It’s for the Kids!

Texts: Deut. 6, Acts 2, Lk. 18

I have to be very careful with the illustration I’m about to use. I’ll do my best, but I’ll have to beg your pardon if this comes out the wrong way. I know of a phrase, a four-long set of words that you can use to get someone to do just about anything. You can tack this clause onto the end of nearly any sentence and get a favorable response. “What’s the phrase,” you ask? “It’s for the kids.” I’m sorry, but it often works. Some examples: “I think we should get a dog…it’s for the kids!” “Maybe we should consider a new car…it’s for the kids!” “Let’s think about switching to decaf coffee. It’s for the kids.” I need to be very careful with this line of thought, but an appeal to the good of our children will drive us to a great many things.

But not all things, it seems. For, when we hear the clear call of God to take up Bible and Catechism and teach our children, we’re aren’t always so quick to jump on that bandwagon. There are many reasons why that is. We’re too busy; that’s why we have pastors; I’m too old; I’m embarrassed; I’m not qualified to teach. Beloved in Christ, let us hear today the words of Christ and not be swayed by the temptations of the flesh. Christ says in the Gospel, “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of God.” St. Peter says likewise in his Pentecost sermon. “The promise,” the good news of Jesus Christ, “is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” From our texts we should learn that God has given us the solemn responsibility of commending the faith to next generation, for the forgiveness of sins in Christ is not just for us, but for our children, too.

I.

Today we are celebrating Christian education. That’s what our readings are about. It’s what our hymns are about. But, if we’re going to talk about educating children in the good news of Jesus Christ, we should start at the beginning – The Beginning, actually. We should ask: whose idea was it to pass on the faith; whose idea is it that children should be taught God’s Word? God. Not only did God come up with the idea that children should learn His Word but He also instituted the primary way that that happens, the family. The Scriptures say that on the sixth day of creation, the sixth of all the days that have ever been, God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. God brought to Adam all the different animals He had made, each with its mate. “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man,” and made Eve out of Adam’s rib.

It was not good that man was alone so God created woman to live with man, thereby instituting marriage, and at the same time, the family. God has bestowed upon marriage many blessings: a divinely-blessed friendship, a place of mutual of support and comfort, a place for man and woman to find delight in each other, and the wonder that is the birth of children. Both marriage and family exist because of God’s good will. Alongside the many blessings God provides, He has also placed a solemn responsibility upon those who are married. Included in the command to be fruitful and multiply is also the instruction of God to pass on the faith to our children. When husband and wife come together and God blesses their union with the conception of a child, He expects that the fruit of their union would continue in the knowledge of our God and savior. God taught Adam, Adam taught Eve, Adam and Eve taught their children, Seth taught his children, and so on. As the psalmist sings, “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”

Unfortunately the command and will of God was lost among His people. The Fall into Sin shattered our relationships with God and with each other, and so the education of children in the faith was cast aside. For forty years, Israel grumbled against their God and acted against Him by not circumcising their children through all their time in the wilderness. On the eve of the entrance into the Promised Land, God recalled to His people through the mouth of Moses His divine intention for the family. “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Or, to cast God’s will for the family and the responsibility of parents toward their children in a New Testament light, St. Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In other words, when God instituted marriage and the family, He created the household to be like a small-scale church, where the Word is daily taught and Baptism remembered, and where faithful reception of the Lord’s Supper is continually encouraged.

II.

So far we’ve seen the “what” of God’s will for children, but our texts this week also give us the “why.” In Luke 18, Jesus has just told the parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee. The two men go up to the temple to pray, but only the tax collector returned justified. Unlike the Pharisee, he cast himself entire upon the mercy of God, trusting in His mercy for salvation and not in anything of his own. St. Luke writes, “Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him, saying, ‘Let the little children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’” Jesus was indignant that the children were being prevented from coming to Him, because it is to them, and those like them that the kingdom of heaven belongs.

Like the tax collector in the parable who rested in God’s mercy, everything a child has is given to them. Parents supply their children with what they need because they love them. A child doesn’t have to earn the love of his parents – it’s already there, built into the relationship by God. This is a model of how salvation works as well. We don’t earn salvation. Salvation is won for us by Christ. In perfect obedience to the Father, Jesus kept and fulfilled the whole Law on our behalf, and then died on the cross as the full payment in blood for our transgressions. The promise of salvation, of forgiveness sins and eternal life in heaven, comes through faith in His Word and is itself a free gift.

St. Peter says clearly whom the salvation in Jesus Christ is for. He says in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized everyone one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and for you children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” Today we are celebrating Christian education. We’ve discovered the “what” of God’s will in the matter – all people should be taught His Word, and parents, especially have the responsibility placed on them to teach their children. Now, we have also heard the “why.” Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Jesus likes children. Therefore, His desire is clear: we should teach our children the Word of God, besides the fact that God commands it, because it is through His Word that our children will be saved. The promise of salvation in Christ is for all people, kids included. “It’s for the kids.”

Now, we aren’t always so quick to jump to task. There are any number of obstacles that the Old Adam throws up in our face to pull us back from this joyous responsibility. But, let us today be transformed by the renewal of our minds. St. Peter said that the promise of Christ is for our children, but it’s also for us, too. We are gathered here as parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and as a congregation. May God grant us in this new school year a renewed vigor and eagerness to commend His mercy and grace to the next generation, and may He always strengthen us in His forgiveness and love.

