Passing the Peace: When It Feels Like the Labor is in Vain

It is because God is the Master Builder that we do not labor in vain.


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Nov 18, 2023

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Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Psalm ‭127‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ (NIV)

Psalm 127 has been a recurring prayer and meditation for me this year, particularly in my leadership role at Arrabon. As an organization, Arrabon has experienced a lot of growth this year, but as many of you are keenly aware, there is hardly ever any progress without pain.

The Master Builder and the Watchman
One of the reasons that Psalms 127 has been so sustaining to me this year is the psalmist’s reminder that it is God who is both the Master Builder and the Watchman. The Master Builder is lovingly working on all of us who are open to be chiseled and shaped. The Watchman never wearies, even as we are vulnerable to burnout and over-activity.

I am encouraged and enlivened when I listen to the testimonies of churches, organizations, and young people that Arrabon has worked with—I’m inspired by the work I see God doing in the lives of God’s people! But, I confess that I am easily discouraged when I tune in to the national conversation on politics or the church at-large. In moments and seasons of weariness and discouragement, I am learning to discern when I am working in vain—out of my own limited human strength and imagination—and my need to realign with God’s creative and sustaining strength.

The work of reconciliation is rooted in the parallel realities that we cannot build reconciling communities out of our own strength and God’s invitation to us to join the Master Builder as laborers. It is because God is the Master Builder that we do not labor in vain.

A small, orange tongue of fire on a dark background.

Co-laboring for the Master Builder
As we approach Thanksgiving, my heart is overflowing with gratitude for the Arrabon team because I get the honor of laboring together with them for the Master Builder. Their God-given gifts, skills, and experience, along with their calling to this work of reconciliation, means that the fruit of our labor is more beautiful, more effective, and more sustainable.

That is not to say that our work is done without struggle or conflict! But as we live out the principles of reconciliation we teach, by God’s grace, our times of confession, repentance, and forgiveness serve as both formation and transformation into being more like Christ.

Partnering together to bear the load

In Matthew 11, when Jesus tells his followers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” he is echoing Psalm 127. In the First Nations Version, the translation of Matthew 11:30 reads “Walk side by side with me and I will share in your heavy load and make it light.”

 Jesus does not promise that the work will be easy, but he does commit to bearing the load. The Master Builder kindly invites us to partner in the work together. I’m thankful for the Arrabon team and for the partnership of so many of you who are walking with us in the work of building reconciling communities in the Body of Christ.

A quotation from St. Augustine of Hippo on a green background. “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Written by David M. Bailey. Originally published in Arrabon’s email newsletter “Passing the Peace.” Sign up for our newsletter below.

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