Let us pray: Dear Savior, the pathway to glory has been marked out for us by You, and for this we are eternally grateful. We’re thankful that You have redeemed our souls with Your blood and both create and strengthen, through Word and Sacraments, Your gift of faith within which makes heaven our reality. Today instill in us a new resolve to be busy and active for You and never to be lazy or let this world lead us astray. Yes, cause us to think, act, and live out Your truths that set our souls free. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE PERFECT TEACHER!
TEXT: Proverbs 22: 6: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Fellow Redeemed Students of Godly Truth:
Today a miracle took place in our presence. For today little Joslyn Rose was baptized. She had the Holy Spirit placed into her heart. She received just like you and I did when we were baptized; she received the gift of saving faith. She was made a saint-in-training by God Himself—at His express command—through a holy washing of water coupled with His Word.
After little Joslyn was baptized, her parents, godparents, and the entire congregation pledged to continue to teach God’s precious truths to her thereby equipping her for life and for glory. That pledge wasn’t just mere words. No, it was a solemn oath we all took before God Almighty. And as a Christian congregation that oath stands behind our entire Christian education program. When children are brought to Sunday School that pledge is being fulfilled. Likewise, Vacation Bible Camp, Confirmation, various Bible studies, home devotional life, and of course, Sunday worship. For the serious Christian those avenues of education aren’t optional. In fact, they are the most important time of the entire week for our kids and for us. That’s because God the Spirit works through His Word of truth uplifting us, changing our hearts for the better, guiding us away from evil, and comforting us when life blows up in our faces.
This past summer, our synod, your synod, agreed to undertake a two-year special offering for expanding avenues for Christian education. The goal is to raise funds to open various Christian school and/or academies throughout the country to better fulfill Solomon’s words in our text: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” After the service today we will be handing out packets on information on this to you. We encourage you to take it home, read it, pray about it, pledge your support—with the pledge card, if you wish—but most of all to take seriously the vital role of Christian education in our congregation. And with those thoughts in mind, I now want to lay before you:
WHY IS CHRISTIAN EDUCATION THE BEST?
For the past 19 years I’ve been teaching children, you and your children, in this congregation. So, permit me to give you a few observations. First, we live in a highly educated state. Massachusetts has historically ranked at the top of such learning in our nation. In fact, Horace Mann, the father of public education began his career in our state. And yet, for all the money and effort that our state expends on educating the children, we all would admit it is lacking. I’ve seen evidence of that first-hand especially in confirmation class. Our kids are bright and come from good homes. And yet by the time I get them in 7th grade many of them don’t read out loud very well. They don’t know how to take a word apart to discern its root meaning. They lack lessons from history and don’t know the events that helped shape our nation and culture. If you ask them who the Romans were and what they stood for, the children usually look back with a blank stare. Reformation? What’s that? Martin Luther? Wasn’t he a civil rights leader? And so, when I have those precious two years with them in confirmation class I use it to teach them about such things. I use it to teach them to analyze and think through issues. I use it to teach them to read with understanding, to enhance the vital ability to memorize and recall. To make value judgments based on historical truths and not simply personal feelings. In short, I educate them using God’s truths as my template. For in the Church, as in life, there are valuable reasons behind everything we say and do. It’s not just human whims. And when we come to understand those reasons, silly, misguided people won’t sweep us away into the chaotic sewer of “anything goes.” Or, as the old axiom goes: “Yes, Virginia, there is a right and a wrong!”
The problem with modern, liberal education today is that it neglects the building blocks necessary for true understanding, while emphasizing feelings and emotions. It says truth is whatever you think it is at that moment in time. After all, we don’t want to hinder a child’s self-image by saying: “That’s wrong.” You see this played out in the grocery store when parents try to reason with a 2 year old. They fail to understand that a two year old doesn’t yet possess reasoning skills. They just want an answer.
Our synod initiative is to create schools mirroring the “classical education” concept. In a nutshell, this approach lays building blocks of knowledge upon which other blocks are laid until finally you have a well-rounded person who is not ignorant of the past and therefore not condemned to repeat past similar mistakes. From ages 9-11 this approach stresses grammar. It stresses words, proper usage of them, the facts of mathematics instead of the theory behind it, and memorizational skills. Kids read and learn history. They learn the meaning of words and events. And since they are big sponges at the time, they soak it all in.
Next, during ages 12-14 they expand their horizons to a dialectic approach. That is, they learn to analyze people, ideas, and events and put them in their own words. They learn to make moral judgments about things they have learned. “Is this right or wrong? Why was Pilate a fool when he said to Christ: “What is truth?” Then comes the rhetorical phase of their education during ages 14-16 where they learn to defend their answers based on facts and not human whims. And after that when each stage of a subject has been carefully built upon another, comes the period of higher education that is termed: specialization. Or, what new thoughts do you have to add to your particular area of interest? What special insights has God given to you?
Now, on a modest level I try to do that very thing each week at church with you, and each time I teach a class of any age. And I do it with God’s Word as my chief tool. “What is sin? Why is it bad? How does it affect you and others? How does it affect God? What did God do about our sins? What does Christ’s sacrifice on a cross really mean?” Those are the topics I preach about each week. And the result is: by God’s grace we become happier, more well-adjusted people. We learn both our own limitations and God’s infinite horizon. We learn how to handle sorrow and death and guilt and pain. We learn that Christ came and God’s Son rose above all those weighty issues that drag us down. He lovingly died for us, rose to life for us, and gives us His holiness because we don’t really possess any on our own. And we also learn that in the process of our Christian walk through life, He daily educates us in truths that are eternal and will never disappoint.—Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.—In short, the fruits of the Spirit.
Modern education is all about training people for jobs in this life. It is about making them productive members of society. God’s training is all about making us moral people who realize God gave us a brain and wants us to use it to uplift others, to honor Him and His gift, to realize our full potential as God’s children both here in time and hereafter in eternity.
Obviously the old truism, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” applies to all of us. Thus, we see it in the children, too. But, but, Christians are well-adjusted, basically happy, and go through life without fear because they know God never lies, His Word is true, and His loving forgiveness in Christ never fails. So, thank God for Sunday School and confirmation! Thank Him for Bible study. Thank Him for Christian teachers who patiently lead us toward a deeper reliance upon Him instead of ourselves.
On this Saint’s Triumphant Sunday our thoughts are of the future, of glory. Solomon’s words are but an echo of those saints in heaven. For all of them fully realize how true they are: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Amen, Amen, and Amen!