From our First Lesson, Jeremiah 4, this verse: 22"For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good."  Thus far our text.

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

What do you think is the most important thing you have ever done or ever will do in your life?  Think about that.  I suppose if we went around the sanctuary and had everyone share their answer, we might hear a variety of responses.  But for those of us who have had children, I would suggest that being a parent is the most important thing we will ever do.  And, beyond that, I believe that the most important thing that we ever do as parents is seeking to nurture the faith of our children. 

Nurturing the faith of our children is important on so many vital levels.  Growing up and living as children of God, as people of faith, is very important indeed, and not just because it means that when we die we will go to heaven.  It is just as significant because of its impact on how we live our lives on this earth.  Faith makes a huge difference in our lives and the lives of our kids in terms of how we relate to ourselves and to one another, where we find purpose and joy, how we handle failure and suffering, as well as success and blessing. 

On this Sunday in which we begin a new year for our Sunday School, Adult Bible Class, and Youth Ministries here at Zion, there are key two words that I want to focus on: REMEMBER and TEACH.

There are many things that contributed to the falling apart and the eventual fall of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament, including lots of idolatry, corrupted leaders, the abuse and neglect of the poor, to name just a few.  But behind all of this waywardness and faithlessness were two central failings, the first leading to the second: forgetfulness and the failure to teach. 

In spite of the fact that the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Moses and Joshua and the prophets, in spite of the fact that God proved to be gracious, patient, and faithful to His promises, His people proved only to be forgetful.  It got so bad that Jeremiah goes so far as to call them "stupid children, [who] have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good."  I would think that it would be safe to assume that we would prefer not to have that ever be said of us and/or of our children.

So it is necessary that we figure out what went wrong with God’s people and to try—with God’s help—to not fall into that same trap.

You could read an entire library of books chronicling what people think went wrong with ancient Israel.  But I believe it can all be summarized around those two central concepts… they forgot, and they failed to teach.  They got so caught up in their lives and in all of the distractions, they forgot about God and what He had done for them, and how He had called them to live. 

It is hard to teach what we do not remember, and what we do not understand.  An important part of the Covenant God formed with His people at Mt. Sinai, following the incredibly dramatic and powerful rescue from abusive slavery in Egypt, was to remember and teach that Covenant history to the next generation, lest they forget and lose their way.

Listen to these words of Moses from Deuteronomy spoken to God’s people prior to their entry into the Promised Land, words steeped in Covenant language:  Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 

A couple of chapters later Moses repeats himself: Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…”  Those are words that continue to be vitally important for us to hear today.

Instead of remembering and teaching, Israel got so caught up in the present, so focused on their future, and so distracted by all the things around them, that they became disconnected from their history, from their story, from their origins, and from the God who had so richly and graciously saved and blessed them.  They broke covenant, and they broke God’s heart.  And as a result, everything fell apart..

I hope and pray that you understand what I mean when I say that nurturing the faith of our children, of one another’s children, is as important as anything else we might ever do.  That being said, how do we do it?

There really needs to be an ongoing conversation about how we can best go about this vital work of nurturing the faith of our children in our homes and in our congregation.  That goes beyond the scope of this sermon.  But what I would like to leave you with this morning are a few foundational points:

#1: As parents, grandparents, teachers, and as a congregational family, we must recognize that if we want to nurture the faith of others, we must be nurturing our own faith all along the way.  It’s difficult to give away what we don’t have.  I urge all of us to involve ourselves in the things that nurture our faith: worship, personal and corporate Bible study, prayer, and acts of mission and service.  As our relationship with God grows, He can work through us to nurture others.

#2: Make nurturing our children’s faith our highest priority.  Let’s not push it to the bottom of the list.  Let’s not sacrifice it in favor of anything else, including academics, sports, hobbies, etc., but instead give it the time and attention and energy it deserves.

#3: Above all, love.  The truth is that God our Father does not beat us into submission, He loves us into submission.  No one—including our children or our children’s children, or our church family’s children—will care about how much we know until they know about how much we care.  We are to remind ourselves, remind one another, remind our children that we are children of God not because of how good we are, but because of how good and gracious and loving our heavenly Father is.  We must always be a grace-centered community.

And, finally, #4: Rely on God.  I am quite certain that there are some gathered here today who are experiencing a sense of guilt and regret at this moment, who feel as though they are not doing as good of a job of nurturing their children’s faith as they should be, or did not do as good of a job nurturing their children’s faith as they could have or should have. 

Well, let me tell you what to do with that guilt.  Put your guilt and regret the same place where I put mine: at the foot of the cross.  Trust that it is completely covered by God’s grace, just like every other sin.  And commend your selves and your children—even if they are now adults—into God’s hands, praying and trusting He’ll draw them to Himself.  And don’t give up.  With God’s help, pray that you’ll have yet more opportunities to share God’s love and your faith with them.

Remember and teach.  May the Holy Spirit of God move powerfully in and among us all, drawing us and our children ever closer to His heart, and transforming our lives with His love.  We are all children of God by grace.  May we be led to discover more and more what that truth means. Amen

   November 2018   
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