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The People Had a Mind to Work: A service for the Sunday before Labor Day

The idea for this service came from a similar one planned by InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. Each year the group organizes a service for graduating students called “Ordination to Daily Work,” to affirm to these students that their training for their profession and vocation, even if not explicitly Christian, is still holy work dedicated to God. This was a new idea for some of the students who did not come from a Reformed background, and they were encouraged by it.

I used elements from the InterVarsity service and from Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony to prepare this liturgy for Labor Day weekend. The liturgy takes the very Reformed idea that all vocations are from God and celebrates it in worship. The next Sunday we followed with a dedication service, as we usually do, for all those starting a new year of service in the ministries of the church—Sunday school teachers, committee members, and so on. I thought it was important to have a service parallel to it, dedicating and supporting everyone’s work during the week.

To adapt this in other congregations, sentences for the various readers could be dropped or added. The ones for caregivers, students, and retirees are important for demonstrating that not all vocations are jobs with pay. Our congregation has a lot of teachers, so those lines were important for us. In other congregations, the “workplace” line could be expanded into a few lines for various types of jobs.

—DH

Prelude

Call to Worship

Hymn of Praise: “Earth and All Stars” PsH 433, PH 458, RL 33, TWC 357

God’s Greeting and Mutual Greetings

We Celebrate Our New Life

Call to Confession: Matthew 6:19-21, 24

Prayer of Confession

Lord, we confess that we have stored up treasure on earth, placing our trust in our possessions and our money. We have made work into our master, letting work invade the time you give us to rest, to fellowship with others, and to worship. At other times we “make do” and “get by” in our work, rather than working with our whole heart. We have been overwhelmed by worry and stress, forgetting to place our work in your hands and to trust you for the harvest. We have resented our bosses, unfairly judged our coworkers, and lorded it over those we supervise. Forgive all of our sins because of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Matthew 6:25-26; 11:28-30

Response of Gratitude: “Lord Be Glorified” SNC 43

The Reading of God’s Will for Our Lives

Hymn: “Father, Help Your People” PsH 607

Children’s Prayer and Blessing

Apostles’ Creed

Congregational Prayer and Prayer for Illumination

We Hear God’s Word

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:1-6

Sermon: “A Mind to Work”

Nehemiah 4:6b: “. . . The people had a mind to work.”

Hymn of Response: “Jesu, Jesu” PsH 601, PH 367, SFL 251, TWC 436

[During the last stanza, the liturgist and readers moved to the front. Each short prayer was led by someone representing that type of vocation.]

We Respond in Gratitude

A Litany of Dedication

Liturgist: While Moses was tending sheep on a mountainside, the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush and called out to him, saying, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Jesus taught us that all ground is holy: all of life for our Master is a sacrament to be dedicated fully to God. Each of us is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are on holy ground in our work as teachers, lawyers, volunteers, doctors, parents, secretaries, students, business owners, construction workers, and every other vocation God has given us. Today we affirm before God and one another that our work and our worship are interwoven, our work growing out of worship and our worship growing out of work.

Teacher: As teachers, let our classrooms be places where your light and your truth shine in all learning, and where we celebrate and nurture the varied gifts and abilities of each student.

Student: As students, let our minds, our talents, and our character be shaped more and more in your image as we learn to use our gifts in the service of your kingdom.

Worker: In the workplace, may mutual respect govern our relationships, and integrity govern our contracts and finances, as we produce useful goods and services.

Caregiver: As caregivers of children and family, the sick and the aged, may we remember the example of Jesus as he washed the feet of his disciples, and treat each person as one who bears God’s image.

Scientist, writer, or artist: As scientists, writers, and artists, may your Spirit inspire and govern the work of our minds, and transform the professions in which we work.

Retiree: As those retired from many years of work, may we enjoy the gift of rest, encourage one another, pray for the church, and mentor the next generation.

Congregation: In all our daily labors, even amidst dull routine or frustrating demands, may we hear the call to serve the Lord.

Liturgist: Take a few moments now to pray and meditate on your daily work—its joys, challenges, worries, and relationships—and how these might be more fully dedicated to God in the coming year.

[Time of silent meditation and prayer] Amen.

[All who were able were asked to stand.]

Liturgist: The rule of Jesus Christ covers the whole world. To follow this Lord is to serve him everywhere, without fitting in, as light in the darkness, as salt in a spoiling world.

—Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, stanza 45 (PsH, p. 1019)

Congregation: Enabled by Christ’s love, we shall endeavor to make each day’s work a sacrament, work and worship interwoven. We will work with all our heart as unto the Lord, knowing that it is Jesus Christ we serve. O Master Workman, cleanse our work from selfishness, impatience, and desire for recognition. Forgive us, train us, and use us for your glory. Amen.

Offering

Doxology

We Go Out to Serve

Hymn of Praise: “Fill Thou My Life” PsH 547, RL 147, TH 589

Blessing

Postlude

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