The 13th Sunday After Pentecost August 26, 2007
1 Peter 2:1-10
369, 286, 628, 630
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior:
A couple of ten year old boys were watching something about bear hunting on TV one day. One of the boys remarked: “My grandpa hunts bears in the woods up in northern Wisconsin. He showed me some of the skins he got from them. I go up to visit him and Grandma every summer. My grandpa teaches me stuff like how to shoot a rifle, track animals, and how to fix things. Grandma’s real nice too. At night we always read from the Bible and pray and sing a hymn.”
The other boy responded: “My grandma and grandpa went to a farm called Woodstock once. They don’t seem to remember too much about it. But when they do start talking about those days, my mom always sends me to bed.”
It’s a natural thing that our children learn from their ancestors. They learn from the stories we tell, the values we pass on, the truths we embrace. We are their most important teachers and much of what we teach them they are likely to pass on to our grandchildren.
Christians understand this most deeply and are anxious to pass on to their children the faith and life we have in Jesus Christ. As the anti-Christian and godless forces in our world become more aggressive, we become more concerned that this heritage not be lost. For this reason we join together in support of Christian Education. The opening verses of the Psalm we consider today are most helpful in making the case for Christian Education. I. Dark sayings brought to light, II. A testimony for ‘Generation Next,” and III. An inexhaustible legacy of Hope
First of all, in Christian Education dark sayings are brought to light.
Alice was in Chemistry class, but she often felt that it was a little more like “Alice in Wonderland.” Just like the fictional Alice, normal everyday things were presented to her in a way that seemed bizarre. Even though their study was supposed to focus on chemical reactions and atomic mass and stuff like that, her instructor always seemed to steer the discussion toward “Big Bang” theories and some molecular stew where life began. She would speak up: “Mr. Shindig, isn’t there something called the Law of Biogenesis that states that living things don’t come from non-living things? So how could your molecular “soup” produce a living cell?”
After hearing the same spiel she’d heard a dozen times before about organic chemicals and lightning bolts and so forth, she raised her hand again and asked, “Mr. Shindig, do you believe in God?”
Shindig stared at her through his glasses, and finally sniffed: “I am a scientist. I deal with material things in a material, cause and effect world. Whether there is a god I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter because scientific study provides all the answers we will need here.”
Alice came right back: “But what if your study of science and mathematics showed you that there was really no chance—even in billions of years—to accomplish just the right combination of elements and energy to make even one little string of DNA? Does good science still compel you to believe in blind chance over an intelligent Designer?”
Christian Education is a means to pass on, as our Psalmist said, “dark sayings of old.” Listen to this appeal: “Give ear, O my people, to my Law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter dark sayings of old.” [vv.1-2]
Sin has darkened and obscured our understanding of God. The apostle Peter speaks of those who willfully forget that the earth once was shaped by the almighty Word of God (cf. 2 Peter 3:5). The apostle Paul speaks of people in this world who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). People can learn ever so much about this earth, but if they fail to give glory to its Creator, they remain fools.
God has spoken to us through His Word. He makes known to us truths and facts that have stood since the foundation of the world. When we teach our children what God has revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, we are giving our children a valuable foundation on which to build their lives.
It is our job, as parents and as a church, to proclaim the God of the Bible and equip our youth to understand that not only this world, but we ourselves are His handiwork and we are accountable to Him. As the proverb states: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9.10)
Christian education involves equipping our youth to know that there is only one true God, that God has spoken to us through the Bible, that we are a special creation created in God’s own image, and that with the onset of sin it is necessary to know the Savior if we are to fully know God again. This all sounds like religious education, but it encompasses the whole human experience. If we ignore the role of God in our lives, our scientific knowledge will unleash an arrogance and lawlessness among us. A godless view of humanity will leave us a bitter emptiness in the study of humanities: art, literature, and music.
Secondly, Christian Education provides a testimony for ‘Generation Next.’
A boy was talking to his father one evening: “Hey Dad, can I go fishing with Jake tomorrow morning?” His dad looked at him with surprise and said: “Tomorrow’s Sunday, Tom. We’ll all be in church.”
“Yeah, I know. Jake kind of makes fun of that. He says that church-going and all that talk about God is just a waste of time.” His dad thought for a moment and said: “I used to have a friend like that, Tom. In fact I remember asking your grandpa the same question you just asked me.”
