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Labor Day

"Labor Day" Continued...

Issue: "Warrior class," Aug. 28, 2010

So one thing to remember about callings: God calls, and He gives us what's good for our families and ourselves, not always what we want most.

Washington brought lessons 2A and 2B: the importance of paying attention to our heritage and minimizing distractions. Before going to Nationals Park we visited the Pentagon, which is huge but also humble, particularly along the utilitarian Army corridors. Exhibits and paintings or photos of legendary leaders provide a strong sense of history. So does the chapel with its photos of Pentagon personnel who died on Sept. 11, and the corridor with magazine covers and newspaper headlines from times when journalists were thankful for the protection they and the United States received.

The new Nationals Park, though, doesn't take advantage of the landmarks that would be visible past centerfield-the U.S. Capitol or the Washington Monument-if the park were correctly angled. And those who run the scoreboard apparently think that fans, especially young ones, cannot be expected to pay attention to baseball, so they need bells, whistles, and lights for constant entertainment.

Those mistakes leave us with an amusement park that could be anywhere, rather than a rooted ballpark. If baseball teams don't teach kids to relish baseball, they relinquish their futures. If we don't teach the meaning of citizenship to both the young and those who are new to America, we relinquish our nation's future.

At least the Washington Nationals played with discipline and defeated the anarchistic Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-2. The importance of disciplined striving within our callings: that message emanates from the pictures of generals at the Pentagon and all-stars at the ballpark. Christians throughout medieval times heard that the way to get closer to God was to pile on hardships such as penance, fasting, and self-flagellation. The Protestant Ethic was different: Reformation leaders celebrated not artificial disciplines but the productive discipline that is essential for earning daily bread and helping others.

Cincinnati's aptly named Great American Ballpark was next on our agenda, and to get there we eschewed interstates that rapidly chew up mileage but also miss a lot. We drove instead on older highways and were able to see beautiful scenery and also great signs like "Bank of Clarke County: Not Accepting Federal Bailout Money since 1881." West Virginia featured hills, hollows, hardwood forests, and signs like "Abortion stops a beating heart" and "ARE YOU LOST? JESUS SAID I AM THE WAY." (The GPS device in our rental car thought we were lost and wanted always to move from the narrow path to the broad freeways.)

The Great American Ballpark has a view of the Ohio River past centerfield and an emphasis on baseball. The game's class struggle was absorbing: The Royals (of Kansas City) beat the Reds (of Cincinnati) 6-5 in 11 innings. In each of the last three innings the Reds had a runner on second with no one or one man out, but-like U.S. socialists in the 20th century-could not score. Among the WORLD readers who joined us were a chemist, an environmental waste manager, a pastor, and two young would-be writers, one of them fresh from two tours of duty in Iraq.

The chemist is one of the expanding contingent of Ph.D. scientists who have not bowed the knee to Darwinist materialism. The environmental expert is one of a similarly growing platoon of rebels against the established religion of global warming. The two young men listen to podcast sermons by passionate pastors like John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and others, and they may be involved in starting churches, but neither plans to become a full-time pastor.

That's important. Young Christians sometimes hear that a pastor or missionary is engaged in "full-time Christian service," with the implication that other service is part-time or second-rate. But Protestant Reformation leaders emphasized that all honest labor, not just that within churches and monasteries, glorifies God. We take this for granted now, but for centuries those engaged in ordinary life had heard otherwise. I like the way John Calvin, in a sermon on chapter 3 of Matthew, envisioned God as "beckoning with His finger and saying to each and every individual, 'I want you to live this way or that'": Each person has a God-given vocation that is "good and profitable for the common good."

Milwaukee's Miller Park has a retractable roof and fans who haven't retracted their loyalty despite many losing seasons. In one ballpark conversation concerning work, Lutheran pastor Don Thompson described a Midwestern work ethic: "If you say you'll do it, you'll do it. If you say you'll be there, you'll be there. If you bid a job and it takes long, you'll do the job at the price agreed on." Kids traditionally have to work to save money for their first car, instead of having parents give it to them. (Financial free grace for teens is not grace at all.)

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