Labor Day and Apologetics

New York City Sanitation Dept. workers collect bagged garbage on New York's Upper West Side,  Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. The mountains of snow may finally be melting away from New York City streets after more than a month of waist-high drifts piled on curbs and clogged in streets, but now there are new problems: Pot holes. Garbage piles, black mounds of filthy, oozing refuse that no one wants to deal with.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

As I was looking ahead on the calendar this morning for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, I found myself thinking about the doctrine of vocation. Granted, it’s a civil holiday. Nevertheless, it is one occasion where the secular realm calls us to remember on one day what Scripture calls us to remember every day, namely, the work and labor others have done or are doing on our behalf.

This is one of the many reasons why I enjoyed watching The Discovery Channel’s popular television show Dirty Jobs when it was on the air. The host, Mike Rowe, went around the country learning about and participating in the jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us, as the tag line or the show’s introduction went. Sounds like vocation to me. Thank the Lord for plumbers, garbage men, and street sweepers. Thank the Lord for toilet paper, the factories that make it, and the water filtration plants that treat it afterwards. Thank the Lord for his manifold masks through which he serves others and we serve him.

So, maybe it would be better if Christians thought of Labor Day as Vocation Day. Of course, every day is Vocation Day – whether we have a BBQ and a day off of school or not. Not a day goes by that we’re absent from vocation – God calls us into service in many stations of life each and every day. God has many masks behind which he hides himself to serve the neighbor.

Now, giving thanks to God for his gift of vocation is good, right, and salutary; and we do this whether it’s concerning our homes, churches, or the world we live in (think Luther’s three estates). But as we look forward to celebrating Labor Day, I think there is something more we could say about vocation and sharing the Gospel. Is it possible that Christian vocation could be an avenue for apologetics, or a defense of the Christian faith? I think so. And here’s a few reasons why.

We rejoice with the Psalmist that:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

But of course, God’s handiwork in creation is not limited to the skies above. We are the sheep of his hands. And God has given our hands to work, labor, and serve. Writers use words. Artists use paint, clay, and countless other mediums. Musicians use notes, voice, and instrument.

The handiwork of our hands can often point to the handwork of God. Consider how Bach often concluded his sacred works with the Latin phrase Soli Deo Gloria. To God be the Glory. Indeed. Consider how church architecture is capable of communicating by countless visual sermons as the Gospel is written in stone, stained-glass, and symbolism. Or consider the work of the imagination found in such brilliant writers as Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, and countless others.

And these are just a few crystals of ice on top of a rather large and immeasurable iceberg that make up God’s gift of vocation, and serve as a witness to the God who himself labored, first in a carpenter’s workshop, and later upon the wooden beams of a cross, all for you. After all, that is the greatest vocation of all. Jesus’ work on Good Friday is the greatest of all labor days. This is Jesus’ chief vocation, his calling…to save you and the world from all that our sinful labors had wrought, and to deliver us to serve in the good works which he has prepared beforehand (Eph. 2:10) that we should walk in them. So, as we rest from our labors on Monday, we’re reminded of the Him who rested in the tomb for us so that we might find our eternal rest in him, even as we live and serve here below. His salvation, and our service to others – it’s all gift.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5)

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