So That We Do Not Harm, Commandments V-VII

2016/03/06 Laetare – Manuscript

 

In Matthew 22, Jesus’ opponents came to Him to try and trap Him with a trick question. They asked Him, “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When speaking about the Law, the Ten Commandments, Jesus divided them into two categories: our relationship with God and our relationships with other people. We call them the first and second tables of the Law. The first table contains the first three Commandments, which teach us to love and honor God above all things. The second table of the Law are the commandments which direct our relationships with the people around us, the Fourth through Tenth.

We last looked at the Fourth Commandment, where God teaches us to love and honor Him, by loving, cherishing, and obeying those whom He gives us to act in His stead. The Fourth Commandment speaks primarily about the relationship between parents and children, but also about other offices that God has instituted for our good, such as the government and the pastoral office. It teaches us about the relationship we have with the neighbors who are above us in station. Today we’ll look at the Fifth through Seventh Commandments. They direct and protect our relationships with the neighbors around us, beside us (as in marriage), and across from us. In these commandments we learn how God desires us to behave toward our neighbor in Christ: to do no harm, but instead, to do good.

  1.  

We’ll continue using the Commandments as printed in the front of our hymnal. The Fifth Commandment is “You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.” In this commandment we move from how we relate to those whom God has placed over us to those whom He places around us in our daily lives. In short, we are forbidden in this commandment to do our neighbor harm. But first, we’re using the word “neighbor” a lot today; who is our neighbor? This is the question that prompted the parable of the Good Samaritan. The answer: everyone is our neighbor. Therefore, we should do no harm to anyone. The government is exempted from this commandment when it lawfully punishes evil and fights just wars.

Now, what does it mean to harm our neighbor? This commandment directs us first to avoid physical harm. This means that as individuals, we do not have the authority from God to take the life of another person. The straight-up meaning of the commandment we understand: Don’t murder. But, there are other areas of life that this commandment speaks to, such as abortion and euthanasia. Both of these involve taking the lives of those around us who are the most vulnerable, who themselves are individual creations of God and are loved by Him. All life is to be cherished and preserved as a gift from God.

The Hebrew word for murder also includes the understanding that sometimes our neglect can lead to the physical harm and death of others. Such as, if you see someone in distress on the side of the road, and you just keep driving while they die, that would be breaking the Fifth Commandment. Jesus also says that if you are harboring anger and hatred against your brother, or if there is animosity in your heart toward another person, that is also sin. Therefore, the Fifth Commandment teaches us to do no harm to our neighbor, but instead to do good. We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the prisoner, sharing with all the love that we first received from Christ.

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The love that we receive from Christ, the love that He has for the Church – His Bride – is also the model of love between a man and his wife. The Fifth Commandment teaches us about our relationship with those around us. The Sixth Commandment teaches us about the most intimate relationship many of us have: the neighbor beside us, who is in fact one flesh with us in marriage – our spouse. The Sixth Commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.” In this Commandment God protects and honors the estate of marriage by teaching us to live chaste lives in what we say and do.

The estate of marriage is a holy relationship, established by God in the Garden of Eden, where He brought Adam and Eve together to live as husband and wife. It is a most blessed estate, the highest even, for it is the primary way that God raises up faithful people for Himself. God teaches in this Commandment that we are to respect and value this gift by loving and honoring our spouses. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Wives, love and respect your husbands as the Church does Christ.

In this Commandment we also recognize that sexuality is gift from God. It is not something to be shunned or hidden, for it is a good creation of God. But, like many other good things in creation, it is often abused. God created marriage to be the place where His gift of sexuality is exercised and urges are controlled. It is only by a special gift of God that some, like St. Paul, are able to live sexually pure and decent lives apart from marriage. The rest of us, though, should aspire to the blessed estate of marriage. St. Paul writes, “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband…it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” We should also pray for those who are married, that Jesus would help them to love and honor each other, and for those who desire to be married but are not yet.

III.   

From the Fifth Commandment, where we learn how to relate to the neighbor around us, we moved to the Sixth Commandment, where we learn how to relate to our neighbor beside us: our spouse. In the Seventh Commandment we learn how we relate to the neighbor around and across from us. The Seventh Commandment says, “You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.”

In short: don’t steal. Don’t be a thief or a robber. I think we’ve probably got a handle on that. Many of us learned very early on not to steal when we got spanked by our parents for stealing from the cookie jar, or a toy from our sibling. But, one area that blows a hole in the side of our pride is this: What about those times at work where you’re just being idle? We all have those days where time comes to a standstill and we need something, anything, to pass the time – so long as it’s not actually working. Sometimes we get into the bad habit of doing things on the clock that are more properly done in free time. That’s the Seventh Commandment. We should not steal in any way, whether out in the open, by dishonesty, or by idleness. How often we would so much rather take an open thief than a hidden one, because we can catch and punish them. But, Luther once said, if we tried to gather up all the thieves in the world, both open and hidden, there wouldn’t be anyone left to do the punishing.

I’m going to read some Words of Christ spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary…The Lord God opened my ear, and I was not rebellious…I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” Scripture shows us that Jesus did no harm to anyone; He loved and served every neighbor in need, having compassion on them like sheep without a shepherd. In the book of Hosea, it says His heart recoiled in His chest, that though His bride Israel repeatedly stepped out on their marriage, He would redeem her. He would heal His people and take away their iniquity, their infidelity toward Him and each other.

And, though, we like sheep have gone astray – doing harm to our neighbor in action and thought, being unfaithful to God and each other, and being thieves in deed and word – The Lord has given us this word: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands.” For your sins, for mine, and for the whole world, Christ was crucified. And in those blessed wounds you are inseparably joined to Him, and He to you. Where He is – so shall you be. And this, not because of our faithfulness to the Ten Commandments, not because we have kept the Law and earned our salvation, but because of these words: “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you…you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Amen.