Sunday September 4, 2022
Life and Work of our Church
Introit VU #402
We are one as we come, as we come, joyful to be here,
In the praise on our lips there’s a sense that God is near.
We are one as we sing, as we seek we are found;
And we come needful of God’s grace as we meet together in this place.
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to use and share this land wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
We light this candle as a sign of God’s Light and God’s Spirit at work in the world. May its light brighten our spirits, ignite our passions and shine within and through each one of us to offer light and love to others.
Call to Worship
In the beauty of these late summer days,
we come to worship.
Revelling in the wonder of God’s handiwork,
we come to worship.
Remembering that the work of our hands is part of the work of God’s hands,
we come to worship.
Filled with the joy of gathering to share our praises and our prayers,
we come to worship.
And so, as we gather here today, let us worship our God.
~ from our sister church in the US the United Church of Christ
Loving, Working God, on this Labour Day Sunday, we pray that you will help us to be your people, striving for a world where all workers are valued. A world where those who clean houses are also able to buy houses to live in. A world where those who grow food can also afford to eat their fill. A world where those who serve us—in stores, schools, hotels, restaurants, nursing homes, and many other places—are also served by us. Help us to build a world where all workers everywhere share in the abundance that you have given us. Amen
Gift of Music There’s a Spirit in the Air VU #582
Our scripture reading 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.
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Our second reading is taken from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. It is a familiar passage that talks about every person having gifts and talents and being expected to us them for others.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God’s message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person.
Our final reading is taken from the Gospel According to Matthew. It is the story of Jesus willingness to break the Sabbath laws forbidding people from working on the Sabbath in order to care for people in need.
Not long afterward Jesus was walking through some wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began to pick heads of wheat and eat the grain. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus, “Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do this on the Sabbath!”
Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did that time when he and his men were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his men ate the bread offered to God, even though it was against the Law for them to eat it—only the priests were allowed to eat that bread. Or have you not read in the Law of Moses that every Sabbath the priests in the Temple actually break the Sabbath law, yet they are not guilty? I tell you that there is something here greater than the Temple. The scripture says, ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ If you really knew what this means, you would not condemn people who are not guilty; for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Jesus left that place and went to a synagogue, where there was a man who had a paralyzed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong, so they asked him, “Is it against our Law to heal on the Sabbath?”
Jesus answered, “What if one of you has a sheep and it falls into a deep hole on the Sabbath? Will you not take hold of it and lift it out? And a human being is worth much more than a sheep! So then, our Law does allow us to help someone on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man with the paralyzed hand, “Stretch out your hand.”
He stretched it out, and it became well again, just like the other one.
For the Good of All
Is anyone other than me finding it hard to believe that it is Labour Day already? For most of us Labour Day traditionally signals the end of the summer, even if it doesn’t actually end until September 22nd. We start to prepare ourselves to get back into the “swing of thing’ for the fall and we look ahead at what needs to be planned, prepared for and accomplished.
But this is not what Labour Day is really all about. Although it has become recognized as the last long weekend of the summer, it stemmed from protests against the long working hours that were the norm for most workers in the late 1800’s. In 1872 there was a printers’ strike in Toronto where workers were fighting for a nine-hour work day. At the time, many labourers work twelve hours a day, six days a week.
George Brown, the owner of one of the print shops effected by the strike, launched a counterattack by establishing that, according to the laws of Canada, union activity was considered a criminal offense. The protestors were arrested and it looked like the owners had won.
However, then Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had been watching the Nine Hour Movement with interest and saw an opportunity. Brown was actually a political rival of Macdonald and after publicly supporting the imprisoned men, Macdonald managed to pass the Trade Unions Act on June 14th of that year. This Act legalized and protected union activity.
Macdonald not only managed to embarrass his rival Brown but it also earned him the enduring support of the working class. It didn’t take long for the nine-hour day and 54-hour week to become the norm, and yes, that is nine hours a day, six days a week.
Union organizers continued to hold a parade each year to remember the protests and to celebrate their victory. Finally on July 23rd 1894, Prime Minister John Thompson passed a law, making Labour Day an official holiday.
So, all this are fun and interesting facts, but what do they have to do with us today and what do they have to do with our scriptures as we celebrate Labour Day this year?
Two of our three scriptures today deal with the idea of Sabbath, and the laws regarding the Sabbath. In the book of Deuteronomy, we read how the story of creation, found in the book of Genesis, became law. The people were told that, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day and because the creation story said that God rested from all labour on the seventh day, the people were to do the same.
The Sabbath was to be a day of complete rest. No work what-so-ever was to be done on the Sabbath. The intention of these laws was not only to allow the people a day of rest, but also to provide a day when would spend the entire time focusing on their gratitude for all the God had done for them in order to strengthen and reaffirm their relationship with God.
The problem was that these laws, which were intended as a blessing had, in many cases, become a hardship. Those who, for whatever reason, were unable to strictly obey the Sabbath laws, would be considers sinners. The only way to have your sins forgiven would be to make a sin offering. Even the very minimum offering demanded by the laws would be a difficult expense for the poorest of the poor and the idea of having to make this offering every week, would simply have been beyond their ability to manage.
And so, we come to the story told by Matthew of Jesus and his disciples picking the heads of wheat as they walked through a field and eating the grain. Although it may seem to us to be rather silly, to pick even a single head of wheat counted as harvesting and removing the seed was interpreted as thrashing. To pick and eat even one grain of wheat was to work on the Sabbath and thus break the Sabbath laws.
