September 4, 2021 – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Luke 14:25-33

I get a little sad on Labor Day weekend.  It’s in my genes, or maybe it comes from the way I was raised – either way, I distinctly remember my mother getting blue at Labor Day, and my sister still does, too, even though she admitted she doesn’t know why because her son is out of school and her day-to-day existence doesn’t really change much in September.  For me it’s a little bit about temperature.  This week Tricia pointed out a t-shirt in a catalog that said “Yes, I’m literally freezing” and said she should buy it for me.  I do hate being cold.  But my lack of enthusiasm about Labor Day is about more than just knowing that cold weather is on the way.  There’s something about the feel of summer that I really like:  less meetings, less pressure to get things done, more time to enjoy the outdoors, more opportunities to rest, relax, play, and just plain goof off.  Summer is good.  And I hate to see it go.

But Labor Day reminds me that work is good, too.  And let me just say that by the word work, I mean whatever it is that you do day in and day out.  If you’re going to school, then learning is your work.  If you’re sick, then your daily work might be going to doctors and doing therapy and working on getting well.  If you’re unemployed, then your daily work could be looking for a job.  And as for you retired folks – I know many of you are quite likely working harder than those of us who are still drawing a paycheck with your volunteering and childcare and other projects.  When I talk about work, I’m referring to whatever it is you do on a daily basis.  And I want to say to you this morning that your work is important.  You may not have a great job – I hope you do, but you may not.  You may not find meaning or fulfillment in your employment.  You may not enjoy weekdays as much as you enjoy weekends.  Nevertheless, your work is important – not just because you spend so much time doing it – but because in your work, in your daily routines, you have the opportunity to be a disciple.  “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me,” says Jesus, “cannot be my disciple.”  And it’s in our day-to-day living that we are called to carry the cross.

Notice I said carry the cross, not bear the cross.  The expression a cross to bear is something entirely different.  When people say that something is their cross to bear, they generally mean they have some heavy burden or responsibility that they alone must cope with.  To tell you the truth, I really dislike that expression because it compares our suffering with Jesus’ suffering on the cross – and there’s really no comparison.  I’m also not fond of the expression because none of us has to bear our burdens alone.  That’s what faith is all about.  We have Jesus in our corner, and we have each other!  So even if you find your work a cross to bear, that’s not what I’m talking about.  Carrying your cross means showing your commitment to Christ in everything you do.

When we carry our cross, other people can see where our commitment lies by the way we do our work:  we carry our cross by doing our work with integrity; we carry our cross by being servants to our co-workers both above and below us; we carry our cross by showing the compassion of Jesus to all; and we carry our cross by sharing our faith – by not being afraid to talk about what we believe in, by talking about the motivation and the strength we receive as followers of Christ.  Our daily work is important.  Our routine, daily activities are also holy – set apart by God for a special purpose – and that purpose is to be Jesus’ disciples.  Wherever we are, whatever we are doing when we’re not here in this place, we have the opportunity to change our environment, to change our world by our commitment to Christ.  Voters and volunteers, teachers and tax preparers, bank employees and babysitters, students and secretaries, customer service agents and construction workers, parents and payroll clerks – we all carry the cross when we allow our lives to be shaped by our commitment to Christ.

And frankly, that’s why we come to church on Sunday – because it’s hard work carrying the cross, being a disciple, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  The scriptures clarify and deepen our sense of purpose.  Our hymns and prayers fortify us for the week to come.  In receiving the sacrament, we confess our disappointments, confusions, and failures of the previous week, and then receive the forgiveness and encouragement to go out and do it all again.  That’s the rhythm of the Christian life.  We come on Sunday to fill up our tanks, and then energized and accompanied by the Holy Spirit, we go out into the world, carrying the cross, and doing the work of discipleship:  which is sharing the love and mercy of Christ with all of God’s creatures and the whole creation.

Because this is Labor Day weekend, towards the end of our liturgy this morning (after our announcements and after we sing for all those who celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries this month), I’m going to invite you to join me in renewing our commitment to laboring in the name of Christ, to carrying the cross and doing the work of discipleship – not just in our work, but in all of the things that we do, big and little, day in and day out.  We’re going to do that using a tiny little rite that you can find in your red ELW on p. 84.  I’m going to ask that you find that page now and mark it, so that when we get to it, you’ll be all ready to go.  It’s p. 84, little p. 84, in the front of ELW – before the hymns – p. 84, at the top of the page, called Affirmation of Christian vocation.  Remember, our vocation is our calling.  It’s what God calls us to do and who God calls us to be, not just on Sundays, but every day of the week.  Mark that page, p. 84, and set the book aside for now.

Friends, you are holy:  set apart for a special purpose.  And that purpose is to love and serve God and your neighbor in everything you do.  May you, day by day, come to understand your value in God’s kingdom, knowing that God has called you to this work.  May you discover strength in your work, knowing that Jesus is leading you and guiding you.  May you find comfort, knowing that the Holy Spirit is accompanying you, today, tomorrow, and forever.

CHRISTIAN AFFIRMATION OF VOCATION

Sisters and brothers, both your work and your rest are in God.  Will you endeavor to pattern your life on the Lord Jesus Christ, in gratitude to God and in service to others, at morning and evening, at work and at play, all the days of your life?  (And I would add . . .) Will you endeavor to carry your cross so that the world can see that you are Jesus’ disciple?  If so, answer, “I will, and I ask God to help me.”

Almighty God, by the power of the Spirit you have knit these your sevants into the one body of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Look with favor upon them in their commitment to seve in Christ’s name.  Give them courage, patience, and vision; and strengthen us all in our Christian vocation of witness to the world and of service to others; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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