Tom looked up and exclaimed, “Really? What did he say?” His dad answered: “Same thing I did, ‘You’re going to be in church tomorrow, not fishing.’ Then he encouraged me to invite my friend to come too. So I talked him into it. Funny thing was, the story that Sunday was about how Jesus caught a whole boatload of fish for his friends and then called them to become ‘fishers of men.’ Eventually, he was confirmed. That friend is your sponsor, Uncle John. He became a pastor in California.”
It is so important that we actively impart our faith to the next generation and to the next one after that. The Psalm says “We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.” [v.4]
It is natural to pass on things to our children, but it doesn’t come naturally to carry on Christian education. It is much easier to “hide these things” from our children. We do that through neglect—just ignoring the Word of God and skipping opportunities to hear that Word preached and taught. We do it when we disrespect God by the things we may say or do. We do it when we allow sin to creep into our ways and deeds. What do you think our children will learn then?
The Psalm states that God “established a testimony in Jacob.” [v.5] That’s talking about His Covenant—the one He made with Adam and Eve when they first sinned, and the one He made to Abraham who would be the ancestor of the people of God. The Covenant was passed on to Jacob, and on account of that covenant the Lord gathered the whole nation of Israel and brought them out of Egypt. The whole content of the Bible is God’s plan for bringing forth the gift of our salvation. Hide this from our children? Keep them from coming to know and follow and love their Savior Jesus? Teach them that that is less important that worldly things? Of course not! But that is what we do if we let the world set the agenda in our lives. That is what we do if we let the hollow and often sinful values and wisdom of the world become the greater influence in our homes.
It is a privilege to pass on to the next generation something the Lord went to such lengths to pass on to us. Let us take that privilege seriously as parents and members of this congregation. We provide Sunday School, Bible Class for our youth and adults, instructions for those who seek to know the Lord, and many other opportunities to help one another grow and remain true to the Lord. We generously support this work at the high school and college level through the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). These are all opportunities to join together in helping one another to share God’s saving truth with the generation that is to come.
Finally, Christian Education ensures an inexhaustible legacy of hope.
A pastor faced his catechism class. They had just come from public school that day. They looked strangely uneasy. Finally, a girl volunteered: “Pastor, did you know that today is the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks? Do you think that something like that could happen again?” Another girl added: “It seems like we keep hearing about bad things that can or will happen—global warming, war, and terrorism. Doesn’t it get you down? How come God doesn’t just put a stop to it?”
The pastor’s heart ached for them. After a moment he wrote two words on the board: “Inheritance” and “legacy.” He asked, “Do you know what these are?”
“Inheritance” was an easy one: something that you receive from those who have lived before you. The pastor asked if anybody had received an inheritance. One boy said: “My dad says my grandparents were worth over a million dollars a few years ago, but now that they’ve both been sick, all that money’s gone.”
“That’s the point, Sean,” the pastor replied. “We can have many material riches, but they all go away sooner or later. Now, what about ‘legacy’—do you know what that means?”
After surveying a sea of blank faces, the pastor continued: “A legacy is like an inheritance, but it’s not usually material things like money. A legacy is the values, knowledge, or traditions you receive. What you hear about and work for in the outside world often has to do with things that can be taken away from you. But here, we’re giving you a legacy of hope. You know the love of God in Jesus Christ and that gives you hope, even in scary times like we’re seeing now. And do you know what? Nobody can take that legacy away from you. It lives in you by faith.”
Christian Education is all about a legacy of hope: “that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” [vv.6-7]
We’ve seen how important Christian Education is. We’ve considered some ways that it is carried on among us. It is important to keep in mind that it has eternal implications. It also calls us to respond from our own faith. How shall we support and sustain this effort? First, be thankful that God has preserved His Word for us and among us, and that He has given us servants who are willing to teach. Pray that He will bless their efforts.
Parents, it is important that you treat this as seriously as you would school, or health care. Make the commitment to your family to bring them faithfully to Sunday School and review the lessons with your children. Go over memory work with your children and help them to see applications in daily life. Give your financial support to the work of education within our fellowship, supporting our congregation and the CLC with your offerings. Pray for the workers as well and consider the tremendous blessing of having a Christian high school and college education available for our youth. This is the Lord’s work that He calls us into for the generation to come. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.