Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Education - Advent Midweek 2 - December 9, 2015 - Text: Deut. 6:4-9, Prov. 22:6, Eph. 6:4
This year during the season of Advent and following through to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve we are addressing a topic that may not seem too tied to the season of Advent, we are addressing the topic and/or issue of how doctrine and practice relate, that is how we do what we believe. Last week we were introduced to this topic by defining our terms, two terms in particular and those terms were doctrine and practice or as proclaimed elsewhere as substance and style. Doctrine and substance are the what we believe and practice or style are the what does this look like in real life? This evening we take up the topic of education. Does what we believe inform or direct us to have any particular type of education system?
As many of you know, our church body, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has for years had schools attached to our churches. As a matter of fact our history bears out the fact that many churches began with a school. Even here at St. Matthew we had a school for many years. The great thing about having a church school is that this affords an opportunity for a daily teaching of God’s Word in the normal school setting, along with all the other studies being taught from a Christian perspective.
So the question we might as is this, “Does the Bible speak to us about education? And if so, where and how?” In Deuteronomy Moses relates these words to us, “4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:4-9). God’s will is that first and foremost we have an education, a daily education, a daily teaching of our children and even reteaching ourselves concerning the doctrines of God. As God tells us in Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Without the fear of the Lord, that is respect and awe for our maker, we would be foolish and uninstructed. Unfortunately we see this happening in the schools of our country, our elementary schools, our high schools and our college and universities, as the fear of the Lord is replaced with humanistic teachings which continually lure the hearts of our children away from our Lord and His teachings.
And whose responsibility is this, that is whose responsibility is it to raise up and teach our children? God gives parents children and He gives instruction in the most important teachings. Again, going back to Proverbs we read the encouragement even the command to, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Parents have the responsibility to train up, to teach their children who are a gift to them from God. When someone suggests that parents cannot teach their own children my response is to ask, “Who taught them to brush their teeth? to get dressed? to tie their shoes? to know that Jesus is their Savior? Yes, we live in a society wherein we may gain help in training our children via the school system, either public or parochial, but the responsibility belongs to the parents. Unfortunately too many in our society are blindly giving up their responsibility to agencies who are teaching something other than the fear of the Lord. Interestingly enough, research shows that the more involved the parent is in the child’s education, the better the child will do. God also gives a promise in teaching children, that is that even if they should rebel and fall away for a time, they know what is right and will come back to the ways in which they were taught.
Finally we have words from Paul as he writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). God’s instructions are to fathers as the head of the family to make sure their children are given a proper teaching in faith. Indeed, God will hold fathers accountable for their children and as I have expressed to many a young couple, to me it does not matter whether you believe what I am saying, or what God is saying, but it will happen, God will hold the father accountable.
So, how do we tie this Biblical teaching of educating our children into our preparation for celebrating Jesus’ birth? As we read through the history, the accounts of Jesus’ life we can see that He did not attend any formal education as we would call it today. He did not attend public school, nor parochial school, rather He was raised and taught by His father and mother.
After His birth we hear of Jesus being brought to the temple at the age of 8 days for His circumcision, the sacrament marking Him and making Him a child of the covenant. Interestingly enough we tend to fail to acknowledge that circumcision was the precursor to the sacrament of Holy Baptism and as circumcision occurred on the eighth day following birth we would certainly correlate that with having our children baptized as soon after birth as is humanly possible, thus marking them and making them children of the covenant of salvation.
We hear nothing of Jesus’ life again until we hear of Him at the age of 12 years in the temple, perhaps at His bar mitzpha wherein He became an adult son of the covenant. Following the ceremonies we are privy to the disturbing news that Mary and Joseph had inadvertently left Jesus in Jerusalem when they left to go home. In their defense, there was a large group and they believed He was with some of the others in the group. When the found Jesus He was in the temple discussing theology with the teachers of the law and the priest. Where did He learn such teachings? Certainly as He was God He knew these things, but most assuredly His mother and father as well as the local rabbi perhaps had been teaching Him.
How does this look in our own lives? We understand that the education of our children is the responsibility of the parent. As I instruct parents of our confirmands, it is their responsibility to teach their child, but I am here to help. As parents our desire will be to teach our children that “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” And that they should, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” We will want to diligently teach these words to our children as we “sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” We will want to “bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” We will want to “write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates”
Again, some parents choose to send their children to school, which is okay, yet I would encourage those parents also to take an active role in their child’s education to make sure they are learning what is mete, right and salutary. As a church we offer opportunities for Biblical education such as Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, confirmation, Bible class and the like. Here again, even more than my encouragement to take an active role in your child’s public or parochial education is to take an even more active role in their Christian education. More important than knowing the things of this world are knowing the things of the world to come. This world is transient, fast and fleeting, the world to come is eternal.
Mary and Joseph took an active role in Jesus’ education. They taught Him as they brought Him into the church through the sacrament of Circumcision. They taught Him so that He might be in discussion with the priests and teachers of the law. They taught Him and yet they were taught by Him as well.
What is different about Christian, Lutheran Education? Just as the Word of God begins, centers on and ends with a focus on Jesus, so Christian, Lutheran Education begins, centers on, and ends with a focus on Jesus. Indeed, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and just as Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, so our lives and our education focus on Jesus. Our focus is seen through our church year calendar as we begin our church year in the season of Advent preparing ourselves to celebrate His birth. And as always stirring in us to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.