What's Tony Thinking

Labor Day 2021


Labor Day is a annual marker and milestone. Summer is winding down. Autumn is coming on. Friends and families gather for a final summer picnic or barbecue. Schools open. Footballs fly. Churches plan “homecoming Sunday,” and the start the “program year.”

At least that’s the way it used to be.

On this Labor Day, 2021, things seems darker, more out-of-kilter. We go through the rituals of the day and season, but not with great confidence about the future.

Troubles everywhere. The harrowing Afghanistan exit. A brutal resurgence of COVID, when we thought we were about done. The virus is only outpaced by the fervor of anti-vaxxer’s and anti-maskers. A Texas abortion law that makes the dark ages of medieval Europe look humane by comparison. Natural disasters are on climate change steroids.

Maureen Dowd summed it up in a few laconic sentences in her Sunday column:

“It isn’t a pretty picture.

“One coast is burning. The other is under water. In between, anti-abortion vigilantes may soon rampage across gunslinging territory.

“What has happened to this country?”

Indeed, what has happened to this country?

One bit of very good news is that people are working across the political and religious divides of our country to welcome and host Afghan refugees.

In my study of the letter to the Hebrews I came today to Chapter 11, which may be the best known part of the entire book. It begins with the oft-quoted words, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” When you’ve worked through the whole book, you understand this is one of its constant themes. It’s a good one when so much that we can see is discouraging. We hold fast to faith in God’s faithfulness, and act on that faith. Sometimes faith is trusting boldly despite the evidence.

In describing this chapter in his commentary Tom Long compared it to the way a sermon unfolds in an African-American church. “Start low, go slow, reach higher, strike fire, sit down  in a storm.” That is so accurate. Just reading it brought many such sermons to mind and was encouraging to me. I can hear the shouts of “amen” and “hallelujah.”

Chapter 11 does just that, starting low and slow, building through stories of people of faith remembered, until striking fire in these final words, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” And the preacher sat down, the storm of faith swelling in “hallelujahs” and “praise the Lord’s.”

So friends, hold fast to faith in the living God and continue if not racing, then at least walking, the way of Christ as it is given to us to understand it.



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