To the Church in Exile,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s meditation is from Lynne Baab:
God’s peace to you on May Day.
When you think of May Day, do you think of a celebration of spring flowers and new life? That was the tradition in Europe in Medieval times. Today, more than a hundred countries have a national holiday on May 1, International Workers Day. This day is similar to our Labor Day, but with a greater emphasis on the significance of all work and the rights of all workers.
The United States does not participate with all those other countries in celebrating May 1 as International Workers Day because the holiday developed socialist and even communist overtones in some countries. May Day raises an intriguing question: how much should we participate in cultural activities that might have overtones that we don’t resonate with? May Day during the Covid-19 pandemic evokes an equally challenging question: How can we grow in valuing the labor of all the people who keep our economy and food supply working?
One of the lectionary passages for today, Colossians 2:8-23, addresses the question of how we should live in the world. The passage begins with an admonition: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (verse 8). Christians over the centuries have wrestled with how much to engage in local traditions, celebrations and festivals, trying to discern the presence or absence of “empty deceit.”
Paul then goes on to say that Christ is the head of every ruler and authority, and we were buried with him in baptism. Therefore our highest allegiance belongs to Christ. In addition to the shift in allegiance that Paul identifies for us, we also affirm that Jesus’ cross “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it” (verse 15).
Paul continues, “Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (verses 16 and 17).
Yes, all human celebrations, even at their best, are only a shadow of what is to come. Our challenge is to identify the substance, the presence of Christ. As I ponder International Worker’s Day during this pandemic, I think about the substance of Christ’s love for all the people who are providing food for us by working in fields, food processing plants, food distribution centers, and grocery stores. I think about Jesus’ love for the drivers of huge delivery trucks taking food to grocery stories and the drivers of smaller trucks that circle my neighborhood delivering food and other items to people at home. I think of Jesus’ presence with doctors, nurses, medical assistants, pharmacists, first responders, caregivers, and many others who are keeping people alive.
Because our highest allegiance belongs to Christ, we are called to view the world through Christ’s eyes. International Worker’s Day might not be a holiday in the United States, and it might have a different flavor than our Labor Day. However, right now this holiday invites us to celebrate the workers who are putting themselves in a vulnerable position to keep life going for the many people staying at home. We can pray for those workers now, and after the pandemic is over, we must think about how to honor them more fully.
Loving God, help us to discern the presence of “empty deceit” in human traditions and festivals. Help us to perceive how to live in these strange times as if “the substance belongs to Christ.” And today, on International Worker’s Day, help us to grow in prayer for the people who make our daily lives possible and who are working so hard to care for people who are ill.
God’s peace to you today,
Former Bethany Associate Pastor
Currently a writer and teacher (lynnebaab.com)