Monday, April 30, 2018

May Day : Spring Celebrations, Work, Saint Paul, King David, and Young DeEbony Groves

BREAKING NEWS : Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking during a news conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv on Monday, revealed a cache of files he said were obtained from Iran and prove Tehran ran a secret program to build nuclear weapons. • • • • • • • • • TODAY IS MAY DAY. A holiday all over the world, except in the United States -- and Switzerland, where the idea is to work on Workers' Day. • • • WHY CELEBRATE THE FIRST OF MAY? Wikipedia says : "May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on May 1. It is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities. In the late 19th century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers' Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. International Workers' Day may also be referred to as "May Day," but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day." • International Business Times says : "As most of the world -- from Dublin to Dhaka -- celebrates International Workers Day, with demonstrations, commemorations and vacations for the working class, Americans are toiling away on the job. Why hasn’t May Day caught on in America? In two words, anarchists and communists. The United States’ absence -- almost alone among nations -- from the international festivities is all the more ironic, since the day has American origins. On May 1, 1886, workers in Chicago, many of them immigrants, walked out of their jobs en masse, striking for an eight-hour work day. A few days later, at a labor rally in Haymarket Square, a bomb exploded, killing 11 people, including seven police officers. Four anarchists were hanged, on flimsy evidence, and the general strike dissipated. A few years later, in Europe, a newly formed collection of socialist and labor parties called for a demonstration on May 1 to honor the “Haymarket Martyrs” and sustain the struggle for an eight-hour work day. Over the years, the cause evolved into a broader celebration of labor unions and workers' rights and spread around the world. Governments -- and not just Communist ones -- embraced the day as a public holiday: Workers in Kenya, Brazil, India, France, Germany and elsewhere all have the day off." • • • WHAT IS WORK? Since it is May day, as it is called all over Europe, let's consider work as a moral concept. Of course, we all know that work is more than a concept. Almost everybody has to work in order to provide shelter, food and clothes for themselves and for family. And, work can take the form of volunteering, caregiving, or the most important of all work -- raising children and leading a family. • But, work has a moral quality as well. Christians heed the advice of Jesus to work for "good" and as a sign of faith. Much of that teaching has its roots in the Old Testament, where Jewish prophets, historians and kings encouraged work for all God's people. • The High Calling blog in the Theology of Work Project website wrote recently : "In fact, the Bible doesn't make a dichotomy between work and life because in the ancient world, work life and family life were often integrated. Families worked together in their family trade, whether in agriculture or commerce. For much of human history, people worked on the family farm. Or your home also served as your butcher shop. Jesus probably didn't have to leave the house to do his carpentry with Joseph; they likely worked together within their own house. It wasn't until the industrial revolution and the rise of factories that more people worked outside the home. Even though the modern world is significantly different from the biblical world, Scripture still speaks to our need for work/life balance. A key Colossians 3:23-24 : 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.' So all Christians' work is done on behalf of Christ....Wives and husbands are to be in loving relationship to one another. Fathers are not to embitter or exasperate their children. In other words, good work situations and healthy family relationships go hand in hand. This would have made perfect sense in biblical times when coworkers were probably also family members. Even today, unhappy family situations can prevent us from doing good work, and problems at work can cause conflict at home. So what practical steps can we take to have better work/family balance? Paul isn't very specific in the details, but he is very concerned with the big-picture principles. In verses 12-15, he tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, to forgive one another and to love each other, and to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts....The people in the biblical world integrated their work and family life more closely than we usually do today. One practical implication is that we might try to reintegrate our worlds so that we don't have too strict a barrier between work and family. Instead of keeping long hours at the office away from the family, we can look for opportunities to work from home." • Today, technology gives us many options for work that were unthought-of in blblical times -- flexible work, telecommuting, teleconferencing, working at home, branching out into web-based entrepreneurial businesses. Current technologies provide more time for family, children and avocations. Today, sometimes work and avocations blend. Earning a living can also mean supporting favored causes, sports, the arts, or lifestyles. • But, the downside is the modern Big Government's desire to make itself indispensable through its subsidies to many who should be working instead of using welfare "entitlements." It has created a social environment in which work and entitlement clash -- with those who work resenting those whose non-work requires a bigger and bigger chunk of their taxes. • • • PRESIDENT TRUMP'S EXECUTIVE ORDER LINKS WELFARE AND WORK. Cass Sunstein wrote an opinion piece for Bloomberg News on April 24 that makes good sense out of President Donald Trump’s “Executive Order on Reducing Poverty in America.” Sunstein says that the EO has produced the expected political reactions : "Because it focuses on saving taxpayer money and strengthening work requirements for federal programs, many conservatives are celebrating it, while many progressives have attacked it as punitive and dehumanizing. As it turns out, it’s a lot more interesting and subtle than either side has seen -- and potentially more constructive." • sunstein explains that the EO emphasizes the importance of helping five groups that struggle to find employment -- single parents, the formerly incarcerated, the homeless, substance abusers and 'disconnected youth.' The emphasis on these groups makes perfect sense in light of the findings of the best