Sunday September 3, 2023 – Labour Day
Introit VU #392
How sacred is this place! Its open door of grace behold, my soul to enter!
May all who worship here, believing God is near, find God is at the center.
Words Copyright © Hope Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756
Acknowledging the Territory
We acknowledge that, here in Yarmouth, we live work and worship in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” first signed with in 1725. By acknowledging this, we commit ourselves to live in Peace, Friendship and Respect.
Lighting the Christ Candle
In the flame of the Christ Candle, we see reflected the light of Christ and we commit ourselves to live in that light, sharing it with all those we meet, wherever we go.
Call to Worship
We gather to worship the One who formed the earth, sowed the stars across the sky and created all that is.
We gather to worship the One who created us and calls us to share the continuing work of creation.
We gather to worship the One who strengthens our hearts and our hands to share the continued work of building a world filled with justice and peace.
We gather to offer our gratitude and praise for the gift of meaningful labour.
We Gather to worship God.
As we gather here on this Labour Day weekend, we offer our thanks for the gifts and talents that allow us to earn a living and contribute something positive to our world. But all too often our society judges the worth of a person by the job they do, the wealth they accumulate and the success they achieve. Remind us this day that each one of us has value, dignity and worn, not because of what we do but because we have been created in your image and given status as your children. As such, remind us also that you call us to love and support each other and to share the work of building your world of peace, justice and equality for all your children. In the name of our brother and co-worker, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.
Gift of Music We Have This Ministry VU #510
All of our scripture readings today were chosen specifically for Labour Day. The first is a passage from the book of Deuteronomy. It reflects the story of creation found in Genesis and reminds us of the importance of balancing work and rest.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Good News Translation
“‘Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy, as I, the Lord your God, have commanded you. You have six days in which to do your work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. Your slaves must rest just as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and that I, the Lord your God, rescued you by my great power and strength. That is why I command you to observe the Sabbath.
Our second reading is taken from the letter to the Colossians. It reminds us that all we do should be done in love and gratitude and done in the service of God.
Colossians 3:12-17, 23 Good News Translation
You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make; for it is to this peace that God has called you together in the one body. And be thankful. Christ’s message in all its richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct one another with all wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing to God with thanksgiving in your hearts. Everything you do or say, then, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks through him to God the Father. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people. Our third reading comes from the second letter to the Thessalonians. In it, Paul reminds the people of their responsibility to share the labours of the community and admonishes them to never grow tired of doing good.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Good News Translation Friends, we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to keep away from all believers who are living a lazy life and who do not follow the instructions that we gave them. You yourselves know very well that you should do just what we did. We were not lazy when we were with you. We did not accept anyone’s support without paying for it. Instead, we worked and toiled; we kept working day and night so as not to be an expense to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to demand our support; we did it to be an example for you to follow. While we were with you, we used to tell you, “Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat.”
We say this because we hear that there are some people among you who live lazy lives and who do nothing except meddle in other people’s business. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command these people and warn them to lead orderly lives and work to earn their own living.
But you, friends, must not become tired of doing good.
And from the Gospel According to John, one verse that summarizes much of what you have already heard.
John 6:27 Contemporary English Version
Don’t work for food that spoils. Work for food that gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give you this food, because God the Father has given him the right to do so.”
Favorite Hymn Request Those Who Love and Those Who Labour
Reflection – Life / Work / Balance
It sometimes seems like every single person I know is struggling to find a balance in their lives. Those who have steady employment often complain that they are swamped with work and have no time for themselves or family. Others struggle to find work and feel they are letting their family down if they can’t. The result is that they are often unable to enjoy the time they do have because they feel guilty that they are not working. Even those who are retired often seem to find it hard to balance personal time with volunteer commitments or the unpaid work of helping to care for family members or friends who need assistance. And with so many businesses open 7 days a week, often 24 hours a day, there are many people who simply doesn’t seem to be time for rest.
This was the foundation for Labour Day. When the recognition of Labour Day first began in the late 1800’s, many people were working 10 to 12 hours a day 6 days a week. There was no such thing as unions, paid overtime, sick leave or a ‘regular’ 40-hour work week. Workers had no rights and if they wanted to provide for their families they had to work when the work was available.
What we know today as Labour Day began as a celebration of the passing of the Trade Unions Act in 1872. This act allowed unions to push for a nine-hour work day which soon become the norm, but that was nine hours a day, six days a week. Continued union and societal pressures over the years have led to our current 37.5-hour work week, with paid holidays, overtime, and sick benefits now included in most full-time employment.
So why is it that today so many people today continue to work 40, 50 or even 60 hours a week, and sometimes even more than that? Why is it that we are so caught up in work? Why is it that so many are still unable to find a balance between work life and personal life?
It would be easy to, once again, blame employers. Many companies have decreased their full-time staff to avoid paying costly benefit packages. They have hired more part-time workers and are careful not to go over the maximum number of hours. This has meant that many people must work 2 part-time jobs in order to manage and end up working far more than 40 hours and yet still have no benefits.
