September 5, 2021
Prelude— Doin’ His Job, by Malcolm Holcombe
Lighting the Peace Lamp—
Be the lamp unto our feet, be the light unto our path, oh God.
Welcome— Good morning and welcome to Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster! This weekend is a holiday weekend — Labor Day — a holiday that has been celebrated in the United States since 1894. It is a day intended not to do labor, but to honor labor and especially those who labor. We hope that today is not just a weekly sabbath for each of you, but also that this long weekend is a chance to rest from the labors from which you earn a living. We hope today and this weekend is a time that all who labor and are heavy-laden can have a rest. May we have gratitude for the capacity to work, the continue to advocate for healthy work boundaries for ourselves and for all.
Call to Worship—
God of work and rest,
you have linked our lives one with another;
all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives.
Guide us in the word we do,
that we may do it not for self alone,
but for the common good,
and as we seek a proper return for our own labor,
make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers,
and arouse our concern for all who are out of work;
through Jesus Christ,
carpenter, teacher, healer,
beloved child of God. Amen.
Gathering Song— There is Place of Quiet Rest, HWB #5, sung by CMCL on May 7, 2017
Children’s Time—Sophia Sauder
Offering Prayer—Thank you for your continued support of your congregation. Our budget supports our staff, our building, our congregational care, and our outreach commitments. We are grateful that this community can be a place to seek and give mutual aid and to reach out beyond our community, too. Thanks so much for being the church and giving to the work of the church.Jesus of love and leftovers,
we struggle with what to share
and how much is enough.
Sometimes we are the disciples,
quietly suggesting you send
the needy crowds away.
Sometimes we are the crowds,
bringing only our desire
to be close to you.
When we have little,
embolden us to share it.
When we have nothing,
welcome us to stay and eat.
In giving and receiving,
we participate in the miracle of enough.
Thank you, Jesus.VT #1016Offertory—Come, Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing, VT #563, instrumental piano by Joseph Gascho
Scripture—Leviticus 25:1–4, 8–10
The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.
You shall count off seven weeksof years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.
Sermon—The Rage of the Cucumber Monkeys, by Susan Gascho-Cooke I invite you, this Labor Day Sunday, to take a moment to stop and make a montage in your mind of your own experiences with labor.
How was household work viewed in your childhood home?
What work were you expected to do?
Who did what in your home?
How did you feel about what you were asked to do?
What was the first time you received money for work?
An allowance for chores, perhaps?
What was your first job?
Imagine hearing this review of yourself: “You are very hard-working! You always go the extra mile.”
How would that make you feel?
Now imagine hearing this review of yourself: “You do enough. No more or less work than we ask of you.”
How would that make you feel?
“Enough” should be a very good assessment, right? “Enough” work, by definition, satisfies the expectation. But in our culture, “enough” would actually be a poor review. We live in a culture where “exceeds expectations” isactuallythe baseline expectation for a job well done.
In the Genesis story of the Fall, we read that the need for Adam and Eve to sweat and toil to make a living was an indication of living under a curse. Yet we valorize exactly that kind of labor as an indication of character and the Good life.
There is pushback afoot about all this. I see it on social media. I infer it from headlines.
Folks are tired.
Feeds are full of memes meant to reassure that your “enough” effort really is “enough.” But how do our reassurances to ourselves and to our family and friends to justify showing up to our places of work amidst their pandemic fatigue and just do “enough” actually stack up to reality?
How do these reassurances line up with the expectations we have of folks when we interact with them as consumers or customers? Are we ready to be ok with just “enough” from strangers out in the marketplace?
I know I feel great sympathy for folks working min wage jobs, and yet if I’m honest, I still want my own interactions as a customer to be not just correctly handled, but cheerfully.
This stuff around work and reward goes deep. Whether or not it’s convenient to acknowledge, or whether we can tolerate admitting it, we are deeply aware of inequity. It impacts our emotions and ability to feel satisfaction with life.
Watch this excerpt from a TED Talk about experiments in equity among capuchin monkeys.We instinctively and deeply “get” the cucumber monkey’s rage.
Fling that cucumber, buddy!
