A Labor of Love

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…”

Colossians 3:17 NRSV

A few days ago, a friend shared with me a cartoon in which Charlie Brown was thinking to himself, “Is
it just me or are the summers getting shorter?” I think that is a fair question because it has most certainly been
a fast summer. I suppose I feel this way because this summer was so much different from that of 2020. We
were blessed to have a week of camp, in-person Vacation Bible School, Summer Adventures, and have seen
the resumption of in-person Sunday school and our Senior Adventures ministry. With the calendar turning to
September, we are just days away from Labor Day which is known to many as the “unofficial conclusion to
summertime.” School is getting back into session and, with this extended weekend, some families will try to
squeeze in one more trip, cookout, etc. For the hunter, Labor Day indicates the beginning of dove season and
to the farmer it means the corn harvest is on the horizon. In many cases, Labor Day will become “just another
day” as some will still find their job calling for them or discover various things to be done around the house.

Have you ever paused to think about the origin of Labor Day? Labor Day is observed on the first
Monday of September as a way to honor American workers for their many contributions and achievements within
society. It began within the labor movement of the late nineteenth century and became a federal holiday in 1894.
In the late 1800s, during the Industrial Revolution within America, the average person worked twelve hours each
day (in many cases seven days per week) in order to provide for a basic living. The working conditions
experienced were not always ideal in factories, mines, etc. and it placed the lives of those employed at great
risk. With time, labor unions began to develop which provided a voice to the average worker and, in a number
of cases, led to the organization of rallies and strikes aimed at challenging poor work conditions and minimal
salaries. Unfortunately, some of these gatherings became violent and lives were lost. One of the best
remembered moments occurred on May 11, 1894 when employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in
Chicago went on strike due to wage cuts and the firing of union leaders. On June 26, the American Railroad
Union called for a boycott of the company’s railway cars which created havoc with transportation, shipping, and
mail delivery within America. In response to the unrest in Chicago, military troops were sent to the city in an
effort to bring the issues to a resolution. Following this brief period of strife, Congress passed an act which
formed what we know as the Labor Day holiday and it was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland on
June 28, 1894.

Some years ago, I heard a man state, “Labor Day?! Every day is labor day for me!” For him, he was
not speaking of the holiday or end of summer. In a joking manner, he was stating the obvious that each day has
something to be done even if one does not have to go to an eight-to-five job. Look around! You and I have
plenty to do. By this, I do not simply mean a “honey-do-list” or expectations to be fulfilled within the workplace.
I am speaking of the living of our faith. Paul’s words to the believers in Colossae serve as a reminder that with
everything we have an opportunity to further the Kingdom of God. Here, Paul says nothing about the nature of
our efforts, what specifically must be done, or the timetable in which such work should occur. Rather, the apostle
emphasizes “whatever.” Some may translate this “in all things” or “everything that you do,” but the idea is the
same. Everything we undertake physically, verbally, etc. has the ability to glorify God when done in the right
manner. By doing our “whatever” IN the name of Christ, we reveal who this Jesus is to others who may not know
him or have lost hope in organized faith groups. For example, if I say, “I am doing this or that IN the name of
love,” I am sharing my understanding of the meaning of love and how love is to function in relation to another.
My actions will give that person some idea of what love is which can then become significant for good or ill in his
or her life. Doing or speaking “IN the name of the Lord Jesus” conveys our understanding of Jesus’ words and
deeds in a way which gives another some concept of Jesus whether favorable or not. It is as though we are
becoming an otherwise unknown Jesus to that individual or group.

Having said this, we still have much work to do! There is no “off-season” or “vacation day” for those
loyal to Christ. Every day is “labor day” for us. This is as true today as it was one hundred and fifty years ago
when the community known as “Little Rock Original Free Will Baptist Church” was established. The times and
surroundings may have changed considerably during this span of years, but the opportunity to touch others with
the presence of God is still present. Yes, there may be the presence of various challenges, but anyone will tell
you and me that anything worth “its salt” in life requires hard work, determination, and persistence. We can be
discouraged by our situation, curse at the evening news, bring up the way things “once were,” or we can get
busy. However, by “busy” I do not mean doing things just for the sake of doing them. I mean performing those
tasks which are faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and offer others hope, strength, and love to see them
through the madness of our current world. Labor Day may be indicated on our calendars as Monday, September
6, but for those of us in Christ…every day is labor day!

Together in Christian Love,

The Reverend Kelley Smart