Labor Day 2006

Labor Day 2006

A reflection by Dr. Joerg Rieger, Professor of Systematic Theology, Perkins School of Theology

When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus replied: “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” … and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (The Gospel of Mark 12:30-31).

September 4 is Labor Day in the United States. Labor day reminds us of the love for our neighbors. God does not merely call us to love ourselves and our immediate families and friends. God calls us to love all of our neighbors. This love for neighbors includes the love for the millions of workers in our own country and in the world.

We owe much to the workers in the global economy. Without the labor of these workers our lives would be very different. Our clothes would be homemade, the food on our tables would be monotonous and scarce, we would not be driving in cars, and our houses would be much smaller. Workers improve the lives of us all.

As people of faith, we understand that our love for our neighbors is somehow related to our love for God. Jesus mentions the love of God and the love of neighbor in the same breath. The two cannot be separated.

The first letter of John reminds us of this connection: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). Labor Day helps us to give an account: how have we demonstrated our love for the workers in our global economy? How can we do a better job demonstrating our love for workers?

There is a big task ahead of us: While workers contribute to making all of our lives better, we have not always contributed to making their lives better. The minimum wage has not been raised in a number of years; it has not even been adjusted for the normal rate of inflation. In fact, the salaries of most workers today are under constant pressure. Benefits are frozen or even slashed. Common economic principles state that the interests of the workers are less important than the interests of the stockholders. How are we showing our love for our brothers and sisters? What does this say about our love for God?

The good news is still that love of God and love of neighbor are related. By showing greater love for our neighbors, we might learn to show greater love for God as well. This Labor Day, as we renew our love for the workers of the global economy, we know that we are renewing our love for God, too.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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