Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Do not forget My teaching. . .

Sermon preached for St. Bartholomew, Apostle, on Sunday, August 24, 2014.

    An inexpensive piece of word art said this: The strength of a nation is equal to its weakest home.  Now there is something worth thinking about for a moment.  It is not a “Christian” statement but it is not one that Christians would argue with – knowing that the home is the foundation of Christian life and the place where parents teach their children and children learn from their parents.
    Parenthood means many things.  Some of them so daunting only amateurs would dare to be parents.  Parents must make choices for their children all the time – choices their children may not understand, appreciate, or agree with.  They may reject the judgment of the parent later on.  But from the moment they are born, parents are making these choices for their children.
    Few children get this until they become parents themselves. Yet for all the good you do for your children, little of it endures. One thing, however does endure:  the teaching of the faith.  It outlives the parent in the life of the child.  This is the nature of faith.  Teaching your children the fear of the Lord and teaching your children the doctrines of the Scriptures.  These endure from this life to eternal life.
    Today we heard the wisdom of Proverbs.  "My Son, do not forget My doctrine (teaching and doctrine are the same word)." It is a solemn wake up call to parents and to children alike.  That which endures is the Word of the Lord.  This is the Word that of Moses and the prophets that testifies of Jesus.  So we are told: "Let your heart keep my commands."  Commands here is not limited to ten commandments or morality but refers to the whole of God's Word.  Raise your children to know the Lord by knowing His Word.  This is the work of a parent that outlives mom or dad; this is the gift of the parent that bears the fruit of eternal life in their kids.
    Proverbs tells us it adds length and peace to our lives.  This is not some magic pill to living longer and better lives but the solemn reminder that the Word brings forth faith and faith imparts eternal life.  Here we learn that peace, contentment, and even joy do not depend upon lives being pain or trouble free but lived out in His peace that surpasses understanding and that binds us up in our worst moments.
    The Word of the Lord equips us for success.  But what kind of success?  Not simply earthly fame and fortune that come and go.  No, much more than this.  The success the Word gives us is a life of integrity here on earth and the outcome of faith, the salvation of our souls for all eternity.  This is success that cannot be stolen from you.  It was, after all, this integrity of heart that Jesus saw in Bartholomew.
    Trust in the Lord.  In other words, live by faith.  Be wise in the eyes of the Lord and do not lean upon your own knowledge or understanding.   Acknowledge the Lord.  This is an act of faith.  Worship happens only from the perspective of faith – honoring the Lord with our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, with faith in His promises, with good works that proceed from faith, and from the tithes and offerings of a grateful heart.
    Trust in the Lord and walk in His paths.  Walk in the narrow way of faith that is Christ’s way.  Showing forth in your lives the good works of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His light.  Living out your baptismal life by seeking holiness and by doing the good works that only faith can empower.  We are not free from good works but free for the good works that proceed from faith.
    Turning from evil.  Here we hit it head on.  Turning from evil.  Do not walk in the way of sinners, do not speak lies, do not give into lust, and do not live a self-centered life.  The sad truth is that too often our lives show no evidence of our striving for a higher way, the noble calling of baptism and faith.  But they should.  How sad it is that those who know the mercies of God turn His grace into something cheap and easy by living comfortably as sinners who blend into the world instead of standing out in faith.  Our distinctiveness is rooted in faith and shows itself when we live out this faith and fear of the Lord.  There wisdom truly begins.
    In the Gospel for today we heard how Jesus took note of Bartholomew and saw in this man's heart no guile – no deception.  His honesty seemed almost rude – what good can come from Nazareth?  But he was no hypocrite.  He wore on his sleeve his faith and his fear.  He wore no coat of self-righteousness.  This is the goal of every Christian and this is the cause of Christian parenting: to teach honestly the faith of Jesus Christ from the Scriptures and to live this faith as honestly as we who have this treasure in jars of clay are able.
    Let me be blunt.  You parents do not owe your children a good life or an easy life or even a happy life.  What we owe them is an honest faith, formed and grounded in the Word of the Lord, and able then to produce the fruit of good works.  They may not keep it but once formed and shaped within them, they have a faith to return to.  The words of Moses and the prophets are not generic words but focused in Christ.  This is our integrity.  All things are from Him, live in Him, and will end up before Him.  Such knowledge is too awful and fearful for us to bear unless we bear them in Christ Jesus.  He is the one who values our lives with His blood shed upon the cross and in Him we have the Word of life.  This is what we owe our children and this is what we owe to those not yet of the Kingdom  –  honesty about sin, the truth about the Cross, and a life  rooted in grace that produces a harvest of good works.  This is the shape of faith which, by God’s grace we live with integrity even within the confines of our sinful human natures and this is the shape of faith that leads us from death to life.  My son... do not forget this teaching.  Amen.

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