Bishop and Christian*, August 2015

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.)

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Bishop and Christian*, August 2014

August often seems to be a time when things are about to happen: children are about to go back to school, vacations are about to be over, activities are about to start up again, fall harvest is about to begin. Nothing wrong with having a cycle to the year. We all associate particular times in the year with particular things.

But one thing the Church year teaches us is to associate times in the year with the life of Christ. Even in this hot, dry time of the year, the color on the altar and on the pastor is green. The life of Christ that flows to us in Word and Supper never dries up, never gets low, never needs to be restricted. Often, we unintentionally associate the summer time with vacation from every routine, including the Lord’s Day-to-Lord’s Day routine that the Resurrection of Jesus and the Church year instill in us. An unintentional fruit of that unintentional association is that regularly hearing and receiving the Lord’s gifts (whether here at Faith or together with another faithful congregation) can become a casualty of the summer’s irregular routine. It is exactly the routine of Sunday to Sunday that should remain intact no matter what. If we or our children learn to associate going to church with going to school, they will also (perhaps subconsciously) expect to outgrow church like they will outgrow formal schooling. Is this why confirmation instruction is associated, despite our best efforts, with graduation?

If your children are still young, this is encouragement to continue providing for your children’s spiritual formation even during the summer. If your children are grown, you cannot redo things either way. But whether your children are young or have children of their own, the point of these words is this: Christ remains who He is the whole year round. The green of the paraments and vestments and the promises we hear each week are your oasis in the desert of this world: in the dry heat of summer and in the dead cold of winter; in the growth of spring and in the abundance of autumn. He never leaves us or forsakes us, and His promises remain what they are, until things are no longer about to happen, but are all fulfilled. That’s the refreshment that Christ gives, even better than a cold drink of water on a 100-degree day!

Pr. Winterstein

*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.”