This weekend in Victoria it is the Labour Day weekend; in Tasmania the Eight Hours Day weekend.
For those of you in these States leading worship this weekend, will your service integrate any reflection upon the reality and meaning of work and its significance from a Christian perspective – or will your focus remain on it being the first weekend in Lent?
I would argue that you do the former – because doing the latter simply reinforces the artificial divide between the “private” realm of faith and the “public” world of work. This integration doesn’t have to be a major undertaking – just a simple moment that enables your congregation to reflect on the meaning, joys, and sorrows of work in their life (and trust me, even if your congregation is full of elderly and retired people, work still plays a prominent part in their memories and self-understanding)
Even if you aren’t leading worship this weekend, or Labour Day (or its equivalent where you live) falls on another date in the calendar, this litany may be of use to you. Feel free to use/adapt it in any way you choose – or even as an “ideas springboard” toward doing something different.
This litany was originally developed by myself in conjunction with my colleague and mentor John Bottomley. The text in bold type indicates responses from the congregation.
Litany for the Life of Work and Faith
1. Affirmation of Faith
There are diverse gifts:
But it is the same Spirit who gives them.
There are different ways of serving God:
But it is the same Lord who is served.
God works through people in different ways:
But it is the same God whose purpose is achieved through them all.
Each one of us is given a gift by the Spirit:
And there is no gift without its corresponding service.
There is one ministry of Christ:
And in this one ministry we all share.
Together we are the body of Christ:
And individually members of it.
The Uniting Church affirms the exercise by women and men of the gifts God bestows upon them for the building up of the Kingdom of God. As Christians, we believe there is no separation between the life of faith and the realm of work, irrespective of whether that work is exercised in the home, as a volunteer, in a business setting, or as we study and train for further qualifications and new employment opportunities. Even in retirement, we are called to be witnesses to faith; for the vocation of faith does end with our labours, but continues over the whole of life.
Believing God calls people into the service of faith, a service which incorporates and reconciles the reality of human work to the life of God, let us together make affirmation of our call to this vocation:
Do you confess anew Jesus Christ as Lord?
Do you believe that God calls you to the service of faith, and to the integration of this service into all aspects of human life?
Relying on God’s grace, will you try be a witness to Christ in all that you do and say, and in all parts of life, including the life of work, whatever form that work may take?
With God’s help, I will.
May God give you strength to be true to this undertaking.
2. Prayer of Commendation & Lighting of Candles
Lord God, you call us into your service wherever we are and regardless of our circumstances. Whether employed, unemployed, or retired; whether full-time, part-time, or casual; whether paid or volunteering; whether training or learning, teaching or mentoring; whether in business or at home; in all the ways that humans undertake their labours, you call us to witness to your Gospel of grace and compassion, forgiveness and peace. Grant that wherever and however we work, we may be beacons of the dignity which you bestow upon all humans through the gift of our creation in your likeness and image. Amen.
The names of the different industry sectors in which members of the congregation work are called. Those who wish to do so may come forward to light a taper from the Christ candle and place it upright in a sand-filled bowl placed on the Communion table.
Lord God, we have made offering of our lives and our labours, represented by the tapers we have lighted from the one, true Light of Christ. Grant that we may continue our work empowered by the knowledge of your grace, and the solidarity of your love, which never ends.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, receive the Holy Spirit and be witnesses for Christ in all that you do and say, when, wherever, and however you work. Amen.
HYMN: Aaronic Blessing (twice)