Love Your Children!  Pass on the Faith!

Pastor Jim Kniseley preached this sermon at Resurrection on May 12, 2013, the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  The sermon text is John 17:22-23.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

This sermon today is about passing on the faith.  How do we Christians pass on faith in Jesus Christ from one generation to the next?  What is the role and responsibility of mothers and fathers to our children?  What is the responsibility of grandparents?

 

The gospel reading today is part of a most important prayer of Jesus in the Gospel of John.  Jesus is praying for his followers then and throughout the centuries.  He is pleading with God to bring believers together, to help them show the love which God and Jesus share, to have faith, and to be witnesses of that faith to the world.  Jesus prays,

 

The glory that you have given me I have given them so that they may be one, as we are one.  I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (17:22-23).

 

IÕm reminded of young Timothy in the Bible.  Timothy was called and used by God in wonderful ways in the early church.  How did he learn and how was he nourished in the faith?  For all time we have this answer which Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:5, I remember your faith (Timothy).  That faith first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I know you have the same faith.

 

On this MotherÕs Day, I am thinking of my mother, Margaret Helen Dunkle Kniseley.  Her nickname was ŌBillieĶ and she was mother to 4 boys and grandmother to 11 grandchildren.  What are some things I remember about her and how did she pass on the faith to me?  Mother was not comfortable talking about faith and the Bible.  She left the talking to my father, the pastor.  What she did was demonstrate her faith in how she loved us unconditionally, encouraged us to pray at bedtime when we were little, and made sure we were always at Sunday School and Worship and Vacation Bible School and Youth Group.  She expressed her faith in music.  She taught the childrenÕs choirs.  My sense of my motherÕs style of being a mother was that she was always there for us.  She encouraged us.  She didnÕt judge us.  When we were hurting she comforted us.  To this day I believe that she was showing me a love that certainly reflects the love we know in Jesus.

 

The Lutheran magazine had an article entitled ŌTending Souls/Helping Parents Nurture Spirituality in ChildrenĶ.  They made 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 donÕt 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.

 

The writer of this article, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, suggests 5 ways parents can nurture the faith of their children:

 

1.     Explore your spiritual self.  You donÕt have to be an expert to talk about matters of

Faith.  Live your faith.  Let your children see how you react to a homeless person, or how you help someone who is ill, or how you respond when things donÕt go your wayÉ

 

2.     Read with your children.  Read Bible stories and other stories of Christian faith.  Tell your own faith stories.  Allow your children to tell their own faith stories.

 

3.     Engage in ritual and cherish symbols.  Decorate your home with symbols of faith.  Tell stories about those symbols and why they are important.  Create rituals for bedtime and mealtime and Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter.

 

4.     Make time for prayer and silence.  Pray at bedtime and mealtime.  Say lots of thanks to God and do name disappointments and hurts in your prayer.  God is real and loves and cares.

 

5.     Belong to a community of faith and actively participate.  Faith is about caring and sharing with others.  ItÕs about being with other people of faith and letting them influence us.

 

Martin Luther was reflecting on the role of parents and Christian Education and here is what he thought:  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 by God to instruct the entire household in the basics of the faith.Ķ

 

Today we thank God for parents who are fulfilling their duties and responsibilities, and we encourage all of us to do our part in passing on the faith from one generation to the next.

 

Amen!