Wednesday, July 24, 2019

People were bringing their children to Jesus. . .

What we hear in the Gospels, we see every time parents bring their sons and daughters to the waters
of baptism.  Just as it was 2,000 years ago, so it has been and still is.  This is the primary responsibility of parents to their children -- to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, through the means of grace, so that the Holy Spirit may bring them to faith and keep them in this faith until death.  All other things we do as parents flow from this first priority and responsibility.  That is what we do in baptismal preparation -- teach the parents what their duties and promises are and how this is witnessed within the baptismal rite itself.

Once baptized, the parents continue to fulfill this holy calling by bringing their sons and daughters to church for the Divine Service and for Sunday school and catechism classes.  By bringing them every week to the Divine Service, God's House becomes their familiar home and the place where they know God gives His gifts, sustains His people, and they respond with praise, thanksgiving, prayers, supplications, and offerings.  Sunday school and catechism classes do not replace the parents or take over the job of teaching the faith.  These educational ministries supplement and support the parents in their own primary vocation toward their children.

Confirmation does not bestow gifts or sacramental grace to complete baptism but acknowledges particular points along the journey from the font to the table to the heavenly banquet.  In this point, the Church acknowledges the teaching of the faith and the confession of the catechumen's faith with joy and thanksgiving.  Those who come for this confirmation do not come alone but in the midst of parents, sponsors, and the whole church family -- not simply as witnesses to an event but as those who have also invested in this day.  I have always loved how in Rome and some Anglican churches the confirmand comes forward with parents (and even sponsors) to kneel before the bishop.  It is a powerful picture of people bringing their children to Jesus.  Here the bishop (or in Lutheran case, the pastor) represents Christ.  I find it a much more compelling symbol than our usual practice of the youth coming forward on their own or with a group to kneel at the rail. 

When our youth fall away, it is not simply a failure of the Church and certainly not the failure of the Church to make things fun or exciting or entertaining.  But it is a failure all the way round.  In so many cases, we never took seriously the responsibilities and duties that began at birth, that led to the font, that brought the children weekly to worship, that saw the Sunday school and catechism classes as reinforcements to the parental role at home, and confirmation as the acknowledgement of one step and not a graduation from religious life.  I cannot tell you how many times a parent has come to me in tears as one of their adult children has fallen away from the faith (or from the Lutheran faith).  In many of those cases, the parents failed to bring the child faithfully after baptism and, while church attendance perked up during the catechism years, their children did not learn the weekly habit of the Lord's House on the Lord's Day around the Lord's Word and Table.  The children learned from the parents' example that worship was optional (and prayer) and that church was on the fringes of their lives and not foundational to who they were and are.

I urge parents all the time not to fall into the temptation of thinking intentions substitute for piety, that their children will wake up one morning and want to go to church even though they only went occasionally growing up, or that attending to sports or music or dance or other Sunday diversions does not conflict with their primary purpose and role in bringing their children to Jesus.  If we in the Church preach this and parents hear, I have great confidence that this decline can be reversed.


Anonymous said...

Surprised to see those who experience apoplexy when anything references Rome, in word or image appears, have not already explained the Pope is the Antichrist. They are falling down on their job.


Anonymous said...

There are also parents who sternly insist, under threat of punishment, that their children attend church every Sunday. The day comes when the child is 17 or 18 and it occurs to him or her, "Hey, I don't have to do this anymore and you can't make me." When it becomes a power of wills, the parent is going to lose. To fight it can cause estrangement in the family and the parents will end up concluding that there are other things to argue over, forcing church attendance will only drive the young people away from the church, to another church or more likely, none at all. Have observed this in families and the result may be that future grandchildren will never see the inside of a LCMS church.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

@anon ... oh, no! That's called being a parent. So what's your alternative? Hey, do what you's up to you. Sounds like you are making excuses.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:57 PM
Parents should also not force their children to go to school, brush their teeth, eat their supper, or go to bed before midnight.

Oops, but Scripture itself makes parents force, makes it their upmost duty, to teach their children to learn of Jesus, bring them to His House. This is all of course nothing new. Same issues in Jerusalem and Wittenberg. Old Adam in us is alive and well.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Sadly, many children raised in Christian homes, who once attended worship service, grow into young adults and reject the faith. Some go back later in life. Some never return. Some could care less. It is the way of every generation. It is nothing new. It is evidence that apart from the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, people are spiritually dead. Not that everyone who goes to church is better than anyone who doesn't, but it is a clear indication where one's heart is fixed, on the things of the world, or on the Lord. I know of a minister who raised a son in the church, under the hearing of the Gospel, yet his son grew up, received an advanced education, and declared himself an unapologetic atheist. No Christian parent wants to know their child has rejected the faith and prefers to be an unbeliever, but it happens all the time.

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