Week 3

To Break Every Yoke: Work and Faith

Compline, the service of night prayers in The Book of Common Prayer, p. 134, is a beloved liturgy. Many evening meetings end with this brief and beautiful service, which includes this prayer: O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This short collect helps call us to imagine an economy of mutual service, everyone contributing his or her toil to the pool of what is necessary for us to live. The carpenter serving, the physician serving, the sandwich maker serving, the teacher serving. Without the service of everyone the whole world ‘round, the life that we live is diminished.

Of course, not everyone benefits adequately from such an economy. Many are unable to do work that they might love, and for them, work is mostly burden and obligation, toil and never vocation. Many fail to gain a living wage, and the spiritual value of sabbath rest is not available to people working two or three jobs to make ends meet. During this Lenten season, the possibilities that this prayer from Compline holds before us are good to call to mind. Praying for all those who labor is a good thing. Making possible a genuine and realistic economy of mutual service is the unrelenting demand of the prophets.