The Most Ironic Holiday

August 30, 2019 by Gregg DeMey

Labor Day has always struck me as the most ironic of holidays. Recognized by our Federal Government since 1894, Labor Days call upon the citizens of the United States to celebrate the dignity and value of hard work by joining together to NOT do any work at all!

This is all a bit tongue in cheek, but imagine a world in which birthday celebrations were organized to deliberately ignore the person who was born on a particular day. Or picture a Memorial Day parade dedicated solely to looking toward the future. Or imagine if Christmas Day were devoted to commerce rather than focusing on God’s greatest gift to us — wait a minute! maybe Labor Day gets the silver medal for “most ironic holiday.”

I’m delighted that North American culture observes the end of Summer with this long weekend. It’s a good rhythm. I’m even more delighted that we have a “Labor Day” holiday as part of our social fabric. Work is a great gift from God. Through work we lean into the creative facet of the Image of God. Work provides us with meaning, purpose, dignity, and creative satisfaction.

As a person who works in the mostly invisible world of spiritual transformation, I get incredible joy when things move, shift, and grow in the Spirit. However, I also take equal pleasure in the speedier, more ostensible results that are achieved through flowers newly planted, a wall freshly painted, some nicely mown grass.

The rhythm that God laid down in creation is a six-to-one pattern of work and rest. We are called to start with one day of Sabbath rest and then respond with the best work our hands and minds can muster. Sabbath is an essential part of our worship of God. Working hard is an equally essential part of worship of God and a doorway into knowing God’s heart, nature, and character. He is Creator, capital “C.” Because we bear God’s image, we are “creators,” lower
case “c.”

While the Labor Day holiday has been a work-honoring part of our culture for the past 150 years, there is an ancient turn of phrase from the early days of Christianity which sums up the Bible’s six-to-one pattern beautifully: Ora et Labora. A simple translation of these three profound words: “Work and pray.

I recently saw these words tattooed on the wrists of a gentleman. Ora on the right wrist, Labora on the left. I smiled to myself. One doesn’t see much historic Latin ink these days. I imagined this man folding his hands in such a way that Ora was pointing heavenward while he prayed.

I then wondered if he had Labora on the left wrist because he was left-hand dominant. Then it occurred to me that the wise implication of this ancient phrase is that the fabric of the Christian life needs both sides in whatever proportions reality demands of us.

I can think of no better way to sum up the ministry of Jesus Christ himself: he prayed to the Father and perfectly did the work of the Father. Work and pray. Ora et Labora.

I wish you and yours a good, long unironic weekend of both!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Gregg

*Tattoo photo credit: Tattosday; ink by Godspeed Tattoo in Breckenridge, CO.

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