August 9 – Soli Deo Gloria

Work dayI doubt if any of the kids who filled the church bus yesterday morning know the meaning of the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria.” But whether they know the phrase or not, what they were about as they headed into Center City Philadelphia, to Love Park, Logan Square and Project Share was an intense immersion into Soli Deo Gloria.

Orthodoxy reads the Scriptures correctly when it insists that baptism be administered but once. But we need to be immersed into Soli Deo Gloria repeatedly and frequently.

We call them Youth Ministry Days and there were two of them this week – along with two in July. On Wednesday Barb Chase and her team took a bus load of kids to the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. Thursday’s ministry day took them back to the city and Love Park, Logan Square and Project Share. I had other things to do, but I was graciously invited to climb into the crowded bus and offer a send-off prayer a little after nine in the morning and was heading home a bit after five in the afternoon when the team returned from their day in the city, tired but faces full of joy and encouragement.

At Love Park and in Logan Square the kids and their leaders, nineteen of them, brought bag lunches and kind words to those without kitchens full of food or dining room tables in a place called home. At Project Share they used their young muscles to move literally tons of food to be ready for distribution to others in the city with whom we are privileged to share.

There are a thousand good reasons to do what the kids do on a ministry day. It’s the stuff of good citizenship and a way to grow in their awareness of others during this season of life when they are beginning to be aware of self. Suburban kids experiencing urban life. Privileged kids reminded that you don’t have to go far too see that privilege is a gift and a burden. But in a day of mandatory volunteerism as a graduation requirement, Ministry Days are about more than citizenship and social awareness. Ministry Days are, finally, about Soli Deo Gloria.

It takes more than eight hours to get Soli Deo Gloria. It takes a lifetime.

The answer to the first question of the Shorter Catechism, is succinct, powerful and sometime daunting. Our chief end, our life purpose, as humans persons is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Life to the glory of God alone. Soli Deo Gloria.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” we often say in mission team commissionings and church officer ordinations, quoting Colossians 3:17.

Ministry Days are about doing in the name of the Lord Jesus and giving thanks to God the Father through him. If the church can help raise a generation of humanitarians, we have done well. If we can help a bunch of teenagers know that “not about me” only works if it is about God and his glory, we will have done still more excellently.

“We love because God first loved us,” John writes.

It is wonderful to see a fourteen or fifteen year-old invest a muggy summer day in the lives of those who need food and love. But compassion fatigue sets in; we learn that it easier to write a check or wonder why the government doesn’t do more. Our chief end is not acts of kindness, it is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. My prayer is that our fourteen and fifteen year-olds are still serving, still loving, when they are thirty-four and forty-five and then they are seventy-four and eighty-four. To the glory of God alone!

My prayer is that our kids not only enjoyed this summer’s Ministry Days, but that they got a taste of enjoying God. He has invited them to enjoy him forever.

See You Sunday