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September 17, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

Pentecost 16 - Mark 9

Today our theme for our service focuses on the teaching and training of children. The Education of children is something that virtually all people value.

Martin Luther once said, that there is not greater gift you can give your child than an education.

Socrates, the philosopher from Ancient Greece said that the unexamined life is not worth living. In order for one to consider the value of one’s existence the proper training of the mind is a necessary thing.

Truly education and study and learning are of worth and are of value. It fashions and forms and shapes the minds of our young and provides for them a framework for understanding the world. Training the minds of our youth provides information but also forms habits and behaviors and patterns of thought so that they can be successful in life. An education is of great value.

There is value in training the young that is encouraged, not just in the secular world, but also according to the faith. Scripture teaches parents to teach and to train their children.

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy the Lord commands: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

Solomon wrote: Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians: “Fathers… bring up (your children) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

Clearly training the young is a command given to us by the Lord. So we do. Our congregation, in obedience to our Lord, has made it a value and a priority to fulfill this command to instruct our children in the faith.

We do this every week in our Sunday School program. We have lay people who take their time and put forth effort to instruct our children. They teach them Bible stories and lessons so that they know what the Bible says, so that they can read through the stories or hear them and they can pick out the promises of God that point them to Jesus and his death on the cross and salvation. Our Sunday School teachers perform an important work in the lives and the hearts of our children.

We also train our children in our day school program. This is an important work. We provide faithful Christian instruction that provide a Christian point of view on common academic subjects. This is important. We also teach young minds to understand the world and see the world as a God’s wonderful creation. To view it wide eyes with joy but also with interest and intrigue to be studied and understood. We also train and equip them with the intention that they will be prepared to interact with a faithless and unbelieving world. Do not discount this work. If a child starts in preschool at age 3 and stays here at St Paul up until the 7th grade, by the time she graduates she will have spent just over 10,000 hours in the tutelage and influence of a Christian teacher in a Christian education environment. That is good.

That is good, especially considering the education she will receive when she heads home at night. Now I am not talking about the education from her parents. What I am talking about is the training she received, piped in to her eyes and ears by way of various form of media.

Did you know, that the average child from the ages of 8 to 18 spends about 7 hours per day in front of some sort of an electronic screen. He or she is either on the computer, watching tv or movies, playing some video game, or with an iPod for on average 7 hours per day. If that is the average, over the course of one year that works out to 2,555. In 4 years she will have spent as much time with her flickering lights as she will have spent here at St Paul in class.

Now that is not necessarily bad, right? It all depends on what your child is watching and what media he or she is consuming. 10,000 hours of Sesame Street or the Wiggles isn’t all bad. But then your child starts to grow and mature and moves on to more mature programming. Nickelodian, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and so on and so forth. But then we have to admit and acknowledge that this might not necessarily be a good thing.

You see, in a general way we observe and then lament the direction that media is going. We can see the increasingly rapid pace of its slide into indecency and obscenity. But still, it finds its way into our homes and just as much as Mrs Becker and Mrs Picklesimer and Mrs Dellinger and Mrs Lape and Mrs Vollrath and Mrs Winle teach your children about the world, so does Sponge Bob and HHH or the Osbournes.

There are statistics that are kept for incidences of sex and violence, etc on television. And those who keep track of those thing have documented the rise in depictions of sex and violence in the media. The result is staggering. Did you know that the average tv watching teen, by the time she turns 17 will have consumed almost 60,000 hours of media. Within that 60,000 hours she will have witnessed over 200,000 acts of violence in the media? 200,000? That’s incredible. We see that all the time and we don’t think too much of it. We don’t think it affects us, but it does. We just don’t realize it. It affects our behavior and our thoughts and most importantly in affects our conscience. It affects our ability to understand and distinguish between what is right and what is wrong.

