Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Labor not in Vain (Proverbs 16:3)

Daily Lenten Reflection - Saturday, 8 April 2017

Week 6: Freed to Serve—Diakonia 

Week 6, Day 7

A Prayer of St Augustine

Eternal God,

who are the light of the minds that know you,

the joy of the hearts that love you,

and the strength of the wills that serve you;

grant us so to know you

that we may truly love you,

and so to love you

that we may fully serve you,

whom to serve is perfect freedom,

in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Labor not in Vain (Proverbs 16:3)

Alice Wu, Anglican, Hong Kong

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. 

We live in a world where imperfections are measured against and highlighted by ideals of perfection that are constantly redefined and reengineered. We are never beautiful, skinny, young/old, smart, rich, fast, talented or successful enough—and if all else fails, our kids aren’t cute enough. We are incapacitated by the restless pursuit of potential unreachable and results unattainable, fears of drowning in disappointments and sucked dry by vain regrets, hollow pleasures, idle dreams and missed opportunities.

Living for ourselves and the self-serving virtues the world advocates deliver us into dungeons of jealousy, resentment and conflict. The ever-moving goal posts and thus the endless judgments that accuse us of persistently falling short, are modern day controls and dictates that are there to enslave.

But as Christians we are already set free—we cannot and do not have to labor for grace. We can break from the chains of worldly expectations set perilously high, the shackles of our fears and the crippling thought that all has been for naught.

And in Christian service, we are freed from futileness because by committing ourselves and all our work to God, nothing is in vain. In Martin Luther’s words in “The Freedom of a Christian,” we work “without thought of gain,” “without hope for reward.” “[C]onsidering nothing except the need of a neighbour,” our work “takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame, of gain and loss.”

I pause every time I come across this—“whose service is perfect freedom”—in The Book of Common Prayer. Serving God is being a part of a mystery beyond our comprehension: to be a witness to and a participant in God’s creation.

“On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Anglican-Lutheran International Coordinating Committee has compiled a collection of Lenten reflections to commemorate the anniversary. The text can be used by small groups or individual, as a Lenten reading or as a resource for the weeks between Easter and Trinity Sunday. We are sharing these reflections daily during Lent, hoping that our common experience of God’s grace may draw our two families of churches closer together in this extraordinary year, and be used beyond 2017 and actually at any time.”