Rev. Mark Buetow
When I was a young lad, I remember a poster showing a luxury home’s garage full of high-end sports cars. The slogan on the poster read, “Justification for Higher Education.” I couldn’t wait to finish high school, go to college and do something that would make me, if not mega-rich, at least well off enough to afford all the “toys” I wanted. I got a job in high school too so I could finally afford that pair of ridiculously overpriced sunglasses. Ah, hard-earned cash! That’s what school was all about. But do you notice something? School was all about me! And as a Christian, “me” is the last thing our lives are about.
As school begins again this year, ask yourself, “why bother going to school?” The answer? To serve your neighbor! First, there are all those neighbors who are your friends and classmates. They need you. They need help with their homework. They need a shoulder to cry on, someone to confide in. They need someone there when their parents get divorced and their lives come apart. They need someone to help them study and explain their homework. They may even need someone to tell them why believing in Jesus isn’t stupid. In short, high school and college, even apart from the classes and learning, are a crowd of opportunities for you to love and serve those around you.
And the learning you do is for your neighbor too. People need doctors and lawyers, they need artists and actors, they need insurance claims adjustors and accountants. They need financial advisors and journalists. They need software engineers and lab technicians, nurses and maintenance specialists. And even if you don’t head off to college, your neighbors need soldiers and airmen and sailors. They need people who can wait tables and work the factory lines and sweep and clean. In short, every vocation, every calling, every job is important, from the most glamorous and richest to the most forgotten, minimum wage work. In each one, the Lord has put you or someone else there to do a job that helps and benefits someone.
Yeah, but we really just want to get a good education so we can be well-off maybe even rich some day, right? Well, yeah. That’s why even school can become something selfish. That’s why even the Lord’s gift of vocation can get turned into just one more opportunity to put ourselves above others and to stomp on them on our way to the top. Repent! Repent of such selfishness if that’s what you look forward to in life! And rejoice that when the Father told His Son to take on the vocation of Savior, Jesus did it gladly. He wasn’t in it to get rich. He wasn’t in it for fame or glory. He wasn’t in it because it would gain Him some privilege or control over others. He did it in obedience to His Father and to serve His neighbor--you!-- by taking away your sins. Your sins of being selfish. Your sins of thinking the world revolves around you. Your sins of desiring what God has for you only so you can just get more and more. All your sins. Paid for by the Savior who won forgiveness for you on Calvary and rose again to give you everlasting life.
Because, above all else, your teachers and parents and friends and classmates now, and your future clients and customers and bosses and coworkers someday, need you as a Christian. One who recognizes that you are no more or less sinful than someone else, that you live in this world and this life by grace, that you speak the truth lovingly without judging, and that you are happy and eager to serve as one who does it for the Lord and for no one else. And, they need you as a Christian to teach them forgiveness.
In the end, it is the forgiveness of sins that is the best work you can do for your neighbor. Christ has wiped out your sins and you know this because of your baptism, His Word and His body and blood. What comfort for your neighbor to know that you won’t hold their sins against them when they fail in their vocations and callings. And you, when you fail in yours? Jesus never fails in His. He’s always and perfectly your Savior and by His forgiveness, the Lord only sees you as a perfect son or daughter, friend, and student. You are the perfect neighbor, perfect in your callings, because Jesus is your perfect neighbor.
You may be finished with school or have many years yet to go. You may come out debt-free or loaded with student loans. You may end up super-rich or just plain struggling. But regardless, you are never less than a loving neighbor to those around you, using all you’ve learned and will learn to love and serve them. That’s because you are never anything less than one of the Lord’s dear and precious redeemed children. So welcome back to school in another year of the Lord’s grace and peace in Christ!