Dear Friends and community of GNG church,
Greetings on another mid weekend morning on this Labor Day weekend.
Before I get into the following here are a few key announcements:
- No official worship gathering this week, but please plan on September 10th at 10am at The Piano Cottage
- More to come as Gatherings start to take shape through the Fall into Winter seasons.
- Many people in the community are signed up for GRU's Fall League Tuesdays at 6 - it starts this Tuesday, you can sign up here.
For many of us Labor Day is a day that we travel, go visit friends or family - or stay in our own neighborhoods and try to get caught up on some work. This morning I realized that I don't actually know why Labor Day exists. So I did a bit of research and typed up this bit below:
According to the Department of Labor - the day is "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." You can read a bit more at the link above - but it appears that this day was started by a few people who were a part of the booming industries as industrialization was well underway on the first Labor Day in 1882. Today that industrialization has now continued to emerge and develop as new technologies boost productivity and automated systems continue to allow farmers, industries, series to pump out their product faster than ever. There is a lot more history here, but in summary we see companies like Amazon are taking over. In the last 10 years our economy has changed a lot.
So, why am I talking about all this? I believe the way we work, is a primary way we understand our identity. We live in a society that requires us to rigorously marketing ourselves in a way that the industries will see us valuable for the small thing we bring to their company - something that will become profitable. While many companies are realizing they need to care for the whole person, at the end of the day, we still feel like another cog in the machine. It all contributes to our identity. Some work builds up the identity, some leaves us empty.
As individuals, the struggle is real. It is not just a few individuals going through this identity crisis - there are many, many going through this. You are not alone.
I think it is also fair to say that the United States is going through an identity crisis - and so are all of Christ's church here in the U.S. Work is important to us as individuals, as a country and - I believe God cares for the way we work too. In fact, it is one of the main things God created us to do.
I could probably go on to write a tome of some sort at this point, but instead I want to say this.
We focus on the nature of the work rather than how we do the work. I don't think we need to be doing world changing work in order for it to be meaningful. I believe that it is how we are doing our work that, in the end, is the difference. Whether you are an executive at Microsoft, or a dishwasher at a restaurant - it is that you are rooted, a part of the land, community, and world. It is that you are living as an image of the creator, created to love, hope, and believe. It is that we give the abundant life we have been given to others - not giving it to ourselves. I believe this is how God created us to live and that if we love God first - these things will follow.
So, on this Labor Day weekend please rest - and then awaken from the rest by digging into your identity by doing your work with rootedness.
Lastly, I just want to share a bit from an article that got me started on all of this. It is a short write up about a person that Colin talks about a lot - Wendell Berry. This article is a quick write-up from Anna Keating who saw a recent documentary(ish) of Wendell Berry called Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.
We have largely forgotten a way of life in which Americans defined themselves by community, family, craft and religion. Few of us have known a poor man who owned his own tools for his trade or a working-class woman who ate from her own garden. We have forgotten what a craftsmanship of risk looks like. And yet as recently as my grandparents’ generation, half of Americans owned small businesses or lived off the land.
Wendell Berry and his wife... returned the land his family cultivated in Kentucky for five generations in search of home and sense of place or, as William Faulkner once called it, “significant soil.”
Berry is an advocate of small farms, rural communities and Judeo-Christian values like kindness, all of which have been harmed by “get big or get out” industrial agriculture.
His life and work bear witness to the fact that it is never Christian to say, “I can do whatever I want with my own land” or “my own body.” We are stewards, not owners. What’s more, the attitude of “I can do whatever I want” is toxic to earth and water, family and community. Berry, an early critic of mountaintop removal mining, writes, “I saw the poisoned river, the mountain cast into the valley.” Nature itself bears witness to the fact that it is not, in fact, all relative. Certain farming practices enrich the soil and worker’s well-being. Others deplete them. As Pope Francis reminds us in “Laudato Si’,” it is all connected.
To end, I lastly wonder - what would it look like for us to find "significant soil" together - for us to stay connected to each other and our local communities and understand that we are not the owners. That instead, we are merely part of a collective of stewarders. What would it look like for us to live like it is not about ourselves, but about each other.
This is the story God is inviting us all into, vibrant and full, not me, but You.