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This week's eNote
September 6, 2021 by Pastor Chip Freed
I have always had a “love / hate” relationship with Labor Day. Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Labor Day weekend was the apex of the summer and part of a five day immersion and celebration of the Canfield Fair (then, the largest county fair in the nation). When it was over, however, it was the end of summer and back to school. Later, Labor Day weekend would be the weekend in 1990 where Terri & I exchanged our lifetime vows. So, for thirty plus years, Labor Day weekend has always been near our anniversary and a weekend to get away or at least pause, before the busy stretch run of each ministry year leading ultimately to Christmas. It has been for me a brief respite before a time to get back to work.
Labor Day was initiated as a tribute to workers whose efforts contributed to the success and prosperity of the society around them. In Youngstown, Ohio, the epicenter of the American Steel Industry, labor was a really big deal. Labor unions were celebrated and revered. In elementary school it was core curriculum for us to learn the elements of making steel or “pig iron” to be exact (iron ore, limestone, coal or “coke”). We were all aware of the major steel furnaces that lit up the night over our city in a rather eerie way.
The Bible talks about a building project initiated in the call of Abraham and Sarah (Abram and Sarai) in Genesis 12 and accelerated in the arrival of the Master Builder Jesus (Jesus was born the earthly son of Joseph, a “teton” or “builder”). His project dwarfed even the mighty steel mills of my youth, for his task was to build the eternal kingdom of God… and yes, to commence its build “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus recruits us as followers to take up this task. “For we are co-laborers, God’s servants, working together… (in) God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).
Today, I read Matthew 9 as a true Labor Day devotional. Jesus’ pace in this chapter is exhausting. In 9:1-7, he initiates a busy chapter by healing a paralytic. He recruits Matthew the tax collector in 9:9 and then in 9:10-13, he eats with other social outcasts restoring them to the covenant, thus igniting the ire of religious leaders. In 9:18-26, he restores a young girl to life and heals a woman suffering from a hemorrhage for 12 years. In 9:27-34, he heals not one blind man but two; and then in 9:35-38 the chapter ends with these words: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Tired yet?)
Jesus has sacred labor for us to do… not to burn us out but to build us up as well as the world around us. For those of us who love and serve Jesus, it is a “work of faith and labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). This world is crying out for loving, Spirit filled, kingdom committed laborers. This Saturday, September 11th from 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM, even if 1000 of us show up at our South Euclid campus for our Renaissance of Reconciliation, the laborers will still be “few.” The task of reconciliation in an increasingly diverse and painfully polarized society is vast… the obstacles and enemies set against the building of God’s kingdom are immense. Yet, Jesus says, I call you to be “salt” and “light” and “yeast” with the faith of a “mustard seed” – the little elements that can change the entire whole! Please listen to the attached video invitation and join us. Bring your labor of soft eyes, warm hearts, and simple greetings and smiles. Hold out your hand to others and introduce yourself as a member of Garfield Memorial Church and tell them how glad you are that they are there. Know that with each kind word and simply through the ministry of your presence, the kingdom inches closer. See you on September 11th!
Click here to help with the Renaissance of Reconciliation Festival!