[Zion Lutheran Church, Harbine, Nebraska]
"The Teaching Is for Children of All Ages"
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Sixth Sunday in St. Laurence' Tide
September 11, 2011
Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God! Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
IN NOMINE JESU
Today is a very special day in the life of this congregation. After a break for the summer months, we begin another year of Sunday school here at Zion. Even though we took a break from Sunday school, the learning has not stopped, as we have been gathered here each Lord's Day to hear Him as He speaks to us in His Word. Not only does our Lord speak to us, He also teaches us. Where His Word is preached, it is also taught. And who is being taught? Everyone who hears the Word of God is being taught. This means that all of you within the sound of my voice are being taught: the old and the young, adults and children. There is no age limit to the teachings of our Lord. The Church teaches children of all ages, from cradle to grave, from the womb to the tomb. There is no end to our learning the faith. At least there shouldn't be. It is never too early to be a disciple of our Lord. The word disciple means "one who learns." Jesus taught the Twelve, and He teaches us. Even before we were born, while we lived in our mothers' wombs, He taught us, even as He has known us since before He made and formed us, before we were even conceived. While our parents sat in church and heard God's Word, you heard it, too, as science has shown that babies still in the womb CAN hear.
Our Lord says through St. Paul that faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God. Neither Paul nor the Lord nor the Holy Spirit place age limits on when one can hear the Word or come to faith in Christ. In the baptismal rite, we hear from St. Mark's Gospel: Then they brought little children to [Jesus], that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them. [Mk. 10:13-16 NKJV]
Yes, for this reason the Church baptizes babies and teaches children. This is why the Church admits those to the Lord's Table who have publically confessed the faith they have been taught according to Scripture and thus Luther's Small Catechism. This is why we have Bible class and Bible studies that generally our adults attend. This is why we are here in the Lord's house this morning: you, me, children of ALL ages, for we are all children of God. The teaching doesn't stop with confirmation. At least it shouldn't, either.
King David was well aware of his need to continue learning from God. David wrote the 143rd Psalm. It is believed that he wrote this, the last of the so-called Penitential Psalms, as he fled from his son, Absalom, who tried to overthrow him. David confessed his sins, confident of God's forgiveness, knowing that no one is righteous before God and that God is gracious and forgiving. David remembered God's mercy when David confessed his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. God forgave him, speaking through the prophet Nathan. In this Psalm, David seeks God's deliverance from both his enemies: Absalom his son, and Satan. Yet in the midst of this prayer, for the Psalms are indeed prayers, David asks God for further instruction, further teaching. He prayed: Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God! Here is David, a grown man, a king anointed by God, the one through whose lineage the Savior would come, asking God to teach him His will. If David, mighty as he was, would be humble enough to bow to God's will and His teaching, then we, regardless of age or social standing, should imitate King David's faith and ask God to continue teaching us.
Think back to your school days, not just Sunday school. For you children, just think back to last week. There were times when you didn't want to go to school, when you simply didn't want to learn a single thing. You didn't like the teacher. The subject was boring. You hated doing homework. You wondered what the point was to having to learn dates and places and anything else that you didn't think had any bearing on your life then or in your future. I was not a big fan of algebra when I was in high school. Plotting points and making arcs on a graph was not my idea of fun. Solving x for y, or even the other way around, made little sense to me. I was going to study to become a pastor…why did I need to learn this stuff, I thought. My junior high math teacher once told our class that we actually learned algebra in the first grade; the big difference was that, instead of x's and y's, we dealt with squares and circles. I felt like I had been had. I wished I could do something about it, but state law frowns on first-grade dropouts.
That attitude against learning that I had—that we all had—in school is no different than in our spiritual lives. We don't always like to learn what God desires to teach us. God wants to be holy, just as He is holy. He teaches us His will, which is to be holy, through His holy Word. But it's like that class we took that we thought was too hard for us, but harder. We don't like to do the homework God assigns because we can't do the work He asks—that He demands—of each and every one of us. We cannot do it because we are not holy. We're not even close. Why? Our first parents, Adam and Eve, failed the first test, and there was only one assignment: Don't eat that fruit! They could score one of two grades on that test: 100% or a big, fat zero. They each got a big, fat zero. We have the Ten Commandments, and they're not multiple choice. We can't pick and choose the right answers, because the right answer is "all of the above." And if we get even the first one wrong, we've failed the entire test…with a big, fat zero. We've all failed God's test. We retake it every day. We fail it every day. Every day we earn a big, fat zero. It doesn't matter if we're a child or an elderly person. It doesn't matter if we're grandparents or grandchildren. It doesn't matter if we're laypeople or pastors, we all get the same grade each and every day of our lives: a big, fat zero. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have sinned against God by thought, word, and deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved God with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. You see, each time we give the wrong answers on God's test through our thoughts, words, and actions, we not only fail, but we sin. And because our grades have been so bad for so long, we don't risk God sending us to the principal's office; we risk His sending us to hell to be in Satan's torment forever, to be eternally condemned.
One thing students always dread is getting their tests or homework handed back to them. They don't want to see how much red ink the teacher has put on their papers. They don't want to know how many questions they got wrong. The less red ink, the better. But then God gives us back our tests. We're scared to look. We don't want to see our grade, but we finally look. There's a lot of red on that paper, but our grade is not that big, fat zero. Our score is 100 percent! We realize something is different here. God is a harsh grader, but He says we aced the test. How can this be? Take another look at that test. That red is not ink from God's pen. It's the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is His blood that puts us in good standing with God our heavenly Father. God grades on a curve, but that curve is the shape of Mt. Calvary, where Jesus bled and died to take away our sins. Jesus went to that parent-teacher conference on Good Friday and said to His Father (and ours) on our behalf, "Father, forgive them." Because Jesus suffered, bled, and died, we get His "A+". Look at that grade again. That plus sign is the cross upon which Jesus died to take away your sins and mine. Because of Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, He has aced our test for us. We get His perfect score!
But we don't graduate, because the learning never stops. King David prayed to God, "Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God! Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground!" The Holy Spirit teaches us, as He has since before we were born, when we listened from inside the womb. He teaches us through His Word as we hear it read from the lectern, proclaimed from the pulpit, and taught in class. He moves us to want to live according to God's will, to love Him even as He has first loved us, to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love one another in response to the love He has shown us in Christ Jesus. And that love He showed us on "Show and Tell Day," that first Easter morning, when He showed His Son risen from the dead, and when the angel told the women the good news that Jesus, who bled and was crucified, dead, and buried, rose again on the third day. It is this good news—this great news—that I get to proclaim to you each Lord's Day. This is the greatest thing we get to learn: that Jesus died for our sins and rose so that we would have life with Him in heaven forever! And our Lord teaches us every time we are gathered here that He loves us; it's that important to learn it every time we're here.
God teaches us of His love and forgiveness and His will for us in Holy Baptism, even as children are baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, for, as St. Peter tells us, baptism saves us. We are marked with the sign of the cross to remind us that we are redeemed by Christ the crucified…and risen. God places His thrice-holy Name on us, to show us that we are His children, regardless of how young or old we are. He teaches you as He forgives you in Holy Absolution, in the Readings and in the sermon. He teaches us as He places the body and blood of Jesus on our lips, His body given and His blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Your sins are forgiven. You get Jesus' perfect score. The Holy Spirit moves us as we leave to live God's will in our callings and vocations. Shortly, we will be taught again through Bible class and our newly-restarted Sunday school, thanks be to God! The learning is for children of all ages. God grant this in Jesus' Name and for His sake. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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