The Young Need Instruction
September 1, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross
Trinity 12 THE YOUNG NEED INSTRUCTION Proverbs 22:6
Do you realize we are one year away from the fifty-fourth anniversary of Woodstock? We have witnessed such anniversaries before, a kind of pilgrimage of pagans. Thousands of mid-life Boomers bringing along their own curious children to the site of that orgy, so they could pass along their values – such as they were – to the next generation. Today we have a new generation among us. Some attend Christian Day School . For many years now the successive parent generations of Lutherans have wanted to pass on to the young values which are the opposite of what was celebrated at Woodstock. Many are home schooled. Our parish wants to be the village for those children. We love the Good Shepherd’s lambs. We love them all, not just the ones sitting in our sanctuary. We love the lambs in reform schools, in gangs, even the ones we can’t trust. They’re all Jesus’ lambs. As we look at what some of them have done to themselves we sigh with an inexpressible sadness.
We want to place before them all that is good. The classical stories of the ancient world teach character, perseverance, courage, and honesty. The classics of the early modern ages teach similar things, with the added benefit of the happy ending that comes from the Bible. Even the somewhat bolder literature of industrial society, certainly less refined, nevertheless presents us some heroes to admire. And from the filmmakers’ art , let me direct your attention to the Disney cartoon, The Lion King. It isn’t a perfect movie by any means, but it has something very important to teach us. It is about the education of a young lion named Simba. While Simba is a youth he is tempted to waste his life with two characters who glide along irresponsibly. Then he remembers what his father taught him. That’s right – The Lion King is about memory work. What children memorize in the earliest years, they remember when they really need it. Our children aren’t lions. Simba did not know about Jesus, while our children must learn about Him. Even though they may not understand the memory work at their age, they must memorize it now, against the day they can use it as Simba used his.
From the Word of God we learn that the knowledge of the mind, the arts and sciences, the best literature in all languages, knowledge of origins and causes, is more precious than rubies, a better choice than fine gold. As Christians we should always take delight in what leads our children to these things, to appreciate excellence, to sharpen their skills in pursuing it. Along with the mind we need to teach the soul. We cannot be satisfied merely with refinement and productivity. Virtue must be added. How do we educate the soul?
The soul’s education begins at home, long before the first day of school. As soon as a child can talk he should be taught to pray. Prayers must be memorized, Begin with verses that rhyme, because they are easiest to memorize. Very quickly add the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed. Use the same prayers every day. Until the child can recite them without thinking about them he hasn’t really learned them. It’s like driving. You can really do it when you don’t have to think about it. Only then does a child know these things well enough to remember them forty years later. Once the first prayers are mastered, add in the Ten Commandments, and Dr. Luther’s meanings. We might as well consider the meanings as part of the Commandments because they make the Commandments Christian. This also must be done before the child starts school, in fact the age of three years is ideal for starting the Commandments. They can learn them more thoroughly and joyfully than at any other time. Children can master such things, and are happy to achieve them. As soon as children can talk they should sit near the front of the church so they can see what’s going on. Help them to become familiar with the liturgy. I strongly urge home schoolers to encourage children to remember the Creed, the Confession of sins, and many wonderful lyrics from our treasury of hymns. If a four-year-old falls asleep during the sermon, that’s not a problem. He isn’t ready for sermons yet. It is far more important for your child to see you reading the Bible, and having home devotions. Day School and Sunday School cannot work miracles with children who have no religious education at home.
Another part of that instruction is discipline. Folly abides in the heart of a child. The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. The evil within finds a thousand ways to break out – willfulness, ugliness, foolishness - all of which parents must restrain. Those parents who always take their children’s part in disagreements with other people are not doing them any favors. Misbehavior is a serious thing. A generation ago a mob of under-disciplined, overgrown brats were writhing in the mud of Woodstock. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, warns us not to spare the rod. The apple is important, too. Common sense tells us we need both.
Does that sound familiar? That’s right, the Law and the Gospel. God also has a rod and an apple. We learn from Genesis how the rod fell down in Noah’s day, and on Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus says it will be like that when He returns. Lambs and sheep alike must stand before the throne of judgment. In II Kings we read of how God’s chosen people lost everything and went into exile because God will not be mocked. The Lord is a jealous God, jealous for His holiness, jealous for His people, not willing to share His glory with anything else, not with the earth, not with mankind, not with any human leader. He gave us Commandments. His rod is for those who break them.
And we all deserve the rod. So let’s look once more upon the Lamb who felt the rod for all of us. That’s the apple God has for us. The Holy Gospel tells us of His Son. He was made flesh to let the rod come down on Him. That’s why we remember the prayers, the liturgy, the catechism – it all revolves around Jesus. At the middle of it all is His perfect righteousness, His redeeming death, His victorious resurrection. That is why we are here today. How comforting is His Easter greeting – Shalom aleichem, “Peace be with you!” This isn’t the peace which the world gives. This is peace of heart and mind, of body and soul, to which the Lord had every right, but which He gave up so He could give it to us. We want our lambs to taste that apple. May our enterprise here draw them to their Father, to their Savior, to their Church. God opens His arms to embrace these lambs, and He uses us to include them in that unconditional love that blesses the unlovable. AMEN.