By now, things seem to have settled back into regular routines. Summer, broken up by vacation and other activities, is now over (and the weather has confirmed that!). Sunday school has begun, and adult Bible study continues. So this is my short note of encouragement not to neglect the corporate study of God’s Word.
Bad habits are easy to fall into. Good habits require work and cultivation. One good habit is to set aside time not only to hear the proclamation of God’s Law and Gospel during the Divine Service itself, but to set aside that additional hour for going deeper into parts of God’s Word that we might not hear within the lectionary (series of readings).
While in some Christian traditions, the sermon is essentially a verse-by-verse exposition, running straight through a book of the Bible, we most often use that time for the Holy Spirit’s work of killing our sinful nature and raising us up as new creatures in Christ (something that, as Luther points out in the fourth part of the catechism on Holy Baptism, also happens every day as we live in our baptism).
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.)