book on poverty in the last decade : 'Scarcity,' by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. Mullainathan and Shafir argue that when you are poor, a big part of the problem is cognitive : You have to focus on how to deal with your immediate economic situation. You don’t have a lot of time for anything else. In that respect, being poor is a lot like being hungry, lonely or extremely busy. Your current circumstances take over your mind. That means that you are likely to neglect other matters (including the long-term). It also means that unwelcome, unanticipated problems and tasks (say, a health issue or an obligation to deal with the public authorities) can impose an unbearable toll. Mullainathan and Shafir help explain why Trump’s five groups find it unusually challenging to find and keep good jobs. If you are a single parent, you have to focus on childrearing. If you were incarcerated, you face continuing stigma and suspicion. Related problems are faced by homeless people, substance abusers and young people who lack social networks that provide essential information and emotional support. In a section that reads as if based directly on Mullainathan’s and Shafir’s work, Trump’s order refers specifically to the importance of 'strong social networks as a way of sustainably escaping poverty.' ” • The Trump EO directs government agencies to act in accordance with its “principles of economic mobility,” and to review existing regulations and guidance documents to ensure that they are consistent with those principles. Trump’s order is an occasion for improving the take-up rate for many programs designed to help people to find work. In view of what we know from Mullainathan and Shafir, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in collaboration with Cabinet agencies, should undertake a sustained review of existing paperwork and reporting requirements, which sometimes have the unintended consequence of undermining programs designed to promote economic opportunity. According to the most recent federal report, the American public spends an astonishing (and disgraceful) 9.78 billion hours on federal paperwork each year. The Treasury Department (meaning the IRS, mostly) is responsible for nearly 7 billion of those hours; the Department of Health and Human Services accounts for over 600 million. There is no question that poor people -- seeking education, training and jobs -- are often deterred and stymied by form-filling burdens and reporting requirements from federal, state and local governments. Trump’s executive order should be taken as an occasion for radical simplification. It should also be a basis for an effort to reduce occupational licensing requirements, which make it unnecessarily hard or even impossible for people to enter the workforce." • As Sunstein notes, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt can be seen as the founder of the modern welfare state....Indeed, he called for a Second Bill of Rights, including a right to a decent home, adequate medical care and “protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.” But, Roosevelt was also an advocate of the importance of work, and his programs were generally designed to encourage it. “When any man or woman goes on a dole,” Roosevelt said, “something happens to them mentally, and the quicker they are taken off the dole the better it is for them the rest of their lives.” So, Sunstein states that Trump’s EO : "directs officials to track whether measures are actually helping people to escape poverty by finding jobs and avoiding long-term dependence. It also calls for information-sharing, so that states and localities can learn from successes and failures. What an excellent idea. With a clear focus on the most vulnerable among us, it’s past time for a sustained attack on existing barriers to entry into the job market -- emphatically including those of the government’s own making." • It is not easy to find any media praise for any Trump action. That Bloomberg singled out his work-related EO says a lot about not only the need to solve the growing US dependency on Big Government, but also on the obvious good sense of President Trump in addressing the issue in practical and easy to implement terms. • • • THE PROTESTANT WORK ETHIC. It has often been called that -- because the various Dissenters (such as Puritans, Quakers, Anabaptists) who were the first and most politically instrumental colonists of America believed that following what the Bible said about work was a key to being a good Christian and a good citizen. What does the Bible say about work. On this May Day -- or Workers Day -- let's just read some of the Old and New Testament's commentary about work. • Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. • Proverbs 6:6-8 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. • Proverbs 12:24 The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. • 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command : If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. • Proverbs 14:23 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. • 1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. • 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. • 1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. • Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. • Exodus 20:9-10 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. • Matthew 5:16 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 9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. • Luke 10:7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. • Proverbs 12:11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. • • • SERVING OTHERS. It is a testament to work that Popes have for centuries called themselves "The Servant of the Servants of God." A Benedictine monk has written this : "Our patron saint, Pope Gregory the Great (540-604), did not coin the phrase that the Pope is the servant of the servants of God, but he was the first to make extensive use of the phrase and thus make it such a quotable quote through the ages. A deeper sign of Jesus’ infinite patience with his disciples (and us) is his assurance that they will sit on twelves thrones to judge the tribes of Israel....We tend to think that being a judge means being judgmental; that judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel means accusing them of their wrongdoings. But what if a judge is a servant? In his response to the disciples’ infighting, Jesus is surprisingly unjudgmental, although he makes it clear that they haven’t gotten it right just yet. Jesus continues to serve them through his example, such as washing their feet and leading them gently but firmly to a new way of seeing the world and, more importantly, living in it. The thing is, Jesus