Get the mean lady in the lab coat!
As one commenter noted, she’s lucky the monkey threw the cucumber at her instead of the rock!
But what of the grape monkey? The capuchin monkey who kept getting grapes didn’t seem much bothered by the inequity happening between it and its neighbor.
The scientist in the study says that among chimpanzees, both the subject getting the cucumberandthe subject getting the grape noticed the discrepancy, and that the chimps who unfairly received grapes sometimes refused them. Chimps, he said, were the only animals he observed to do that. Many animals notice inequity when they’re the cucumber-getter, but it’s rare for the grape-getter to appear to notice, much less object.
I had to wonder: did he include humans in that statement?
My guess is that cucumber peopleandgrape people are born noticing the inequity, but we’re inculturated to ignore or tolerate it, and we ideally learn not just to tolerate it, but to justify it.
So, how can we help each other build lives in which our relationships to work are satisfying? And not just be learning to ignore, tolerate or justify inequity?
And by “each other” I mean one another here in this community, but alsoeveryonewe interact with in our society and economy. How can all of us have good work-life balance and make a living without working too hard and too much? Are there expectations we could change in terms of our own expectations from service employees we interact with, for example?
If you’re a cucumber monkey, how can we support you to advocate for grapes? If you’re a grape monkey, how might you learn to open your eyes to the transactions around and beside you, and the rightful rage of your cucumber neighbors?
How might we, together, build a world with cucumbers and grapes for all?
Finally, Labor Day focuses (quite rightly) on labor in employment settings. That kind of labor deserves its own holiday. But since there is no corresponding holiday for folks who labor within their households and communities for no direct pay, how might we honor that labor?
I think it’s especially important to keep eyes open to that kind of labor on any and every holiday. Who gets the day off on a holiday,actually?I’m guessing someone is providing a meal, at the least.
The Onion,known for its painfully truthful satirical writing, produced this gem a few years ago, which so aptly observes this phenomenon:
Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean
“NAGS HEAD, NC—Continuously doing laundry, cooking, or vacuuming in her family’s rented beach cottage this week, area mom Catherine Yardley has spent a much-needed vacation performing all her usual household chores while in closer proximity to the ocean, sources confirmed. “Isn’t it nice to just get away for a while and relax by the water?” Yardley said as she wiped down the kitchen counter and then took out the garbage, tasks she would normally perform at a distance of 200 miles from the beach instead of 50 feet. “I just love that I can be scrubbing the bathroom, look out the window, and see the tide coming in. We should do this every year!” At press time, Yardley was reportedly busy preparing a meal identical to what she would have made back home, except that she planned to serve it on paper plates.”There are scriptures and concepts in our sacred texts that have wisdom and counsel for us on this, I believe. The concept of Jubilee (redistribution of wealth). The concept of Sabbath (rest is meant for EVERYONE in society)
These were meant to be a regular part of a functional community, without which order and balance would be lost. Is it any surprise that we are so off-balance, when we’re not even trying to practice these concepts?
How might we practice Jubilee for ourselves and for all?
How might we practice Sabbath for ourselves and for all?Hymn of Response—I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, VT #536,sung by CMCL on March 23, 2014
Sharing Time Prayer—
In our doubt and fear, may we know the compassion of the Shepherd,
who tends us in the valley of shadows and will sit with us as long as we need.
In our anger and frustration, may we know the passion of the Prophet,
who overturns the tables of injustice and curses this fruitless age.
In our pain and despair, may we know the healing of the Comforter,
who strengthens us with hope that is stronger than death.
Make us a community of costly and courageous love,
overcoming destruction and injustice wherever we may find it.
We pray in solidarity with those whose hearts and bodies are aching today.
By the tender mercy of our God,
may the dawn from on high break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in shadows,
and to guide our feet in the way of peace.
Closing Hymn— All Who Are Thirsty, VT #49, Voices Together demo
In our concerns and in our choices,
God is with us.
In our disappointments and in our joys,
God is with us.
In our protesting and in our serving,
God is with us.
Now and always,
God is with us.
Sermon: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Children’s Time: Sophia Sauder
Tech host: Drew Brubaker