Let’s start with the word “labor.”  

Men and women may have different associations with the word “labor”. Men might think of labor in terms of a “ job.” Women might be more inclined to think of the “labor”in the context of giving birth.

Today, I want to explore a deeper meaning of what we call Labor Day.

What is your association with Labor Day as a weekend?

Is Labor Day

  • The last hurrah of summer?
  • The weekend to catch supposedly fantastic sales?
  • A time to appreciate the dignity of workers? (The historical origin of Labor Day)
  • All of the above?

For many Americans, Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, and other public gatherings.

Can a “Labor Day” mean something even deeper?

Why do you “labor”?

Barely ten years after St. Vincent died, famed British builder of cathedrals, Christopher Wren, described observing three bricklayers.  All were working very hard. 

He asked them each the same question “What are you doing?”  Each answered accurately… yet differently.  [In the back of their minds, they may have thought, “Don’t you understand what you see!”]

The first bricklayer said, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard to feed my family.

The second bricklayer responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.

But the third bricklayer, perhaps with a gleam in his eye, announced, “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral to The Almighty.”

For the first bricklayer, building the wall was a job. For the second bricklayer, it was an occupation. For the third bricklayer, it was a calling.

All three answers were true… But the third bricklayer saw a much bigger picture.

Inspiring as his answer might be is there something deeper about our labors?

Building something bigger than a great cathedral

Yes, there is an even bigger perspective than seeing our labor of whatever “bricks” we lay as part of building a great cathedral.

Remember, whatever other things we “labor’’ at, Jesus taught us to pray “thy kingdom come.”

Isn’t building community a secular way of saying building the kingdom of God?  What could be a greater labor than laboring in the kingdom of God/

Jesus spoke of the kingdom as so much more than a political or earthly empire. He spoke of a spiritual reality that is both present and future. He explained it in terms of justice, love, mercy, and compassion, openness to all people regardless of their social status or background. Jesus spoke of us as being judged by how we treated the least of his brothers and sisters. He called each of us to live (work at) living in God’s kingdom.

Jesus calls each of us to more than working out my working at my personal relationship to God.. He offers us a much bigger picture of God’s Kingdom and our mission.

Celebration that leads to action

With his teaching on the last judgment he is asking us about our lanor in building the kingdom of God.

So we can’t just talk about being God’s sons and daughters as individuals. We also have to live and work at realizing we are literally sisters and brothers. This is what gives ultimate meaning to all our other labors!

Building this community is hard work. It goes against the grain of our selfishness.

God’s people gather as a community or God’s family.

When the community “gathers” in a cathedral or any other place, it wakes up to and celebrates who we are as the Body of Christ.

When we gather in one place, we take time out to give thanks as sons and daughters, sisters and brothers.

We commit ourselves to being a “light to the nations” by building up rather than tearing down barriers that exist.

In each Eucharist, we celebrate what already is and commit ourslves to the most importaant work or labor of living as the community God calls us to. Celebrating helps us move forward with Jesus in the important work of proclaiming and living in God’s kingdom.

In each Eucharist, we take time out to celebrate this labor of love. We draw strength for laboring together with Jesus to build the kingdom of God.

In each eucharistic gathering we gather with our God who rested on the seventh day and saw that everything was good. We accept God’s invitation to continue laboring in God’s kingdom.

Eucharist is a kind of spiritual Labor Day with many deeper dimensions

When we pray “thy kingdom come,” do we realize our labors contribute to building God’s kingdom even here, even now?