Back to School....Back to God
Before I became a pastor, I was a college administrator. Before serving in that role, I had spent around twenty years in school between kindergarten and the end of graduate school. Now that I’m a pastor, all of our new programs and activities kick off in August and September. I tell you this to say that for as long as I can remember I’ve always felt like August seemed like the beginning of a new year more than January did.
So, happy new year! Maybe if you’re a school teacher or administrator or if you still have kids in school you feel the same way. If you don’t feel like it is the start of a new year, I’m sure you at least feel the change in pace between summer and fall.
As this “new year” begins with our children back to school this week and summer quickly changing to fall, I think it is a good time to think about a popular “new year’s” tradition. It is the tradition of making “new year’s” resolutions. We love to make resolutions in January. They typically revolve around improving ourselves. Things like eating better, exercising more, quitting a bad habit, or picking up a new hobby.
Here we are half way through the calendar year. Maybe it is a good time to check in and see how the resolutions are going? Are you eating better? Have you made it to work out every day of this new year? Have you kicked that bad habit that you wanted to be rid of? Or, are you like just about everyone else and find yourself in pretty much exactly the same spot you were in on December 31st before you made those resolutions?
Wherever you’re at in life right now, whether you’ve kept those resolutions from January 1st or not, I think back to school time is a good time to come back to God. As a pastor who stands up and looks out at the faces of my brothers and sisters in Christ every week, I’m keenly aware that when summer vacation comes, church vacation comes too.
There are many reasons for this including family vacations, trips to the lake, and no Sunday School in the summer. Other times it is simply because it is summer and it is a time to relax, sleep in, or do other things.
Now to be clear, if the reason you miss church is because you’re out of town on vacation, there’s obviously not much you can do about that except find a place to attend church wherever your vacation takes you. I’m more worried about the ease with which we take two or three or more months off from church as though it’s no big deal.
The trouble with our flippant attitude toward skipping church is that it fails to take seriously the fact that we’re all dying of a terminal disease. Sin infects all of us and will ultimately lead to each of our deaths. This is a reality for every single person who has ever lived on this planet and who will ever live.
However, we have a loving and gracious God who cares about his creation (you and me) so much that he was willing to send His Son Jesus into the world. Jesus lived the perfect life that you and I were unable to live. He died on the cross and took the ultimate punishment for our sins. Now he promises to come and be with us and to deliver the gifts that he has won for us through his Word and His true body and blood.
We need these gifts! Even though Jesus’ has won forgiveness and life on the cross for all who believe in him, we are still tempted each day to walk away from it all and serve ourselves. The longer we’re separated from God’s gifts, the easier it is to walk away. The easier it is for us to put ourselves in charge and follow our own ideas. But when we gather around God’s Word as it is proclaimed and receive the gifts that he sets out before us we get forgiveness for our sins, hope for each day of our lives, peace in the midst of trouble, love, mercy, and life.
I can’t really think of anything else in the world that is more important than these gifts that God freely gives out of his love. I also can’t think of gifts that are more needed now in our time of conflict and global turmoil than these gifts that God freely gives. By encountering our living Savior Jesus each week and receiving his gifts, we can turn around and be His ambassadors in the world – sharing those gifts with the people around us until our supply runs out and we come back the following week to stock up again.
As we start a new school year and the children go back to school, I’d encourage you to go back to God. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been gone, God still loves you, still welcomes you, and can’t wait for you to return!