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September 5, 2011

The True Meaning of Labor Day - a Commentary

The Greenwich Citizen
Rev. James B. Lemler, Rector of Christ Church, Greenwich
August 18, 2011

Labor Omnia Vincit... "Work Conquers All Things."

The Latin author Virgil wrote these words over 2,000 years ago, and they have been a banner statement for the power of good, honest work and labor ever since. They are hopeful and inspiring, and we do well to call them to mind this Labor Day.

By tradition, Jesus of Nazareth was himself brought up in a working household where he observed and participated with his carpenter father in the family business. Paul, the early exponent of the Christian message, was a worker himself and joined his craft with his pursuit of meaning and truth. Scripture itself commends honesty and perseverance in daily work.

This Labor Day, may we celebrate the sacred value of work. May we offer thanks for the gifts that enable us to make our own living and give our efforts faithfully and diligently towards the achievement of opportunity for meaningful work for all who seek it in our society. Work can conquer many things -- poverty, fear, isolation, meaninglessness and lack of opportunity. Work can empower many things -- purpose, community, sufficiency, accomplishment and opportunity. In my own tradition, we offer this prayer for Labor Day:

"Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives.  Guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work.  In Your name, Amen."

THAT  BEING  SAID . . . . . . . . 

As today is Labor Day, I thought I'd actually get to work cleaning out the garage in preparation for bringing in the lawn furniture this Winter.  Working my way through boxes and clutter, I reached for an empty plastic shrubbery container perched on top of a metal shelving unit.  As I pulled it down,  I immediately realized that it wasn't completely empty - tenants had moved in.  Three little speckled robin eggs were nestled in their mother's labor of love

It made me sad to think that we had lowered the garage door one evening back in the Spring while Momma Bird was probably out foraging for worms and she couldn't get back in to her  nest.  And, boy, it's some nest - tenderly hollowed out with lots of padding and even a stray piece of lace. 

Moms are the hardest workers on the planet.  Not only do they suffer through the physical agonies of birth, they devote their lives to the nurturing and welfare of their offspring.  As we acknowledge the laborers of the world today, let's not forget mothers.  For all of their hard work, they view it as the greatest of honors.

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