Many full-time employees are salaried employees, which means they are given a job to do and paid a monthly wage on the understanding that they must accomplish that job regardless of how long it takes, which is often much more than 40 hours. Now I have to tell you that as a salaried employee, I am very grateful because, I do have benefits and I have the flexibility to work more hours on weeks when I am extremely busy and take time off when things are slower. But the truth is that many salaried employees today do not have this option and they continue to work 10 to 12 hours 6 and even 7 days a week.
But the demands of employers is only one of the problems that leads to a lack of work/life balance in our society. The other problem, which is perhaps even more profound, is our societal attitude towards work. When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions asked is usually, “So what do you do?” This question actually means, “What is the paid work by which you make a living?”
In our society we are, in many ways, defined by our job and our statis is often related to our job title. A friend of mine used to tell people he was a “hazardous and flammable products redistribution technician.” He pumped gas at a local gas station, but giving his job a more impressive title often seemed to increase the respect people showed him. Even many people who are retired don’t simply say they are retired, but rather say what they are retired from. No many people, when we are asked what we do, actually list all the things we are involved with and all the paid, unpaid, and volunteer work that we do?
The idea of work, has become all about measurable accomplishments and monetary compensation. But what about the work of quietly sitting and listening to someone who needs a friend to talk to? What about the work of educating yourself by reading about current issues around the world, by watching informational television programing or by attending seminars of presentations? What about the work of sitting quietly in prayer or meditation, working on your relationship with God? We live in a society that, despite the example of Jesus, praises busyness and condemns quiet.
Yet over and over in all of the scriptures that we read this morning, the work that we are called to do by the One we seek to follow, has nothing whatsoever to do with measurable accomplishments and monetary compensation. The things we do are to be done with compassion, gentleness, humility, gratitude and most of all love. And it is to be done, “as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.”
But often we seem to forget that working for the Lord does not mean being busy 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Working for the Lord also means resting with the Lord. This seems to be the part that so many of us forget. I remember a friend of mine saying once, you can’t constantly pour everything out of a container without stopping, every once in a while, to fill it. If you try to do that, the container ends up empty and you have nothing more to give.
This is true whether we are talking about our work life or our spiritual life. We need to find a balance between work and rest. And that balance can be very different depending on the person. Some people find themselves renewed and energized by being busy and doing as many things as they can. But these people still need quiet times of rest. They need these times to stop and refocus and think about why they are doing all the things they do.
Others find that the busyness of constant activities can be very draining and if they do not take the time to rest and refocus, they can become overwhelmed, burned out and even resentful of the busyness. They need time to reenergize and to renew the passion that calls them into action.
So, whoever we are we all need to find the balance between work and rest. Jesus knew this and we are told he often when up a hill, into a boat or even into the wilderness to be alone and spend time with God. And this is not something that we learn only through Jesus.
From the very beginning we are told that even the Divine took time to rest. Deuteronomy tells us You have six days in which to do your work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me.
So, what happens when our life or work situation requires to work on “the sabbath,” regardless of whether that sabbath is Saturday or Sunday. Well, this does not mean that we are exempt from the need for rest and renewal. Sometimes a sabbath day is not a specific day of the week. Sometimes the sabbath is not ever a full day. But making time to spend connecting with the Divine is essential.
Some people do this through daily readings. Some do it through specific times set aside for prayer. Some do it through meditative practices such as yoga, tai chai or meditative silence. Some read scripture. And some have other ways of slowing themselves down and focusing on the Divine.
It is not enough to simply take a break. It is about much more than resting the body. This time of spiritual rest is rest that is dedicated to God. It is a time to set aside all the worries, the busyness, the plans and preoccupations of daily life and quite both the body and the mind in order to open ourselves to new awareness of and receptivity to the Divine.
And in case you think this has little to do with actual work, it takes a lot of time, effort and practice, in other words, it takes a lot of hard work, to be able to do this. I am the first person to admit that this is something that I struggle with and I’m not very good at. And I know I am not alone in this.
A month at a Buddhist monastery taught me that even the most tranquil and serene person struggles with true deep quiet. Many people feel guilty when they are not busy, and all the things that they feel like they should be doing, creep in and steal their sense of quiet and stillness. Quieting the body is often far easier than quieting the mind, but both are needed.
When we celebrate Labour Day, we do celebrate the labours that we do, the work that gives us a sense of accomplishment, the success we experience that give us respect and status in the eyes of society. We celebrate the things we do voluntarily, our unpaid labour, that offer us the satisfaction of knowing that what we do matters and we do make a difference.
