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A Prayer for Labor Day

by Walter Brueggemann from Prayers for a Privileged People

We are again at our annual moment to honor labor, 
     to remember those who do hard work, 
     to recall tales of depression poverty, to wonder at our surging economy. 
As we remember, we are aware that “labor” today
     is surrounded by hostile euphemisms ... 
     minimum wage, 
     all strategies to cut costs, 
          with the result that laborers are put more at risk, 
          all the while we indulge in endless extravagance. 

We are mindful this day: 
     that most hard labor in our country is performed
          by people maybe not like us, 
     African Americans, Hispanics, 
     other people who lack our advanced skills and connections, 
          and who settle for being labor that is cheap, while
          food and housing continue to grow more expensive; 

     that we are here because our mothers were in labor for us, 
          loving us before we were born, 
          available for inconvenience and for pain, 
          and as we grew ... for worry in the night; 

     that there is other work to be done, what Jesus called, 
               “my Father’s work,”
          healing the sick, 
          caring for the poor, 
          casting out demons, 
          doing the hard work of justice.

We give thanks for those who do this. 

On Labor Day, with most of us so privileged
     that we do not sweat unless we
          play tennis or jog, 
give us fresh perspective on our labor, 
     that our lives consist in more
          than earning and eating, 
          in making and selling, 
     that our lives consist in the hard, urgent
          work of the neighborhood. 

Empower us as you did our mothers
     that we may birth new well-being, 
     that neighbors may live in justice, 
     that we may know the joy of compassion, 
     that overrides the drudgery of our common day. 

We pray in the name of Jesus, 
     from whom we know your own self-giving life, 
     for we gladly confess that “no man works like him.”


Brent LevyComment