didn’t judge the disciples (and us) by browbeating them; Jesus judged them by serving them humbly. The twelve tribes of Israel is an expression for a renewed Israel, Gentiles and Jews alike. Judging them, then, means serving them the way Jesus served them and the way Jesus serves us. It is our acts of loving service that will judge all people who exercise lordship by browbeating others. The Pope isn’t the only one called to be a servant of the servants of God. All of us are so called." • Indeed, the title given by the popes to themselves appears in important papal documents -- Gregory the Great was imitated by his successors. John the Deacon states that Gregory assumed this title as a lesson in humility to John the Faster. Prior to the controversy with John, addressing St. Leander in April, 591, Gregory employed this phrase, and even as early as 587, according to Ewald, while still a deacon. Even civil rulers, such Alphonsus II, King of Spain (b. 830), and Emperor Henry III (b. 1017), applied the term to themselves. But, since the 12th century, it has been used exclusively by the Pope. • What does the Bible say about serving others. • Colossians 3:24 know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. • Ephesians 6:7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. Know that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. • 1 Chronicles 22:15-16 Moreover there are workmen with you in abundance : woodsmen and stonecutters, and all types of skillful men for every kind of work. Of gold and silver and bronze and iron there is no limit. Arise and begin working, and the LORD be with you. 1 Chronicles 22:15-16 is King David speaking about the preparations he made in the last years of his reign for the establishment of the kingdom in the future under his successors. All these preparations had reference to the firm establishment of the public worship of the Lord, in which Israel, as the people and congregation of Jahve ["the Lord"], might show its faithfulness to the covenant, so as to become partakers of the divine protection, and the blessing which was promised. The Old Testament tells us that the Lord had not granted the building the Temple to David, but He had given him the promise that his son should carry out that work. So, King David made preparations, after the site where the Temple should be built had been pointed out to him, to facilitate the execution of the work by his successor -- David provided the necessary labor and materials for the building of the temple (1 Chronicles 22:2-5), committed the execution of the work in a solemn way to his son Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:6-16), and called upon the chiefs of the people to give him their support in the work (1 Chronicles 22:17-19). • • • GOD WORKS AND ASKS US TO WORK. God worked, as we all know, in creating the Universe, as told in Genesis. • Psalms 8:3-4 wonders at the work of Creation : When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? • Psalms 90:16-17 Let Your work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands. • John 9:4-6 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. • John 17:4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. • Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. • • • DEAR READERS, there is a universal truth about work. It nourishes, clothes and shelters us. It offers the reward of satisfaction from providing all these things. And, it feeds our spiritual being by making us happy and proud to be able to care for ourselves and help those we love. The Judeo-Christian "plus" in work is that it unites us with God and helps Him prepare the world for His Second Coming. • Saint Paul, whose monumental personal work anchored Christianity's place in the world, had much to say about work : For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. (Gal 6:3-5)....Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor 15:58)....For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10). • When Paul was in a dungeon in Rome, waiting to be judged and executed, he wrote to Timothy : For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Even at this extremity, Paul speaks of his long work that is nearly done. He is a prisoner in Rome, all but forsaken by his friends, waiting hourly for another summons before Nero. To appear before him was, he says, like putting his head into 'the mouth of the lion.' He tells Timothy that he is ready to be offered AND he urges Timothy to labor and be faithful in the performance of the duties of his office. Paul was about to leave a work which he loved, and to which he had devoted the vigor of his life, and he was anxious that they who were to succeed him should carry on the work with all the energy and zeal in their power. • Like King David, Saint Paul was preparing the future on Earth while he was preparing himself for Eternity. • It's a lesson to all of us -- whatever our religious beliefs. Work is a preparation, and gift, for the future -- that of our children and loved ones -- and of the Earth. • Sometimes, work is faithful witness in the face of terror. DeEbony Groves, the 21-year-old Christian Belmont University student who was shot dead along with three others in a mass shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, sang "Jesus Loves Me" inside the restaurant shortly before she took her final breath. Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer made the revelation in a short address at Groves' funeral service Saturday at the First Baptist Church in Gallatin where he said his company was grieving for the victims of the massacre. "We went and visited with the survivors and they talked about the people who were in that restaurant before what happened happened, and specifically remembered your daughter and spoke of your daughter and her friend, and said that they were singing Gospel songs," Ehmer said, as hundreds of mourners who had gathered to pay their respects shouted "hallelujah" and clapped inside the church. "And everybody was singing and enjoying each other and the last thing I remember her saying was, singing 'Jesus Loves Me,' " he continued. "And so I can't offer you many words of encouragement or comfort. All I can tell you is that our Waffle House family is hurting for you and with you. And I know there are so many people in this room that are so close to her [and] will never forget her. And I can promise you this -- We will never forget your daughter." • Like Saint Paul and King David, DeEbony Groves was finishing "the work which You have given Me to do." • As we celebrate -- or don't celebrate -- May Day, we should to remember that each of us has a special work to do, a sacred charge given to each of us as inheritors of the Earth.

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