And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3:17
The day after Labor Day used to be a smaller version of New Year’s Day, at least in terms of the cultural calendar. It marked a distinct change from one season to another. Traditionally it is/was the first day of the school year. It marked the end of “the season” in touristy and resort areas. It was the day after which fashionable people no longer wore white and changed over to their earth-toned, autumn wardrobe.
Of course, some of those traditions no longer apply. We start school in August. We tend to vacation earlier in the summer, and wear whatever colors we want. There is no right or wrong to these traditions and our observance of them or lack thereof. But we ought to know why we do what we do. And this shows how there can be spiritual, Christian significance to a perfectly secular holiday like Labor Day.
Labor Day got started in the late 19th Century as a celebration promoted by the labor movement, which was behind the unionizing of the labor force in the aftermath of last stages of the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, when we think of it in deeper terms than a three day weekend and chance to barbecue, we usually think of it in terms of blue collar labor particularly. And in secular terms the holiday does focus on large scale manual labor in factories. But what we Christians can celebrate, should we choose, is better understood as our vocations. Our labor is whatever God has given us to do—as individuals, family members, church members, employers and employees. Maybe we should call it Vocation Day.
Most of your vocations get covered in the Table of Duties in your catechism. That is, what does the Bible say about how you should be clergy or laity, a husband or wife, parent of child, government official and/or citizen, employers or employee, neighbor, and so forth? It references various verses that talk about how to fulfill those roles in God-pleasing ways. But I really like the catch-all phrase from Colossians—“whatever you do.”
God doesn’t send you a daily to-do list, at least not with any specificity to it. We all have different jobs, interests, and obligations. But whatever we do, we are to do in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can’t cheat people, insult them, belittle them, take advantage of them, ignore their needs, or anything like that in the name in the Jesus. Whatever your job is, and whomever you interact with, you are to speak and act as though you are sent to bring Christ to the situation. You’re doing it for Him, in His Name.
As you head into a new season and year (sort of, in a way) celebrate the work God has given you to do. Give thanks for the opportunity to serve. Look at even the most boring or mundane parts of your routine as a means of serving the Lord. We have a holiday called Labor Day, the real labor of being Christians takes no holidays; it is the thing the holidays celebrate.
In Christ, Pastor Speckhard
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Rom. 10:14-15
These famous words from St. Paul describe the chain by which grace from God gets to the individual Christian. That chain includes faith, the Word, preaching, and the congregation and wider Christian community. How will someone in the future be a faithful Christian? Because God will reach them through congregations that gather around preaching and teaching of the Word and send people around the world and across the generations to perpetuate it.
For a couple of years here at St. Paul’s we have been focused on the next generation. Will today’s little children grow up to learn the faith and pass it along? Forty years from now, will today’s six year olds be bringing their own children to church, teaching them the faith at home, and also educating them in the Word in a Christian school? Who can say?
But we can apply the same kind of chain reasoning to that question. Today’s six year olds will not mature in the Word if they cannot read. And they won’t learn to read without teachers and books. And there won’t be any Christian teachers or classrooms if the Christian community doesn’t raise them up and equip them. We can’t guarantee that anyone will believe the Word they are taught, but we can guarantee that they won’t believe it if they aren’t taught it.
Today we’re getting ready for another school year that starts on August 18. Covid, of course, has forced our faculty and staff to make major changes to our schedule and procedures, but through the faithful work of many people, most notably our principal Barb Mertens, who has followed all the guidelines and mandates closely and found ways to allow for safe, in-person school. We’re also dealing with some other changes. Our resource teacher, Mary Beth Hutcheson, and our 1stgrade teacher, Cathi Hansen, have retired. We’ll be recognizing and giving thanks for their many years of faithful service in church on August 16 when we rededicate the teachers for another school year.
Due to all the craziness this summer, at school and in people’s personal lives, we had less time than we normally have to plan the transition to new teachers. Thankfully, we have trained, experienced people in the St. Paul’s community who were ready, willing, and able to step in. Lisa Smith will be our resource teacher, and Zina Bachert will be our 1st grade teacher, and everyone is pulling together to make it a great year.
One of the last pieces of the puzzle is equipping the 1st grade classroom. We need the books and décor to make it a great learning environment. Yes, we have desks and chairs and text books. But we need the whole panoply of young reader books that learners need in order to excel. How can they read if they have not learned? How can they learn if they have no books? God has given us the teachers, the classroom, and the students. Let’s do all we can to make that gift likely to blossom forty years from now into yet another generation of faithful Christians.
If you are in a position to donate first grade level books in good condition or donate toward the purchase of books, posters, and classroom materials, please do so. Just mark the checks as for that purpose or give Amazon gift cards (even electronically), or bring the physical books to office. We can sort through and take it from there. I know I can count on the St. Paul’s community to be a strong link in the chain from God’s grace to individuals in the next generation of the Christian Church.
But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs… I Thes. 4:10-11
Sometimes it seems like the world conspires to make it impossible to mind your own business. That’s why St. Paul called living quietly an aspirational thing. In some translations of the verse it says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…” We can often be tempted to think that it is our job to save to the world and get swept up in causes that end up merely distracting us from the actual tasks of our vocation. We devote ourselves to grand things God hasn’t called us to do in order to avoid doing the ho-hum things He has called us to do.
On the other hand, we are all called to do our part. It’s just that we should know the extent of our part. We can’t just ignore the larger world or pretend that problems don’t exist. What we can do is understand that we don’t make the world better when we abandon our daily vocations to fix the world. We make the world better by seeking to make sure whatever tiny part of it God has given us stewardship of operates according to His will.
When we’re stuck at home and the normal goings-on of life are on hold, we can be tempted to live according to the news. This crazy thing took place there, these people did that, can you believe what happened over there… That isn’t real life; that is like watching a soap opera as a distraction from real life. Real life comes from the Table of Duties in the catechism. Your membership in the church, your job description at work, your relationships at home, your neighborhood and citizenship—those are what God has entrusted to you.
Yesterday I did my first in-home communion visit in months. Pastor Stock has been doing the few that have come up, but I don’t think I’d done an in-home visit since early in March. Normally that would be part of the regular job description of being a pastor. It felt good to do it. It felt normal. And it reminded me how important those normal things are. Maybe a year ago had I been going through the normal routine of a typical day, week, or month of my pastoral responsibilities I would not have been struck so much by how crucial and amazing the things on my regular to-do list really were. But it is the same for everyone following a Godly vocation. Feeding the baby, paying the bills, praying for loved ones, working as for the Lord—every day is filled with such opportunities.
Today as you go about doing whatever it is God has given you to do, be it what you were aspiring toward or making it your ambition to do or something less exciting, do it all to the glory of the Lord. His faithfulness endures through all generations.
In Christ, Pastor Speckhard
Rev. Peter Speckhard, Senior Pastor at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church, Munster, Indiana