Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday into Monday: Taking Worship into the Week

“Work is not redemptive – God’s work – but it is or it can be devoted.” So writes Donald Hall in his book Life Work. I take this to mean that our work, however dutifully and diligently we apply ourselves, does not redeem. It does not redeem ourselves or others. God does. God redeems us and others. That’s his business, his work.

Yet our work can be devoted. I don’t think Hall urges us to be workaholics. I don’t think he presses an argument for work as life. Rather, he refers to how we might go about our work; indeed, how we might go about life. The implicit encouragement is to engage work in specific and life in general devotedly rather than blithely. This suggests a way of undertaking our work, our life, wherein we labor lovingly – toward God, toward neighbor, toward the world around us. Thus, not work as life, but life as work. As craft.

Liturgy assists us here. The word “liturgy” stems from the Greek “leitourgia,” referring to a “public work.” When Greek citizens undertook a project of public service, they performed “leitourgia.” The translators of the Hebrew Bible into Greek used this word for the public service in the temple. Early Christians carried forward this religious sense. When they gathered to worship God, they performed “leitourgia.” The aim, at best, is to serve God devotedly not blithely. “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2, ESV.)

Incorporating Greek and Judeo-Christian notions then, when we undertake work and life devotedly, lovingly, toward God and neighbor and world, we perform public service, liturgy, worship – the craft of holiness – Sunday into Monday.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Today, Labor Day, we recognize and honor workers and their achievements through organized labor. Many of the benefits of modern work we take for granted today resulted at least in part from the efforts and sacrifices of women and men acting in solidarity against injustice, against inhumane living and working conditions: fair labor standards, child labor laws, living wages, reasonable hours for work per day and per week, and more. The following links provide brief surveys of some of those efforts, sacrifices, and achievements.

Additionally, these four movies vividly depict aspects of workers' struggles to make a better life for themselves, their children, and others: "Salt of the Earth" (1954), "Northern Lights" (1978), "Norma Rae" (1979), and "Matewan" (1987).

May we enjoy and acknowledge this Labor Day for what it is -- a holiday and a recognition of ordinary people banding together to seek fairness for themselves and others!