Ethan Daum Band rehearsing, Charter Day Sunday

Ethan Daum Band rehearsing, Charter Day Sunday

As I write this, it is the Monday morning after Charter Day weekend. I am still feeling very happy from my experience at the ANC Charter Day Sunday Worship at 10 a.m., yesterday. In particular, the music from that service has been echoing in my heart, reminding me of how wonderful I felt as I opened the Word, having heard great music from the Ethan Daum band, Malotte’s version of The Lord’s Prayer by the high school choral group, and Psalm 62 sung by the entire congregation. By the time I opened my mouth, it felt to me almost like I could just read from the Word, say a prayer, and be complete.

But I really enjoyed the topic, too. We kicked off the second week of Living Courageously with the story of Elijah being fed by the Widow of Zarephath. Elijah told the widow to feed him first, and only afterwards herself and her son. She obeyed, and rather than hastening her starvation, it ended it. Sometimes it feels as if we, too, cannot afford to serve the Lord first, when in reality, we can’t afford not to! In the Old Testament, the Lord commanded that the first tenth be given to Him, not because He needed to receive it, but because people need to give it, so we could be reminded that everything good–all of it–belongs to the Lord.

True Christian Religion 746:1 begins with the statement, “To live for others is to perform useful services.” When we live for others, we are living for the Lord; what greater gift can we as a church give our heavenly Father than to usefully serve His children? Every parent wants their children to be loved, the Lord more than any other.

I talked a little bit about how the Academy was a movement before it was an institution. And a selfless movement, at that. A handful of people determined to serve the Lord, the world, and future generations through the growth of New Church schools and churches. The Academy was founded for the sake of training a new priesthood, translating and publishing the Writings, writing and publishing related books, furthering New Church education, and establishing a library. And not for themselves alone! I challenge you to count up the number of lives transformed by the Academy movement since its start. Or the number of people positively changed as a result of the planting of a church here in Bryn Athyn.

Creating institutions and planting churches are selfless acts. These things take sacrifice and hard work that can never show a “return on investment” for those who do them. And now, how can we repay those who gave us what we have–the Academy of the New Church, the General Church of the New Jerusalem, and New Church congregations scattered across the world?

All movements fade in time, and successful ones leave behind communities, institutions, and other organizations. Our churches and schools are good things, gifts from the Lord through the agency of people no longer living. I believe it is time to “pay it forward”–to recognize what we have freely received and find new energy for passing even more on to the next generation, and to the larger world around us. It is time for a new movement.

Just something to think about this week, as we contemplate what it means to put God first, and to live for others.

[This is also appearing as this week’s “Pastor’s Box” in the Bryn Athyn Post.]

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