Sunday's (9/1/19) Message

Our Service on Sunday is at 11:00 a.m.

See Last Sunday's Message by John Below

Sept 1, 2019

Good morning and Happy Labor Day!  Labor day always seems a bit strange to me because it is not a day for ‘labor’, it is generally a day off from work….often called the unofficial last day of summer and the reason for a cookout or barbecue with family and friends.  

For office workers and many others it is a day off, but not everyone gets a holiday.  Emergency workers have to be available.  Policemen have to work and are probably busier than usual because of those who celebrate a bit too liberally.  Hospital workers also have to be prepared as trauma cases skyrocket over holiday weekends….also thanks to those who celebrate to liberally.   

It seems these days however that we have lost some of our appreciation for work.  For many people, their highest ambition is to do nothing at all.  They want to win the lottery and spend the rest of their lives doing nothing.  I am sorry, but I can’t imagine anything more boring than that.  Also, as we know, most people who do win the lottery have nothing to show for it in a short period of time.  They are often worse off than before they won the money.  

A number of years ago, I heard a speaker who was an expert on conservation, sustainability, and recycling.  He had written several books on the topic and gave lectures throughout the country.  When he entertained questions at the end of his talk, someone asked him, what, other than recycling, switching out lightbulbs, being careful with our waste, we could do to be good stewards of the earth.  Without a hesitation, he said one of the best things we could do is to keep the Sabbath. People were surprised by that answer and he explained. Keep one day each and every week that would be low key, relaxing, non-stressful, and conscious of what we were doing.  He said that this day did not have to be Saturday, or Sunday, but could be any day of the week.  By limiting our consumption and creation of waste on one day of the week, we could see an improvement in everyone’s life.  I thought it was a very interesting answer and unexpected as well.  We don’t often see a day of rest as being good for the environment and the planet. 

Recently you have seen on television, the enormous fires in the Amazon.  The Amazon forest produces 20% of the oxygen for the earth.  20% and if that is gone, I don’t know if we can live on 80% or not.  This is not a problem that will affect only Brazil or the South American countries that are included in the Amazon region.  We will all feel the effects of this and it is a serious business.

I remember a few years ago some legislators in California floated the idea that their state needed more water and so they wanted to pipe water from the great lakes to California. The Great Lakes hold 20% of all the fresh water in the world.  This proposal, of course met with a very polite “Hell, no” especially from the states bordering the Lakes like Ohio, but also from Canada which would have had to agree in any case.  I think the idea was dropped because I haven’t heard any more about it. It does seem as though we are reaching a tipping point, sea levels are rising, some places like India are already having an emergency because they lack enough water for their populations, habitats and wild life are being very adversely affected.  What will people do, if they have no water?  Unfortunately there is only one answer for that. 

As Americans, we are famously workaholics.  We work more hours than the rest of the world and we take fewer days off than anyone else.  Japan which is famous for the work ethic of its people, have more national holidays than we do and more time off from work.  I lived and worked there so I know that is true.  Also in Japan you have to be prepared for a national holiday.  If you need something from the grocery store on one of these days, too bad.  Restaurants are not open, shops are closed, movie theaters are shut down and even the trains and subways run on a limited schedule.  This is so everyone can take some time off.  Now I will mention that the vending machines that populate many corners in Japan can provide you with all the beer, sake, whiskey, and brandy that you need for your weekend.  Yes vending machines sell alcohol all over the country.  A very civilized country….Japan.  

I can remember when I was younger and many stores were closed on Sundays.  There were, as many of you also can remember, blue laws that prohibited people from buying certain products on Sundays as well.  I am not saying that those days were better, just that we did not live in a society that ran full tilt 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

I remember the first time I led a group of young people on a mission trip.  We went to Rose’s Creek Holler in Tennessee.  Rose’s Creek is truly out in the sticks and we were advised just to drive through the creek which ran across the road at the edge of town.  

Although I had asked the kids to not bring personal stereos, and such, they did not listen, but after the batteries died, it didn’t much matter.  The first couple of days were rough for them, but I noticed that by the third day, after dinner, they were planning Scrabble, or Monopoly, or putting together a jig saw puzzle that we had brought along.  They were also, actually talking to one another.  They even sat down with us adults and had an enjoyable conversation in the evening.  That was something they  had not expected. 

The same thing happened when we went the following year to David, Kentucky – a former coal mining area.  The kids from the Rose’s Creek trip easily moved into not having television and computers.  The newbies had to make the transition and it took a few days.  On both of these trips, the important thing was that they bonded together in ways that they never would have done at home.  They would only come running to me when there was a problem of some sort.   That is just one of the reasons that mission trips are so valuable – especially for young people. 

There are a lot  of reasons to cut  ourselves back from all our devices and distractions.  When I finally got a smart phone about a year ago, I promised myself that I would not be tethered to it and walk around all day staring at it.  So far, despite its temptations, I have managed to keep my promise to myself.  I normally don’t carry it around with me and if I would not have had my previous land line with me, I don’t take the new one either.  Actually my favorite thing about the smart phone is that I can play Sudoku on it.  This does not make me righteous in any way.  It just indicates that I am older and more stubborn than many other people.

 I also think that Labor Day is a reminder that all work should be honored and respected.  I often hear people say, “I wouldn’t do that job.” And I think I am glad someone is doing it.  I wouldn’t like to be out in the baking sun of a California field picking lettuce, but while I am eating my BLT I am grateful that someone did do it.  There are a lot of jobs that I wouldn’t like to do…in fact I have done some of them when necessary.  I respect anyone who is working to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table.  

So, today or tomorrow when we are enjoying a day free of labor, let’s remember and say a prayer for those who are working, making it possible for the rest of us to buy gas, pick up another package of hot dogs, or if needed, get emergency care.  Let’s also remember that it is OK to take a day for quiet, relaxation, and mindfulness about what Rite 3 in the BCP calls ,”this fragile earth, our island home.” 

And if anyone should ask you why you are not doing anything, just tell them that God told you to take the day off and if they have any issues with that they can take it up with the Big Guy himself.  Have a peaceful, thankful, relaxed Labor Day.  


© Sep 15th, 2019 St. Lukes Episcopal Church in Niles