The Importance of Passing on the Faith

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

 

4: 1 “So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you. 3You have seen for yourselves what the Lord did with regard to the Baal of Peor—how the Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4while those of you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today. 5See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. 6You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” 7For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? 8And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today? 9But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children—”  (Deuteronomy 4:1-9, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: Holy God, you know the thoughts of our minds and all the works of our hands. Teach us both to honor you with our lips and to worship you in our hearts, so that we may live according to your Word; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

A young girl on the way home from Church one Sunday told her mother she was confused.  She said, “Mom the preacher said that God is bigger than all of us. Is that true?”  “Yes,” the mother stated.  Then the young girl said, “Well then the preacher said that God lives within us. Is that true?” The mother began to look puzzled but said, “Yes.” Then the young girl asked, “Well if God is bigger than us and lives in us then wouldn’t God show through?” The mother then said, “Well, yes, darling, God does show through in us.”[1]

 

It is cute stories like this that should send fear down the spine of every parent of young children, especially youngsters who like to ask questions.  It is cute stories like this underline the importance of Christian Education, Sunday school and Worship but being able to answer your children’s questions is not the only reason for Christian Education.

 

In every type of Education the purpose and goal are the same, the teachers want to impart a certain amount of knowledge on the subject.  It is the exceptional teachers who can share their passion of the subject matter and the learning process who become inspirations.  It is not enough to them for the students to simply pass the test and make a good grade it is their passion for the student to incorporate the information into their lives and their living.

 

If we had to take an Algebra quiz this morning, I don’t think many of us would do very well.  So, take out a piece of paper and a number 2 pencil (some of the most dreaded words a student can hear) and solve the following math problem:

If X=7+Y and 4X=6-2Y, what is the value of X?[2]

 

Unless you are a math major, a math teacher, a current student or an engineer or accountant I imagine that you are like me and you don’t have a clue for the value of X or how to go about finding it.  Your first thought might have been, “Now that is a really good question.” Of “I am so glad I don’t have to take any more of those tests!” Or “Gosh, I can’t remember much more than adding and subtracting.”

 

What if we took a test on biblical knowledge? Would we do any better?

  1. In which of the Gospels are the beatitudes found? (Matthew and Mark)
  2. Who wrestled with an angel at Jabbok? (Jacob)[3]

 

For me it has become clear that the value of Christian Education is not so much to teach nice biblical trivia or even religious history.  No, instead, I believe the importance of Christian Education is to provide one another with the tools to have faith in something larger than ourselves, a lasting relationship with the living God. It is not so important to be able to find Nazareth on a map as it is to have a place to turn when life gets difficult.

 

There are many ways to read and to study the bible, and even more ways to interpret what the bible means. We can use the Bible to support our own thoughts and beliefs, we can use the Bible as road map to Heaven, or as an action plan for how to live life, or as a fear filled book to scare one another to death.  No matter how we view the Bible or how we interpret its meanings the Bible is really important to us as Christians, because it tells us something about this God who created each of us and all that is.

 

Whether we see the Bible as the single source of truth or if we see the Bible more as a jumping off point to find the truth beyond the text the Bible tells us something about God.  And I believe that is the key for life: that each of us would have a foundation to have a relationship with God.

 

Let me give an example, I know a couple who first child died when she was very young.  The father had a very strong faith and so did the mother but she also knew the Bible backwards and forwards and what seemed to be a strong faith at the time.  In the years since their child’s death the husband has grown closer to God and found great solace from his supportive church community and his relationship with God in spite of their daughter’s death.  While the wife who knew chapter and verse of the Bible has grown bitter and faithless because she found no answers or peace from her faith.  They have since gone through a very painful divorce and she is a mere shell of her former self.  I don’t tell you this because having a spectacular Christian Education experience will not make your life better because it will not!  But having a good Christian Education foundation as a basis in our lives will enable you and me to have something to hold on to when times get tough and life makes no sense.

 

In one of my former congregation’s there was a woman who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  As she began her treatments should would often talk to me about them and how they were going. She said over and over that during her chemo treatments she would recite various verses of Scripture and her favorite hymns, She said, “today I got through the valley of the shadow of death”[4] or “today I got through And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own;”[5]

 

She said when you are in the depths, you can recall verses like, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”[6] Or “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”[7] When you need encouragement or comfort or peace, the tools of Christian Education will take you to the Bible, the Hymn book, the Prayer book and deep inside your soul for that peace which surpasses all understanding.

 

That is why I believe our mission as a church, and mine as your pastor and Heather’s as your priest and ours as a congregation is to give one another the tools to build your faith, to have a relationship with the living and loving God and that will be one more way to live a fuller and more contented and more faithful life.

 

If we are about anything here, at The Indian Hill Church, it seems to me that this is the business of congregations and people of faith, or at least it should be: we should be giving each other the tools to explore who God is and how we can have a lasting relationship with God.  Giving Christian Education, Middle School Group, Confirmation, Youth Group, Women’s Bible Study, Men’s Fellowship, Adult Forum and Worship a purpose, a reason for being, a soul!  And along the way you may be able to answer some biblical trivia question to win big money on Jeopardy some day because you know what chapter in Ezekiel it says this or that or where the city of Nazareth is on a map, well that is just icing on the cake.  In the end if all you learn from us are some random biblical stories and trivial facts and you don’t have the tools to explore your faith then we have failed you.  If you learn nothing from coming to Worship, or Sunday school or Confirmation or Youth Group or Bible Study but that God loves you then it is a success!

 

Our calling as a church, as preachers, teachers, no better yet our work as Christians is this: to help one another to love God: to help one another to have a lasting relationship with God. To find the tools to explore who God is and what life is all about. To support one another when life gets difficult and to celebrate when life is good. To love God enough that it will transform your life and give you’re a soul.

 

Let us pray: God, help us to look for your presence in our lives today, and remember the promises that you give us, your children, in Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[1] Marj Carpenter, Presbyterian Outlook, August 31, 2015 Page 9.

[2] John Lambert, Chairman English Department. The Value of X, Chapel Talk to the Cum Laude Society, November 12, 1995 at the McCallie School, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

[3] PCUSA Bible Content Exam.

[4] Psalm 23:4King James Version (KJV)

[5] “He Walks With Me (In The Garden)”

[6] Psalm 23:4 and 5, King James Version (KJV)

[7] Isaiah 40:31, King James Version (KJV)

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