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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Education, work get special looks

Challenges and rewards are many

It’s appropriate that in this issue we focus on matters associated with September: the start of the Sunday school year and an examination of work in recognition of Labor Day.

Sunday school isn’t what it used to be for a host of reasons (page 16). Attendance at such programs in ELCA congregations dropped 60 percent from 1990 to 2010. The world has changed enormously since the beginning of modern Sunday school in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and then the post-World War II era.

For those yearning for a return of those days, it’s time to move on. Circumstances have changed — and the clock can’t be turned back. Rest assured, however, that incredible work is being done across this church and beyond to make faith formation among our youth a relevant, meaningful process.

Labor Day holds a special place for me. The world I grew up in stressed responsibility for your own behavior as well as personal actions that benefited the community (pages 28 and 30). The dignity of a person’s work — whether shoveling manure from barns with half a million hens or operating a successful fuel oil and gasoline business — was unquestioned. And the intrinsic value of that labor was equal to the capital it generated. Extreme individualism and its excesses had yet to muscle aside humility, moral character and collective responsibility.

Where did this thinking come from? Martin Luther said it better than I can. Consider this, from Luther’s Works (expand his 16th century tools to those of ours today — computers, robots, consumer services and the like):

“If you are a manual laborer, you find that the Bible has been put into the workshop, into your hand, into your heart. It teaches and preaches how you should treat your neighbor. Just look at your tools — at your needle or thimble, your beer barrel, your goods, your scales or your yardstick or measure — and you will read this statement inscribed on them. Everywhere you look, it stares at you. Nothing that you handle every day is so tiny that it does not continually tell you this, if you will only listen. Indeed, there is no shortage of preaching. You have as many preachers as you have transactions, goods, tools, and other equipment in your house and home. All this is continually crying out to you: ‘Friend, use me in your relations with your neighbor just as you would want your neighbor to use this property in his relations with you.’ ”

The Golden Rule in our workplaces.

Finally, it’s humbling indeed to be in the publishing business. Our mistakes are there for all to see — forever (page 12). Yes, the editor has an editor, three of them in fact. There is no shortage of eyes reviewing every word that appears in this magazine. Still, we’re human, all too human.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

More...