Yet when he is accused of breaking the Sabbath laws, Jesus does not respond the way the Pharisees hope or expect. Instead, Jesus talks about priorities. When King David’s soldiers were starving, they broke the law by eating the temple bread that was forbidden to all except the priests. And the priests themselves broke the Sabbath Laws each week simply in order to carry out their Sabbath duties. The laws that were enforced so strictly were not applied equally to everyone.
And Jesus goes on to challenge these laws by quoting the scripture that says, ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ For Jesus, as always, it is not the letter of the law, but the intent of the law that matters. It was kindness and love that mattered far more than any rule or regulation.
Today we have become very comfortable with the idea that some people will have no choice but to work on the Sabbath. We cannot close hospitals, nursing homes or other care facilities one day a week. We cannot expect farmers to risk losing their entire crop if it turns out that the only day fit to harvest is a Sabbath. And as our society becomes more and more secular, we cannot expect everyone to stop their entire lives and take a day off simply because that is what the Laws of Moses teach.
But as people who trace our faith traditions back through Moses, we need to ask ourselves what work, what Sabbath and what rest mean to us.
Paul reminds us that we all have gifts and talents and that we are expected to use them “for the good of all.” These talents and abilities are meant to be shared. They are meant to help us build a better world, even if it is only is tiny ways in our own small part of this world.
The thing is that it is in the sharing of our talents that we find purpose, fulfillment and motivation in our lives. If we never use the talents we have, they are lost and we lose the opportunity to find a richness and meaning in life that only comes when we recognize our value as part of God’s creation.
But Paul also reminds us that none of us can do it all. Each one of us has specific gifts, but none of us have every talent. There are always other people who have the abilities that we lack. And none of the gifts, talent and abilities that we have are in any way more valuable or more important than someone else’s gifts.
Sometimes we seem to think, or at least act like, if we don’t look after everything ourselves, things will never get done or at least, they’ll never get done right. When we do this, we disrespect the gifts of another person and we rob them of the opportunity to serve. We can also find that, if things don’t turn out exactly the way we hope and plan, we blame ourselves, even if there is absolutely noting we could possibly do that would make a difference.
There are times that we seem to take the entire weight of the world on ourselves, and that is why God doesn’t just give us work to do, God also gives us times of rest and renewal. We need time away from our work in order to renew our strength, our commitment and our passion for the work we do.
The command to keep the Sabbath day is not a burden that must be endure or another job that we have to take on. It is a gift, every bit as much as the gift of our talents, abilities and passions. But it is also a command that we cannot chose to ignore. Unless we take the time to renew and reenergize, we cannot use our talents to the very best of their ability.
In 1872, realizing that they needed more in their lives than simply jobs, people took to the streets to demand a better work/life balance. As we remember their story this Labour Day weekend, perhaps we can take some time to reflect on the balance in our own lives between accomplishing the work that God has called us to undertake and remembering to keep sabbath time to renew, reenergize and reconnect with the source of life who gives us both work and rest.
Gift of Music Worship the Lord #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 #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.
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
Prayers of the People
Divine source of all life, all labour and all rest, on this Labor Day, 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 to love and serve others and to help build a better world for all people everywhere.
And so as we gather here today, we offer you our prayers for all those who care for people at the beginning and at the end of life…
all those who help others cope in times of crises…
all those who put themselves in harm’s way to ensure the safety and security of others…all those who inspire our imaginations and touch our hearts through their work…
all those who do dirty and dangerous jobs that are necessary, but no one else wants…first-time teenage workers, those who have entered the work force after a time away and workers who have retired after long years of service…
those who have immigrated from other countries bring with them skill and talents they long to use to contribute to our society…
all those who contribute to the common good in any way by the work they do…
Yet even as we praise you for the labour that provides for our livelihoods and offers us purpose and a sense of accomplishment, we remember those who do not share this blessing. And so we offer our prayers for all who work hard, but cannot make ends meet or provide security for themselves and their families…
those who are barely getting by, who have no savings, and who constantly must worry that they are one unexpected or new expense away from financial ruin…
young adults who are burdened by education debt, who fear they will never be able to get ahead or to afford a home of their own…
older adults struggling to live on fixed incomes and having to choose between food, medication or other necessities of life…
those who are unemployed and cannot find work…
those whose jobs have been made irrelevant or obsolete by technology or by other changes to in our culture…
workers who have been victims of downsizing, outsourcing, or cutbacks…
those who work at jobs they hate and who dream of something better but are unable to find anything…
We also pray for an end to bullies in the workplace…
bosses and anyone else who take credit for someone else’s ideas and work…
executives, managers, and anyone else in workplaces who are not held accountable for unethical and immoral behavior…
any who produce little or nothing but expect large salaries and perks…
those whose work exploits, abuses or destroys others for profit or pleasure…
all those in power who use their positions to steal from their organizations or other people, or who to lie, to advance their personal agendas at the expense of others…
Lastly, Divine One, we pray for ourselves. May the work we do and the attitude with which we do it bring praise and glory to you. As you have cared of your people through the ages, continue your covenant faithfulness to us and grant our prayers. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Gift of Music Forth In Your Name VU#416
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 VU# 522
Give thanks, my soul, for labours, that strength and days employ;
But know the Maker’s purpose brings toil as well as joy.
Show forth, O God, your purpose; direct our will and hand
To share you love and bounty with all in every land.