17th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 19 – C)
September 11, 2016
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It’s often said that to be successful in life you must never stop learning. We start learning the minute we’re born, and it continues in school, at work, and in our relationships. We learn simple tasks like how to tie our shoes and we learn complex behaviors like how to be a good spouse. If you think learning isn’t important, you’re going to get bad grades, get fired, and have personal or financial struggles. And no matter what you want to learn, you’re going to encounter good and bad teachers. Some you’ll want to emulate, and others, well, they teach things that are best forgotten. When it comes to spiritual matters, matters of faith and God, you’re also being taught every day. But you have to ask and you have to know, who’s the teacher?
When the Israelites were ready to enter the Promised Land, Moses took the opportunity to give them one last sermon. In it, he recounted everything that had happened since they left Egypt and all that God had commanded them to do. Because he understood what waited for them on the far side of the Jordan River, he also took this time to give them some advice. “Take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’” He knew that they would hear from teachers who didn’t have their best interests in mind, that they would be tempted to listen to the whispers and the shouts of the sinful world, so he urges them to listen to God and to hold on tight to what they had learned.
You’re not going to hear from Hittites or Jebusite like the Israelites did, but there are still voices calling to you, trying to teach you something new. The sinful world is the teacher that you and your children hear from the most. Your kids hear it all day at school and on their computers after school. You hear it at work, in the car, on the TV, on the Internet. You’re exposed to false teaching every single day; whether you’re home or not, and whether you’re aware that you’re being taught or not, you are.
Your children are being taught that each of us is descended from some algae in an ancient pond. They’re learning that all that matters is taking care of Number One and that the needs of the individual supersedes the needs of the people. They’re being taught that the relations reserved for married couples are just a fun way to spend an evening. They’re being taught that there aren’t any long-term ramifications for embracing casual physical relationships or for living outside of what God desires for them.
You’re being taught that Christians should neither be seen nor heard. That Christians are backward losers who are out of touch with modern times. That who we are is not determined by our genetics or by God but by how we feel or what we think we feel. Movies, music, newspaper editorials are teaching you that there is no universal right or wrong, but only things that are right or wrong for the individual. So abortion is a woman’s choice and the induced death of someone who is sick is a burden off the family. And to top it off, we’re all teaching ourselves things that are wrong. We are! Think about it. How often do you come to believe something because you think you know best? It might not be vocalized, but our underlying thought is that God can’t mean what He says, so I’ll believe what I think He really says.
These teachers want you to forget everything you’ve learned about God. They want you to forget what you’ve seen Him do in your life and what you’ve heard Him say here in His house. They want you to adjust your thinking, to embrace “new knowledge” that’s better and more informed. They want you to teach your children what they want your kids to know, not what God wants them to know. They don’t want you telling your children anything about God!
And, just in case you don’t know, these teachers and the knowledge they impart to you don’t give blessings or life. They only lead to death. To follow the teachings of the sinful world around us means that we will not grow, not where it’s important anyway. They will never teach you what you really need to know, they’ll never teach you the most important thing you’ll ever learn. They teach Death, that’s what they teach. So stop listening to them. Stop following their example. Turn from them, shut your ears to them, and listen for the voice of the True Teacher.
The Lord says, “Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth.” Gather to hear the words of the Lord for only He teaches what is beneficial. In Psalm 25 David says, “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” The truth is that God alone teaches what gives life and salvation. You won’t live for long by following the sinful voices of this world, maybe 110 years, tops. But God’s teaching gives eternal life. His true teaching gives peace and hope in the midst of despair and hopelessness. His true teaching gives forgiveness and life in the midst of sin and death. Don’t forget what you’ve heard from God because you need it. We all need what He teaches us so that we can grow and learn, to draw closer to Him and to better understand Christ, to live as Christians and to live in His grace.
We teach our children and our grandchildren all sorts of things don’t we? We teach them Algebra, spelling, and study habits. We teach them how to throw a baseball, to hit a perfect jump shot, and to play the trumpet. We teach these things because we think the skills are important for them to succeed in life. And they are important. But now think about the importance of all that I just listed; how do things like school, sports, and band compare to what kids really need to know to succeed in this life and in the next life – faith in Christ? How do they compare to what God tells us to teach to our children and our children’s children? The knowledge that Christ shares with you, the knowledge that was obtained through His very body and blood, given and shed for you on the cross, is the most important thing all people need to hear. God commanded numerous times that the Israelites were to teach their children. He told them to teach their kids at home and on the road, when they got up and when they went to bed. Jesus commanded that children be brought to Him and not hindered in any way.
On this Rally Day, it’s fitting that we talk about teaching our children and ourselves. Only by hearing God’s Word and learning it do we make the knowledge of Christ Jesus our own, that God makes it part of us. This is why you are here today. You know how important it is for children to learn God’s Word. You want them to grow in their faith and their knowledge of Christ’s love for them. God’s Word comes to you here in God’s classroom where we gather just like the ancient church did. In Acts 2 Luke writes, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They gathered to learn and to hear the voice of Christ when so many pagan voices were calling to them. We gather here on Sunday, we attend Bible classes, Sunday school and Confirmation for the same reason. We need to be taught. We need, and our children need, to be taught by God. He doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves though because He gives us these gifts. He teaches us in order that His holy voice would drown out the voices of death that are constantly call to us.
Moses said, “Take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.” In other words, hold on to what you’ve been taught. Hold on to the faith given to you. Hold onto the truth of God’s Word that encourages you, leads you, and forgives you. It’s this last truth of God’s word that you must never forget. You must learn and relearn every day that your sins are forgiven. The world doesn’t want you to know that God loves you. It doesn’t want you to learn that God gave His Son for all your sins and failings. But this is what I want you to know most of all and it’s what God wants you and your children to know. He wants you all to know what it means to be loved and forgiven in Christ. Learn this truth and share it with you children, grandchildren, and whoever you encounter for it is the most important thing that people will ever learn.
The world wants the Church to remain silent because when the Church is silent, Christ is silent, and when Christ is silent, the world can freely teach its lies. But we do all we can to offset the world’s message by sharing the message of Christ. In Matthew 28 Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” So our emphasis in Sunday school this year is sharing Jesus with those who don’t know Him. We’re going to teach people what we know and what we treasure. We’re teaching the Truth that changes people and that affects their eternal life. We have the voice of Christ, the very voice of Salvation, and we’re blessed to share it with others, everywhere we go.
Every day you are being taught something. Sometimes you know you’re being taught, and other times you don’t. Some of what you are taught is important, like job skills. Some of what you are taught is good to know, your child’s fears and dreams. But what you may not realize is that much of what you are taught is downright dangerous. You’re being taught to ignore God, to reject His teaching, to learn and to teach your children what the world wants you to learn and to teach. But in the middle of all these teachers clamoring for your attention, there is one still, small voice that calls to you. It’s the voice of God giving you forgiveness and hope. It’s the voice of God that is for you and your children. It’s the voice of God that teaches you what you need to know above all things, that God loves you. Listen and learn from Him, for He teaches you the Truth, the Truth that is for you, your children, and your children’s children.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen