What is Labor Day?

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and 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” [from the U.S. Department of Labor website]. After years of scattered celebration in various parts of the country, it began receiving official recognition by some states by about 1885, and in 1894, Congress declared the first Monday in September to be a legal Labor Day holiday.

A time to give thanks

Labor Day is certainly not a religious holiday, but as Christians who believe in the innate worth of every human being, it seems appropriate we celebrate Labor Day and express gratitude to God for the millions of people whose labor in their chosen vocation makes this world—and our lives—better.

A Litany of Labor

This beautiful litany, written by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was used today in our church service, and I wanted to share it. I love the notion that God has made us co-creators through our work. Take a moment to reflect on the blessings of fruitful labor by so many hard-working men and women.

READER. Let us pray to the Lord of all creation, from whom comes life and work and purpose.
Almighty God, when you formed us lovingly out of the dust of the earth, you breathed into us the breath of life and gave us work and purpose for living.
RESPONSE. You placed Adam in the garden of Eden to till and keep it.

READER. Through our work, you made us co-creators with you, shaping the world in which we live.
RESPONSE. You gave dignity to our labor by sending your Son to labor with us.

READER. By our labor, you enrich the world.
RESPONSE. By our labor, we enjoy the fruits of creation.

READER. By our labor, we find direction and purpose.
RESPONSE. By our labor, our families are made secure.

READER. For providing varieties of work and for blessing us by our labor:
RESPONSE. We give you thanks, O Lord.

READER. For those who plow the field and those who make the plow; for farmers and farm workers, for steelworkers and machinists; for those who work with their hands and those who move the earth:
RESPONSE. We give you thanks, O Lord.

READER. For those who tend the sick and those who seek new cures; for doctors and nurses, for scientists and technicians; for those who keep notes and those who transcribe:
RESPONSE. We give you thanks, O Lord.

READER. For those who think and those who create; for inventors and explorers, for artists and musicians; for those who write books and those who entertain:
RESPONSE. We give you thanks, O Lord.

READER. For those who work in offices and those who work in warehouses; for secretaries and receptionists, for stockers and bookkeepers; for those who market products and for those who move them:
RESPONSE. We give you thanks, O Lord.

READER. For those who inspire our minds and those who motivate us; for teachers and preachers, for public servants and religious servants; those who help the poor and those who work with our children:
RESPONSE. We give you thanks, O Lord.

READER. For those whose labor is tidiness and cleanliness; for janitors and sanitary workers, for drycleaners and maids; for those who produce cleaning products and those who use them:
RESPONSE. We give you thanks, O Lord.

READER. For those who sail the waves and those who fly the skies; for captains and attendants, for astronauts and deep sea divers; for those who chart and those who navigate:
RESPONSE. We give you thanks, O Lord.

READER. You bless us all with skills and gifts for labor.
RESPONSE. You provide us opportunities to use them, for the benefit of others as well as ourselves.

READER. Guard and protect those who labor in the world.
RESPONSE. Bless the work of our hands, O Lord.

READER. Look kindly upon the unemployed and the disabled.
RESPONSE. Give health to the sick, hope to the bereaved.

READER. Keep us from laboring only for greed.
RESPONSE. Make us loving and responsible in all that we do.

PRIEST. Creator Lord, you are the source of all wisdom and purpose, you are the blessing of those who labor. Be with us in our labor to guide and govern our world. Give all men and women work that enhances human dignity and bonds us to one another. Give us pride in our work, a fair return for our labor, and joy in knowing that our work finds its source in you; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.|

Elizabeth's note: What might we do this Labor Day to elevate the celebration beyond just another holiday or excuse for a family picnic?

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