The Pastor's Peace - September, 2010
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Our summer is drawing to an end. Officially summer lasts until September 21st, but most of us start to give up the shorts and barbecues after Labor Day, the symbolic end to summer. In some sense Labor Day represents getting back to our main labor. For kids that means being back in school and for adults it usually means the end of any vacations. Labor Day also marks the beginning of some of our favorite pastimes such as the NFL and college football seasons. I know at least one church member who can’t wait for the start of football. There are also parades and many a cookout that happen over Labor Day weekend, but what about the stuff having to do with labor?

Labor Day was born out of a very difficult time between “Labor” and owners. President Cleveland worked to pass a national holiday as part of a strategy to make reconciliation with Labor organizations after several tragedies, such as the killing of several workers by the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the 1894 Pullman strike. Labor Day was supposed to show "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” as stated in one of the original proposals for the holiday. Some Labor organizations proposed that the Sunday preceding Labor Day was to be known as Labor Sunday, when the spiritual and ethical nature of the Labor movement could be discussed.

What are the spiritual aspects of the Labor movement? I know that people have a wide variety of views on the Labor movement. I myself am happy to have a 40 hour work week, and I will leave that discussion there. Moving aside from Labor unions, and any political topics, I think it is worthwhile to discuss the fair treatment of those who work for and with us. A topic that anyone, Labor or not, can appreciate. When I think of this topic in the context of Christianity, I feel that Paul’s letter to Philemon is a helpful guide. In this letter Paul sends back to Philemon a runaway slave named Onesimus. This letter has often been used to suggest that Paul supported slavery, but that is hardly the case.

It is clear in Philemon that Paul understands the categories in which the world places people; however, he reminds Philemon that Onesimus is now a Christian and therefore his brother in Christ, to be treated as such. We are always called as Christians to treat others as fellow brothers and sisters. To follow the Golden Rule, as listed in Matthew 7:12, is always at the heart of following Christ. As we think about those who labor, and what they deserve, I think it is always important to ask the same questions of yourself. If you think your work at a full-time job should at least provide shelter, food, and basic needs, then perhaps we should advocate for such things for others. The world will always have conflicts between different groups of people; there will always be discrepancies between what is legal and what is right. Christ, however, calls us to rise above these things. This is “our labor” as his followers.

Peace and Happy Labor Day,
Pastor Brian