In the cycle of the year, August seems to be made for “last gasps.” The last gasp of summer, the last gasp of vacation, the last gasp of freedom for children before they return to school. Unfortunately, the cycle of the year, especially the school year, has intruded on the Church. People take the summer off from church (from Christ?), the church building seems emptier, Sunday School attendance wanes.
While the issues during the summer are obvious, there is a deeper issue behind the rhythms we set for ourselves: what we teach our children. You and I know how hard it is to get back into a routine after we have been out of it for a while. We know how difficult it is for our children (and us!) to get back into the routine of getting up and going to school. It is no different with the things of God. Habits can be good or they can be bad, but we all know that bad habits come naturally to us, while good habits have to be cultivated and meticulously maintained. If you have a garden, you know about this. You cannot just let the soil of a garden do what it does naturally, and expect it to be weed-free. Wouldn’t it be nice if the plants we want would grow as quickly and easily as the weeds! (I can’t wait for the new creation.)
If we teach our children the bad habits of taking as many breaks from church-going as they can; if we teach them that any given thing may take priority over Sunday morning; if we teach them that they don’t need to go to church during the summer, just like they don’t go to school; do we really expect that the weeds will naturally disappear? We have to ask ourselves what we want for our children. Do we really want them to grow up in the life of Christ? If so, the habits we teach them now will put them in a position where Christ can water, feed, and prune them to bring forth His good fruit of faith. If not, associate going to church with the school year and going to school (unless your child is one who loves school); associate churchgoing with what you do when nothing else is going on; associate church-going with anything but Jesus Christ living and ready to give His life to His children of all ages.
Parents, the simple fact is this: your attitudes, your habits, your practices, your actions will leave a far more permanent mark on your children than any positive words that you speak to them. Much of the time, they will do what you do, not what you say, for better or worse. So, beginning now, start forming the habits that will have the best chance to bring you and your children to the Lord’s House: to rejoice in His Word of peace to you and in His Supper to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins.
Perhaps, though, your children are not at home any more. Perhaps you lament the fact that you don’t see them at the services of the Lord’s House. The best thing you can do—besides pray for them and for their children—is to be consistent yourself where the Lord promises to be. And if you feel guilt for what you’ve done or left undone, there is no better place to be than in Jesus’ refuge for the weary, hearing His Word and receiving His Gifts, mercy for His children of all ages.
For August, the Hymn of the Month is Lutheran Service Book 561, “The Tree of Life.” It is a relatively new hymn (written in the mid-1990s), but brand new to most of us in this hymnal. The great thing about this hymn is that it takes the image of the Tree of Life from Genesis, and runs it through the cross to the Tree of Life in Revelation, where it stands in the New Jerusalem for the healing of the nations. This month as we become familiar with it, take the opportunity to think deeply on this salvation theme that runs through the Bible from beginning to end.
*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”