Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Gift of the Fourth Commandment

When I taught the commandments last two years, I noticed something that I have never paid much attention to in the past. If you look at Luther's Small Catechism, you will notice that each of the commandments comes with a gift. The fourth commandment states that you should honor your father and your mother. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents or those in authority over us, but honor, serve and obey them, and hold them in love and esteem.

In a previous post, I spoke about the gift of the eighth commandment. The gift of the fourth commandment states that we are all God's representatives. That is a pretty powerful thought. We are representatives of God. The fourth commandment states that we are supposed to honor, serve and obey, and hold those in authority over us in love and esteem. In my classroom, we talk about those in authority including moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, principals, and pastors. However, there is one that has greater authority than all of those people combined - God.

In my classroom, we learn about what it means to be a representative of God. If we are honoring our parents, we are cleaning our rooms and doing our chores. If we are honoring our teachers and principals, we are completing our homework and respecting our school in our words and actions. If we are honoring our pastor, we listen to the sermon and go to Sunday school. That alone seems pretty overwhelming! Yet, the greatest authority we answer to is God. What does it mean to be a representative of God? That is a great responsibility!

Here are a few of God's words on the subject:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

How are you a representative of God in your daily living?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

If the Germans aren't getting off the boat, go fishing!

For the last six months, I have been working on my master's degree in my hometown with a population about 600. After five and a half years in the field of ministry, it was nice to be home with my family for a while. I was able to go back and remember my German heritage. I enjoyed Lenten suppers at my home church, substitute taught at my grade school and my high school, and spent time with my aging grandparents. During this time, my home church was in the process of calling a pastor. My grandfather, who has Alzheimer's and now struggles with daily routine, sat in the church pew and asked, "Does this pastor have an interest in school ministry?" Even in his aging years, Lutheran schools are still important to him.

Lutheran ministry goes back in my family for generations. My great-great-uncle was a pastor in Minnesota. My grandmother was a graduate of River Forest and taught grade school. Both my mom and my aunt are Lutheran school teachers. I have wanted to be a Lutheran school teacher since I was seven years old. However, I must admit that the Lutheran school career that I have is far different from what I may have imagined.

As a girl from a small German Lutheran community, the schools that I taught in were very different from the ones where I taught. I had been teaching for three weeks when one of my second graders came up to me and said, "Miss Engelhard, why does that snake talk?" I was floored. By the time I was in second grade, we had memorized the basic Bible stories. Yet, my students were questioning me about creation. My principal had told me that this school required skills in outreach ministry, and she wasn't sure if I had that gift. Now, I have a bit of a bad habit. When I am told that I am not very good at something, it almost naturally becomes my personal mission to improve in that area. That was how the story began.

To this day, I can no longer count the number of students that have learned about Jesus for the first time in my classroom or in those of the teachers I have worked with. I remember many Friday afternoons working in childcare with a little boy who loved to sing Fishers of Men slightly off-key. There was the fourth grader who constantly questioned how we went to heaven - good works or faith in Christ. The fifth grader who had read her Bible more times than myself. The second grader who could loved all things about Jesus in every aspect of her day at school. The best part - not one of those students was brought up in the Lutheran church.

In Lutheran schools today, we have an opportunity to do something truly great. Students learn about the love of Christ in our classrooms each day. However, it does not stop there. Those students go home each night and share the faith in their homes. That is done in their words and in their actions. Let's take a look at Matthew 4:18-22:

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Here is my question to you for the day: If the Germans aren't getting off the boat, how can you go fishing?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Graduation Day

Last weekend, my family celebrated a special occasion. One of my cousins graduated from high school, and she is headed off my alma mater, Concordia University Wisconsin, in the fall.

Graduation day. It brings so many thoughts to mind. How many of you remember a cardboard hat and paper gown for your preschool graduation? It conjures up images of young children so excited to head off to kindergarten in the fall. If you attend a Lutheran school, I am sure that many of you also had an eighth grade graduation. It was a time to reflect back on eight years of daily instruction in Lutheran schools. Then, there is high school graduation. This one might be a little more momentous. High school pass more quickly. It is only half the time one spends in grade school. Yet, it is filled with anticipation of a bright future. Students head out into the workforce and into colleges.

This time of year often brings plenty of advice for young graduates. As a teacher and a fan of the great Dr. Seuss, I thought I would recommend a few good reads. The first book is a classic gift that was given to me by a dear friend when I graduated from high school. The whimsical humor reminds us of childhood while depicting a world that is ours for the taking.

Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss

Now, let's take a sharp turn from the humorous to the truth found in God's Word. When I graduated from high school, my aunt gave me a first aid kit filled with band-aids, aspirin and the like. However, she also included a daily dose of scripture. She had filled a small bag with Bible verses. While sleep, food, and studying are all necessities of successful college life, one must also remember spiritual care. The following Bible verses were some of the ones included in my kit:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

What advice would you offer to new graduates?