This July 4th, we’ll be celebrating our nation’s 245th birthday. As with other national holidays such as Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, Independence Day is another time to remember and give thanks for all the men and women who have served our nation and defended our freedoms throughout America’s history.

Whether military members enlist for several years or for a long career, it all begins with an intensive but relatively short time of basic training. 

I think often of my grandfather’s naval service during the Second World War. As with about a million other WWII sailors, his journey began with several weeks of basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station. This training helped men like my then teenage grandfather to get fighting fit and sufficiently versed in naval protocols. I’m sure that each military member learns a lot during their weeks of basic training; however, it’s only the tip of the iceberg compared to the on-the-job experience that follows.

My grandfather was assigned to a ship in the Pacific, and then his learning began in earnest. His basic training had given him a foundation for what he would learn and do in his ongoing service. Out at sea, the concepts that had been instilled back at Great Lakes had to be put into practice. 

We also have times of “basic training” in our Christian lives. As young believers, participating in Sunday school helps to familiarize us with the basic events and characters of the Bible. In catechism classes, we emphasize core messages of the Bible, such as God’s Law and Gospel, along with God’s gifts of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and more. Adults make take refresher courses or basic Christian instruction classes as well.

These are all good places to start. They lay a foundation for our ongoing Christian life. But rather than completing our growth as Jesus’ disciples, these times of basic training are meant to mark the beginning of more maturing and “on-the-job” development as we live out our faith in our daily lives and callings. 

I give thanks for the students who completed catechism instruction this past spring and for those who will be continuing or beginning that process this fall. I’m grateful for the instruction I received in my youth as well, but in looking back, I can see how it was only “basic training.” In the years since, God has provided many more opportunities to grow in Christian faith and living, and I know He will continue to do so.

No matter what stage of our Christian life we find ourselves in, whether at 9-years-old or 99-years-old, walking with the Lord is a daily journey of growth and maturation. Oftentimes that happens in simple ways, like reading little daily “Portals of Prayer” devotions. Sometimes God grants us growth by helping us navigate changing and challenging times. God also grants us growth by having others walk alongside of us in our journey of faith – our fellow servicemen and women in the Lord’s crew! 

Along the way, God keeps returning us to those same truths we learned back in our basic training as believers: we are God’s baptized, beloved children. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. We are forgiven and restored for Jesus’ sake. We are fed by our Lord at His Altar.

This is the Gospel. We learn the basics of it as we learn things like the words of “Jesus Loves Me” as children. But then for the rest of our earthly lifetimes and beyond, we get to continue to plumb the depths of this life-changing and eternity-granting Good News!

A prayer: Lord, thank you for times of “basic training” in my Christian faith. Lead me and teach me each day to trust You, to grow in the truth of Your Word, and to practice my faith through what I think and say and do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Peace in Christ,

                        Pastor Kory Janneke