Some Christian workers, facing the sunset years, may retire from official positions and pace themselves more carefully in ministry. But withdrawing entirely from the Lord’s work isn’t an option, for Christians don’t really retire. They just get transferred.

In 776 Rabanus Maurus was born in Germany with a good brain. His parents educated him in the best schools, and he eventually studied in Tours, France, under the great Christian educator Alcuin, who had advised Charlemagne. Alcuin mentored Rabanus with more than book knowledge; he equipped him to teach others. Back in Germany, Rabanus was appointed principal of the school in Fulda, and under his leadership German youth, both poor and rich, were afforded an education. Rabanus painstakingly developed the library into the best anywhere and made his school Europe’s most famous, the mother of scholars and of a score of affiliated institutions. He extended the curriculum to include many sciences, and “reproved superstitions.” His graduates were in demand across Europe.

At the heart of Rabanus’s educational genius was a passion for God’s Word. His academic programs included diligent study of Scripture. He wrote commentaries on almost every book in the Bible, preached regularly, composed hymns, wrote handbooks for ministers, and worked hard for a well-trained clergy — all in an age of darkness, ignorance, and superstition.

Finally in 842, exhausted, he retired. At 66, he longed to spend the rest of his life in quiet study, free from official responsibility. “But he was too valuable a man to be allowed to retire from active life.” Appointed archbishop of Mainz, Germany, Rabanus spent his remaining years preaching the gospel and contending for the faith. He didn’t lay down his labors until February 4, 856 when, at age 80, the Lord transferred him home. What kept Rabanus going? The Spirit’s anointing! In one of his hymns he prayed:

Come from the throne of God above
O Paraclete, O Holy Dove,
Come, Oil of gladness, cleansing Fire,
And Living Spring of pure desire

Good people will prosper like palm trees, And they will grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. They will take root in your house, Lord God, And they will do well. They will be like trees that stay healthy and fruitful, Even when they are old. (Psalm 92:12-14)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Feb. 4.

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