Labor Day rapidly approaches; and as we prepare for the last gasp of summer frivolity, shall we consider for a moment just what it means to labor. Fundamentally, to labor is to work. Work is not always enjoyable, although it certainly can be, but work is necessary lest we fall into slothfulness, apathy, hunger and homelessness. Living takes work, and so does believing. Therefore, I offer to you, Dear Reader, three thoughts on how our labors might properly be turned to the better for us, for our children and for our children’s children.
1. Labor to learn and to demonstrate the Good News of Jesus Christ. My experience so far at Christ Memorial has taught me that this form of labor has been underway for some time and has already born much fruit. The level of Biblical literacy in this congregation is far higher than in most Episcopal Parishes, I dare say. That is a credit to the parishioners and to the clergy who have preceded me in this historic place.
Our labors spent delving into the pages of Holy Scripture return to us a hundred-fold. There is no better way to come to know the Will of God than to read His holy writ. There is no better way to conform our wills to His than to read, mark and inwardly digest His inspired word. This is not always an easy endeavor, and that is why the word “labor” is apt for this discussion. One cannot just take pieces of Scripture and conform it to our expectations and desires. In order to fully understand, one must read it thoroughly and be prepared to work through the questions that may arise. One must read with confidence that any confusion that comes from reading Scripture stems not from a lacking within God’s message to us, but from our own lack of understanding. It takes time, and it takes work, often in the form of Bible study groups, lectio divina (holy reading) and prayer; but rest assured that the effort is definitely worth it.
As we learn and grow in our faith, it is also important to teach and show what we have learned to our children and to our children’s children. Remember that it is our responsibility to teach them about God so that they can come to know and love Him. This may be the most important thing that any of us do in our lifetime. Nothing is more important than introducing and fostering the Word of God to our family, friends and, let’s face it, the rest of a confused and darkened world.
2. Labor to learn and to appreciate our traditional Anglican Faith and heritage. We are Anglicans, and, as such, we share in over 2,000 years of Christian tradition and heritage which finds its root in Jesus Christ, Himself. Through His Apostles and through His Church, we have inherited a liturgical, priestly and apostolic Faith based upon Holy Scripture, tradition and reason.
As Anglicans, we share in a worldwide Communion of faith that is uniquely English in character. It is through our Catechism that we learn first what it means to be Christian and then what it means to be Anglican. The Nicene Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Thirty-nine Articles of Faith, the Seven Sacraments and the History of the Church are but a small part of what we must learn about the Church. In the Early Church, the catechetical process which prepared a person for Baptism and Confirmation took at least three years. Today, we do it in somewhat less time, but the import of learning the fundamentals of our Faith cannot be understated.
As with Holy Scripture, we must also labor to learn our Faith so that we can impart that knowledge and experience to those who shall come after us. By word and example, we show our youth and our new-comers who we are. We want them to see and hear our Christianity lived out according to our Anglican heritage. (Warning: Shameless plug approaching.) If you are interested in learning or re-learning about our Faith, please plan on attending the Confirmation Class which begins on September 19. You might labor hard, but you will not be disappointed.
3. Labor to learn and to participate in our Anglican worship of God. We must instill in ourselves and in our children a desire to participate in the worship of God, not because it is some obligation that we make on Sunday morning (it is, but it shouldn’t be seen as a burden), but rather because it is the right thing to do. We must foster a sense of belonging and purpose that will in turn create a desire to seek, to serve and to worship God more and more. Part of that is through discipline and the prioritizing of choices. It is a sad fact that in our modern world Sunday is no longer a day reserved for worship. Sporting events, school and work often impinge on the Sabbath, and the choices we make and the priorities we set form us and our children and our children’s children for the good or for the ill.
On Wednesday evening, we at Christ Memorial come together and combine all of these things together. We worship God by celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist which Christ gave to His disciples at the Last Supper, and that the Church has preserved as the principle expression of His Love for us and of our devotion to Him. Then, we share a meal and fellowship with one another in a manner very reminiscent of the Early Church. Finally, we study the Word of God and explore what His Word means to us and how it affects us as followers of Christ.
To paraphrase our Savior, let us labor hard for God and lay up in Heaven the treasures which rust and moth cannot touch. Let us not labor for our own needs, but for the needs of those who shall come after us and for those who have not yet come to know Christ.