Based on: Deuteronomy 11:1-7,16-21
Today we will install two teachers into our Lutheran Elementary School. You know, the Bible really doesn’t say anything specific about running an elementary school, but God does command the entire church in the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and also teaching. This church agrees that it has the responsibility to teach children. Whenever we baptize a child in a worship service the congregation is asked if it will carry out this responsibility to teach the child that was just baptized, and the congregation responds with, "Yes, as God gives me strength."
God certainly gives this responsibility to the church, but God gives this responsibility first and foremost to the parents as we heard in our lesson from Deuteronomy. The Lutheran elementary school is one way that the church can assist parents in their responsibility to teach children what Christ has commanded.
The importance of teaching our children about our faith is explained very clearly in these words from Moses in Deuteronomy Chapter 11. Moses warns the Israelites if they do not continue to remember all things God has done for them, then they will turn away from the Lord and awful things will happen to them as a result. This also applies to us. If we do not pass on the promise of forgiveness because of Jesus Christ, then future generations may not be there in the promised land of heaven with us. On the other hand, Moses tells us if we continue to pass on those truths then future generations will have the benefit of God’s grace.
Deuteronomy Chapter 11 gives us some important information about how to teach children and what to teach children.
First of all you teach children by example. Moses says, "Fix these words of mind in your hearts and minds." God’s word has to be a part of your own life before you can teach it to others. I am not only talking to parents but to every one of you. As Christians and as a part of this congregation you all serve as examples to one another and to the children in this congregation. God tells us to display our faith. Regarding his commands and his promises God says, "Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Make it obvious that you trust in God as your savior.
It is just natural for children to follow the example of their parents or other adults. Have you ever seen a parent do something and the child acting out the very same task whether it is using a hammer and nails, cooking with pots and pans, or whatever the task happens to be. That’s the way God made children. Just consider how you learn best. Do learn better if you read the manual or if someone shows you?
The Lutheran elementary school can be an extension of the Christian example you lead at home. As Christian teachers lead their Christian lives they are spiritual examples in their prayer and study of Scripture.
This example that we as adults set for the children of this congregation is not just once in awhile or a single class in school, but it is constant and ongoing. Just listen again to what God tells us to do through Moses, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie then as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." God is really saying that this is something you should talk about all the time. Keep those reminders constantly before you.
Don’t take these words in a literalistic way. The Pharisees did that and they would actually make little boxes and put little scrolls in them with God’s Word and tie them to their foreheads and to their wrists, but the words never sunk into their hearts. Yet, getting God’s message of forgiveness into the heart is the entire point of these words.
Here again we see that the God who created our minds understands how they work and has told us how to teach children. He tells us to have those constant reminders before us and to talk about God’s promises over and over again. God knew from the beginning what educators have said for centuries, "repetition is the mother of learning.”
In the Lutheran elementary school you can see that repetition and those constant reminders as you look at the walls and see God’s Word represented there. And throughout the day there are prayers and devotions and the study of God’s word.
Yet, as much as the school does to teach God’s Word to the children, the parents have the greater influence. Pastor Marvin Otterstater says, "All the devotional material which is available … cannot … be considered more valuable in the spiritual training of children then the repeated testimony and consistent example of the fathers whose commitment to God and his word is not just lip service, but a sincere and honest way of life."
At this point, perhaps there are ways you are thinking of that you can be a better example keep God’s Word more consistently before you. I am going to be quiet for a few moments and let you think about that.
Now we know how God wants us to teach children, let’s remind ourselves what is that we are to teach them. Let’s pick a few examples from verses one to seven. "Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements … God’s majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt … what he did to the Egyptian army… how the LORD brought lasting ruin on them. "
Moses tells the Israelites that they saw these things that God did for them and their children did not see them. In a way the same is true for us. We have heard God’s promises of forgiveness and salvation and we have studied his word, and now it is our turn to pass those on to the next generation.
One of the things God tells us to teach is, "Love the Lord your God and keep his commands." We want the children to know what is right and wrong. We want to teach them the 10 Commandments and the law of love for God and for neighbor. We want them to know this, first of all, so that they understand that they are sinful human beings who need a Savior. We also want them to know that because God has forgiven them for their sins they can use those commands as guides to help them serve their savior.
The other thing we want to teach the children of this congregation – and this is the greatest thing we can tell anyone – is the wonderful things God has done for us. Just as Moses told the Israelites about what God did for them, we can create a list of what God has done for us.
Jesus is both God and man and he was born in a stable in Bethlehem. He obeyed all of God’s commands for us. He died on the cross in our place. He came back to life. He still rules the world for our good. He promised that we will live a perfect life with him forever.
This is the story of our salvation and forgiveness for not always leading an exemplary life, for not providing the constant reminders of God’s love. It is the story of God taking imperfect and sinful adults and children and making them his own children. This is the story that is taught in Lutheran elementary school.
Parents do have that responsibility to teach their children God’s Word and the elementary school is a way the church can help in that task. Chrysostom, an early leader, commented on how sometimes parents will do everything they can to make sure their child has a good job, but do very little to tell them about God’s Word. He said, instead “let us give them a pattern, making them devote themselves from the earliest age to the reading of the Scriptures… If your child learns to be a lover of wisdom from the beginning of his life., he shall acquire wealth greater than all wealth and a mightier glory…give him the great things, not the little things."
Give them the great things. Whether children go to this Lutheran elementary school or not, give them eternal life through the message that they are God’s dear children through Christ.