Why Labor Day has a lot more to do with faithfulness and holiness than you might think

It’s Labor Day weekend. You might wonder why a priest is taking interest in this, since Labor Day is a secular holiday. But Labor Day has plenty to do with faithfulness and holiness.

The Episcopal Church’s “Book of Common Prayer” has a prayer appointed for Labor Day.

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.

It's a lovely prayer, isn't it? That prayer dignifies the work that we all do, whether we are employed or not. It also reminds us of the importance of all those others who work and of those who lack employment.

Whatever you do, I hope you’ll not just treat Labor Day as merely another day off. It’s too important for that. Each of depends on the labor of others. Most of us find meaning in our work, whether that work is at home or a factory or an office or a school or somewhere else.

Think about how everyone has a vocation, and ask how God might be calling you and your loved ones to labor. Are you doing what God wants you to do? Is there faithfulness in your labor?

Sometimes people talk about “vocation” when it comes to priests. Vocation comes from Latin, and it means “calling.” Those who are religious probably believe that priests and ministers are called by God to their work. I know that I believe God called me to be a priest.

I also think God calls everyone to a vocation. Everyone has a calling. Some are called to be parents. Others are called to be teachers or surgeons or bankers or assembly line workers or parents.

Of all the people I’ve ever met in my entire life, when I think of vocation, I think of Greg. He was my auto mechanic when I lived in Massachusetts.

Greg the mechanic loved his work, and he was really good at it. He’d take me into the garage to show me what was wrong. He’d send me away with a fix to make sure it worked, and I’d come back to let him know. He was doing what God wanted him to do, I’m sure.

So this Labor Day, set aside a few moments for prayer or conversation with those around you. Remember the dignity of work and the indignity of exploitation.

Pray for those who, in our culture that assigns value to people based on income, lack employment.

Think about how everyone has a vocation, and ask how God might be calling you and your loved ones to labor. Are you doing what God wants you to do? Is there faithfulness in your labor?

Perhaps you will find a way to honor those who labor on your behalf. Saying “thank you” is a good start. And in our gratitude for the labor of others, perhaps we can cultivate gratitude for our own calling, our own labor.