Duty and Delight

Pastor's Newsletter Article for November, 2013

“It is our duty and delight that we should everywhere and always offer thanks and praise to you, O God, through Jesus Christ, who calls us to follow his way of humble service and love: and so with the church on earth, all creation and the host of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn.”

So goes the Proper Preface from one of Saint Peter’s favorite Eucharistic settings: Marty Haugen’s “Now the Feast and Celebration.” We have been gathered through word and song. We have turned to God’s word for promise and guidance. We have presented our gifts to God through the offering, as a sign of our intent to offer our entire lives to God. Now, as we prepare ourselves to receive Christ at the table, we acknowledge that it is our duty and delight, everywhere and always, to offer thanks and praise to God.

Duty and delight. Sociologists contend that the greatest generation (born 1901-1924) and the silent generation (born 1925-1942) include people who are motivated by a sense of duty. They willingly served in World War I and Korea. They were children of the Great Depression, and worked shoulder-to-shoulder to help this country recover. When Christian faithfulness is described to them as duty, they are ready to step up to the plate and make it happen. The Christian church as we know it was built by these ancestors of ours. We are the beneficiaries of their decades of sacrifice and hard work.

I am told, however, that more recent generations are far less motivated by a sense of duty. Self interest? Yes. (Can you say “Baby Boomers?”) Altruism? Yes. (Can you say Generations X, Y and Z?) But duty? No. There are exceptions, of course, and in many ways the church built by our ancestors has been sustained by many who are faithful, generous exceptions to the rule. We owe them our gratitude as well.

Perhaps we would be wise to learn from them too. I’m not suggesting that we commit ourselves to thank and praise God like a teenager commits to plowing through 3 hours of homework. But I am suggesting that that to have both a sense of duty and delight about thanking and praising God can lead to an extraordinarily rich and meaningful life.

Why does a Christian practice financial generosity, or give hours of time and effort to ministry, or lift up the church day-after-day in prayer, or worship with God’s people on a regular basis, or share faith with a friend, or contribute to hunger and disaster relief efforts, or support safeguards to care for the environment, or create safe places for young people to grow? For three reasons. (1) It is how we thank and praise God. (2) It is our duty, as forgiven children of God. And (3) there is great delight in the effort.

So boomers, Xers, Ys, Zs: what do you say? Duty and delight? Sounds like a very faithful way to thank and praise God.

Dutifully and Delightfully yours,