“GUIDING THE FAITH OF OUR CHILDREN”

 

A Sermon for Christian Education Sunday at Resurrection Lutheran Church, presented by Pastor Jim Kniseley on May 20, 2007.. 

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

The last time I preached was on May 6 in San Diego, California.  While Pastor Ken Hauge was here, Carol and I were leading worship at Ascension Lutheran Church, the congregation I served from 1979 to 1988.  They treated us well and they said the attendance was at least double  the usual.  I don’t know if they wanted to see me or, more likely, the wanted to see Carol that they have only heard about.

 

I was touched by some of the things people said about my ministry in their midst.  It’s been my experience that it is  often difficult to see in the short-term the results of your work and ministry.  In fact sometimes you wonder if you are really making a difference.

 

One man can up to me and said, “Pastor Jim, 25 years sober.”  And he reminded me that at the age of 33 as a young pastor I led an intervention in his life with his family because of his alcoholism.  I don’t remember all the details.  He seems to have remembered everything.  Even something I said that seems unkind.  He said at the intervention he told me that from then on he wanted to counsel people about drinking.  He claims I said, “Right now I wouldn’t recommend anyone to you.”  He told me that was part of what he needed to hear. His wife and daughters and spouses were there and they wanted the grandchildren to meet me.

 

One couple wanted to tell me about their heartache. Their daughter that I had in youth group and confirmed was in her 19th year in prison, convicted of killing someone in a drug deal gone bad.  They just wanted to remember with me the happy times in their life when their daughter was in a good environment with church folks of all ages who had her best interests at heart.  I do remember that their daughter was always a follower, doing whatever the crowd around her was doing.  Unfortunately she went with the wrong crowd after high school and so made some poor decisions.  They asked me to write their daughter and give her encouragement and hope.  Of course I will do that.

 

When we get the opportunity here at Resurrection, let’s invite the former pastors back as a way of affirming the ministry they provided here in the life of this congregation…

 

 

 

Let’s focus on today, here and now, at Resurrection Lutheran Church.  This is Christian Education Sunday.  It’s a good day to remind ourselves of our responsibility and call to teach the faith to our children and youth.

 

The latest issue of our Lutheran magazine carries the article “Tending Souls/ Helping Parents Nurture Spirituality in Children.”  They make the point that God has placed in children an innate spirituality – an insatiable curiosity, a delightful sense of spontaneity, a deep capacity for trust, surprise and creativity.  What they don’t yet have is a language to express it.  A key role for  Parents is to give them the language, the tools to reflect and explore their spiritual experiences.  Spiritual awareness must be learned or it will remain dormant for a lifetime.

 

Here at Resurrection we have a valued partnership when it comes to Christian Education.  We present classes and group experiences to teach the faith.  We have the Living Well and Vacation Bible Camp for our children.  We have Confirmation and Youth Group and Sunday School for our youth.  The partnership is with the parents.  We in the church community can only reinforce what is being taught and experienced at home.  Here is a real truth: the more influential partner is the home.  The Church is a valuable partner but the stronger influence comes from your  Homes.

 

In the year 1528, Martin Luther visited a number of congregations in the Saxony and Meissen areas of Germany.  He returned from that experience with a deep concern.  He observed that little Christian education was going on, that many folks in those congregations did not even know the Ten Commandments or the Apostles Creed or The Lord’s Prayer.  That was when he put together the Small Catechism for use in the Home.  It is interesting to note that Luther did not intend for this little booklet to be the mainstay of church confirmation classes, like it has become today.  Rather, Luther intended this to be used at Home, with parents using it to teach the faith to their entire household. 

 

The writer of the article in the Lutheran magazine, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, suggests five ways parents can nurture the faith of their children:

 

  1. Explore your spiritual life.  Don’t be afraid to talk about God because you think you are not an expert.  Teaching faith to children is less about what you say and more about how you live.  How we react to a homeless person, how we reach out to someone who is ill, what we say when we see a dead animal on the road, how we respond when things don’t go our way will teach our children volumes about what we believe.

 

  1. Engage in ritual and cherish symbols.  Children love drama and repetition.  Decorate your home with symbols of our faith.  Tell stories about them.  Create rituals for mealtime and bathtime and bedtime.  Do something for others at Thanksgiving.  Acknowledge the holy in the everyday.

 

  1. Read with your children.  Make sure you are reading Bible stories and other good stories of faith and values.  Ask your children what they like best about the stories and what they think it means to them.  In your storytime, tell the stories of your family, the stories that have been handed down through the generations.  Help your children to start telling their own stories, including faith and happy and sad times.

 

  1. Make time for prayer and silence.  Setting aside moments in a busy day to offer prayer at mealtime and bedtime is important.  Ask the children at bedtime to think of something that they are grateful for.  Encourage them too to tell you about their disappointments and regrets, their joys and delights.  Naming those experiences is a form of prayer.

 

  1. Belong to a community.  Our church community here at Resurrection is people living out the stories of faith.  Our worship services can teach children that faith  isn’t just about you and your inner life but about others and the lives that surround you. 

 

 

 

Yesterday several of us from this congregation were in Waynesboro at an all-day ACTS Course on the Lutheran Confessions.  We concentrated on the Large and Small Catechisms of Martin Luther.  I wish I had the exact quote, but I didn’t write it down.  But here is the gist of Luther’s thoughts on how important the role of parents is in the Christian Education of their children:

 

“In the home, the father is an evangelist and apostle to the children.  In fact the father is the Bishop and the mother is the Bishopess of the family.  They are called to instruct the entire household in the basics of the faith.”

 

Today we thank God for parents who are fulfilling their duties and responsibilities, we encourage others to start doing their part, and we rejoice in the gifts that many bring to making Christian Education a high priority in the Resurrection Family.

 

Thanks be to God!  Amen.