (Ps 90:17).  May our churches help us grow in our understanding that “our common life depends upon each other’s toil” (BCP, p. 134), through recognizing the ministry that each of us exercises through our daily work. And may God’s love flow into us and through our work, drawing us into Beloved Community.

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