But, when we celebrate these things, we also need to celebrate the gift of rest. We need to honour and protect that gift every bit as much as the gift of work. We need to remember that God calls us to both work and rest. So today, when we celebrate and recognize all the various forms of labour in our society and in our world that make our own lives easier and more productive, we also need to celebrate, not just the right to rest, but also the Divine call to do so. Amen
Gift of Music Worship the Lord VU #401
We Offer Our Gifts
There is much work to be done and we all have our ways of contributing. One of those ways is through our financial support of this church. If you chose to support the work of this church you can place your offering in the offering plates at the back of the church or you can make arrangement to give through PAR or through online donations. And so, as we sing our offertory response, we bring forward some of those gifts.
Offertory Response VU #538
For the gift of creation, the gift of your love and the gift of the Spirit
by which we live, we thank you and give you the fruit of our hands.
May your grace be proclaimed by the gifts that we give.
© Words and Music copyright 1991 Abingdon Press. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. Onelicense #A723756
As you have blessed us in all that you have given us, we ask that you will bless the gifts that we bring that they too may become a blessing. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Sending People to School – Together: Patti Talbot’s Work
How do you make the world a better place? You can start by taking kids to school. Around the world, 57 million children cannot attend school.* They may never learn to read, to add or subtract, or to write. These are the skills they need to succeed. Even more importantly, they never learn about their basic human rights.
It’s a complicated problem, says Patti Talbot, the United Church’s Global Partnership Team Leader. “The work we do isn’t going to lead to immediate societal change,” she says, “but it will make a big difference down the road.”
When children can’t go to school, society suffers. And that is why Mission & Service is in partnership with 85 organizations that work to increase access to education across the globe. Each partner has their own approach to education and skills training, each supported by your gifts to Mission & Service.
Colombia’s Center for Communication uses arts and media to teach children about their rights. Women for Change in Zambia creates educational groups where participants share agricultural knowledge and awareness of their rights. At Japan’s Asian Rural Institute, local leaders gather to learn sustainable agriculture techniques they can take home and transform their communities.
“How can we make the world a better place?” asks Talbot before responding, “We can’t do that by ourselves; our partners know best what the challenges are.”
Talbot, a child of missionaries who was raised in Japan and Korea, knows that educational partnerships are critical. “In our partnerships, we learn from and teach each other,” she says. “The United Church’s focus is more than just sharing resources, but really sharing life together.”
It’s an approach that Talbot knows works, even if results take time. “Our partners are very grateful that the United Church of Canada has demonstrated over and over again that we are there for the long term,” Talbot says.
“Partners say to us ‘It makes such a difference to us to know that the United Church is with us, walking with us in prayer, supporting us, remembering us in their lives.’”
Thank you for supporting the work of The United Church of Canada’s Mission & Service Fund.
Call to Prayer VU #400
Lord, Listen to your children praying, Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
Lord, Listen to your children praying, send us love, send us power, send us grace
© Words and Music copyright Hope Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756
Prayers of the People
Divine Mystery, who calls us to be co-workers with you in creation, on this Labor Day weekend, we thank you for your gifts of labour and of rest. We thank you that we can find fulfillment and meaning through the work we do but that we can also find renewal and reconnection with you through times of rest.
As we gather here today, we think of workers and labourer of all kind around our world and we offer our prayer of support and concern.
We offer our prayers for workers who face dangerous conditions or hazards in their work especially those without sufficient warning or protection …
We offer our prayers for all those who face the conflict and stress of working and caring for children or the elderly without adequate help or support …
We offer our prayers for all those who cannot find work, those who work at jobs for which they are vastly overqualified and for those who rely on unemployment or social assistance that is so often far too little to meet their needs …
We offer our prayers for workers who are displaced by technology or by economic pressures that demand that jobs be relocate to less competitive markets …
We offer our prayers for children whose childhood is cut short because they are forced to work …
We offer our prayers for all who face discrimination that makes it difficult to get adequate work and those who face discrimination in the workplace because of race, sexual or gender identity, ethnicity, physical abilities, political or religious beliefs …
We offer our prayers for all workers who are affected by labour disputes or who have been discriminated against as a result of their efforts to seek justice and fair treatment in the workplace …
We offer our prayers for all workers whose work is unappreciated, taken for granted, or that gives them no satisfaction or meaning in their lives …
Divine Creator, through our work and through an honest appreciation for the work of others, regardless of what their work may be, help us to help create a more just and equal society where all can find pride and satisfaction in their work and all can find peace and fulfillment in you. Amen.
Gift of Music God, as We Rise to Leave VU #417
Go out from here now into whatever labour God calls you to do. Go knowing you are gifted, talented and loved. Go knowing that whatever God calls you to do, God has already given you the skills you need. And go knowing that God will never call you to do anything that God will not be there to help you accomplish. And so, as you go from here, go with God.
Choral Blessing MV #222
May the peace of God be your peace.
May the love of God be the love you show.
May the joy of God be the joy you know,
And may the world that God would see be found in you.
Words © November 2001 Neil MacLaren. firstname.lastname@example.org. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756