Paul’s Letter and Labor Day – Think of five activities you engaged in the past week. These should include another person or some type of item. List simple daily or weekly tasks, people with who you interacted or items you used in your home, work, play, entertainment, leisure, shopping, transportation, or something you observed at a distance. Think of a diverse list, items as different as possible.
(See activity sheet – Provide a sheet with the above paragraph which invites listing 3 items. Instructions will be given later, providing a visual of the BakerFacesPainRatingScale, google it. Then people will reflect and discuss possible actions. )
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Pastor’s words of instruction:
What kind of work environments have you experienced? Have you had the good fortune to be in a place where affirmations were a daily experience, where even small contributions by skilled and unskilled workers were affirmed as values in the working of the whole? Have you experienced settings where the boss was always on top of everyone, second-guessing every action, reprimanding people for imagined mistakes, seemingly creating opportunities for conflict? Have your coworkers been eager to help out when a sudden crisis arises or have people complained about what goes on without making any effort to understand what could be done to relieve it?
Paul says we are to treat each other as siblings in Christ. He asks Philemon to receive Onesimus, not as a runaway slave, but as a brother. The activities or items you listed involve other people in some way. In some cases, others were directly involved in the activity. In other cases, people made and/or supplied the item you listed or recycled/disposed of it when no longer useful to you. Sometimes people engaged in the work of making your entertainment possible depict actions that are either life-affirming or troubling. Or entertainers may themselves be celebrated or reviled.
(Distribute the following questions and the pain scale and invite reflection and sharing.)
You are invited to rate the way in which the other people in the activities or the people behind the items you listed were and are treated by you and/or by society. Are they affirmed or are they discounted?
Using the rating scale below*, rate the perceptions and actions of society in general as causing no harm to causing much suffering to the people involved. Ask yourself these questions. What comes up for me as I reflect on this text from Paul? Do I contribute to any suffering? What can I do to change or alleviate the suffering or to raise awareness of my concern?
(Gather in small groups to discuss what you have observed. Provide time for sharing observations with the whole. Facilitate and affirm conversation. Conclude with prayer.)
Holy One, you call us to labor, to be caretakers of earth, good stewards of your bounty, and you call us to take time to rest in your divine presence. Teach us to be aware of those whose labor is rarely rewarded with time of rest, those whose compensation is not enough to supply even basics of shelter, clothing, food, school supplies, and health care. As many celebrate a holiday this weekend others must work the sales. Some have no option, there is no work on the holiday and thus a reduced paycheck awaits them at week’s end.
Be with us, O God, in our desire to seek and do justice in your name. Lead us to sit with the disadvantaged, to affirm their skill and contributions. Challenge us to give of ourselves so that all may find room at the table. Amen