This week we celebrate the work of lay people in the congregation and the wider society takes a pause to celebrate labor and its beneficial effects on our lives. Work is not always meaningful, the tasks we do are sometimes onerous and sometimes our motivation for working is more to care for our families and others than it is for our own benefit. Sometimes the relationship between what we do for work and our spiritual lives is unclear to us. I would suggest that this is one area where most of us need to reflect and to pray, because our work is likely to become a metaphor for our identity if we are not careful, and sometimes our calling from Jesus has little to do with what we are doing for paid work. Like the disciples Jesus called from their nets, Christians have been thinking about the relationship of their work to their spiritual lives and making choices since the beginning of our faith tradition.
Today's Gospel reading (Luke 13: 10-17) makes clear that God's desire for everyone is freedom and wholeness. Sometimes we miss God's liberating actions because we are caught up in justifying ourselves and the systems we have built to organize our lives.
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love. (Hosea 11:1-5)
The message of Hosea is even more striking than that of the other prophets when it comes to family and bodily metaphors. God's message to Hosea is that God's people have betrayed the familial relationship in choosing to follow other gods. We too follow other gods, sometimes harming others with our greed and misuse of others, and sometimes only harming ourselves. Regardless of how we get into sin and separation from God, getting out is always as easy as turning toward God's mercy. The God who led Israel with "cords of human kindness" will lead us back as well.