Consider all those violent actions that your son or daughter will see. How much of an affect do you think they will have? “Not very much” we usually say. Think about it like this, Do you remember the first time you saw a murder depicted on screen? What affect did it have? You probably don’t remember, but I bet you were shocked. Shocked to see it. Shocked to see what it would look like if one human being purposefully took the life of another human being. Maybe you were disturbed. Your conscience was injured. You couldn’t believe that something so terrible could actually happen. What happened the second time you saw this? Where you as shocked and disturbed? What about the 3rd time? What about the 100th time? What about the 100,000 time? By the time you have seen this over and over and over again, you don’t even notice it. Your conscience gets calloused to it. You become so accustomed to seeing horrible things that you don’t even realize that they are horrible. If that is true when it comes to violence, it is just as true with sex and with bad language and other sins. The more we see that sin depicted in our media the less we think it is that big a deal.

Over and over again, when I talk with people who have stopped coming to church, they work to convince me that in spite of the fact that they do not come to worship, when it comes to their spiritual life nothing has changed. They still believe, that they are still strong, that they still have faith. Everything is ok. I believe there is a connection here. I believe that Christians living in todays world are susceptible to the opinions and ideas of unbelief because those opinions and ideas are so overwhelmingly present in the fabric of our culture. They are everywhere. And because they are so present and prevalent today’s Christian needs more than anything else training for their conscience. Training that teaches them where to go and what to do to combat this flood of obscenity and violence that is continually attacking them. Believing that we are strong and that we are handling it just fine is not going to suffice.

I believe the man in our Gospel text had it right. His family was attacked by Satan. He saw it and he knew it. Every day he had to pull his son out of the fire, out of the water as this demon tried to destroy him. And this father, rather that just getting used to it and thinking to himself, “well there he goes again” realized that he was fighting a war that was too big for him. So big in fact that he feared it was even too big for Jesus. “If you are able to heal my boy” said the man.

Jesus confronted his fear. Jesus addressed his insecurity. “IF you are able? All things are possible for the one who believes.” The thing that makes us ready and equipped for battle in this unbelieving world is faith. And not mushy general faith in something or worse faith in yourself (we are always hearing that we just have to believe in our selves – that wont ever work) We must believe in, have faith in Jesus. This wise father knew his weakness. He cried out to Jesus, “I believe, Help my unbelief.” This father understood that there is no such thing as a strong Christian. There is only a strong Christ.

You see, true faith and truly strong faith does not mean that you are strong. It does not mean that you know the right words to say or the right rituals to perform. Faith is not magic, it is not manipulative, it is not muscular. It is weak and pathetic. It is fearful and timid. It is sinful and overwhelmed. It is reduced to zero, but faith, true faith that looks only to Jesus finds comfort and joy in one’s own weakness. Because it is in my weakness that I turn only to Jesus. It is in my weakness that I look to stands in the presence of Jesus regularly and often. True faith looks to receive from Jesus as much as he has to give as often as Jesus will give it. Faith depends on Jesus.

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” (Jeremiahs 17:5-6) Self reliance and self strength gets you nowhere.

But-

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiahs 17:7-8)

And so the difference has to do with where you are planted. Are you planted by your 60,000 hours of media? By your 8-10 hours a day of TV and internet and gaming and music? Or are you planted by the streams that God has caused to run through the desert – his life-giving, Spirit-inspired Word?

You have a green sheet of paper in your bulletin. On that sheet you will find a pattern for daily devotions. Invocation, Psalm, Catechism, Scripture, Prayer, Collect, Creed, Benediction. It will take you 30 minutes. Could you perhaps decrease your 8 to 10 hours of daily media consumption to spend 30 minutes with the Lord? Could you spend time in prayer with your savior? Could you take them time for devotions? The Lord will reward that time. The Lord talks about His Spirit that he gives through his Word as a spring of water that flows through the heart of the Christian.

In Revelation 21:6ff Jesus said “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Jesus said to the Woman at the Well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 14:13-14)

We live in a hostile world that tries to take the Word of God away from us, like squeezing water from a sponge. We live in a dry and desert world, whose scorching heat would vaporize the spirit right away from us. But there is a stream. A rushing river that flows with the life giving Spirit of God. And those who are planted beside it, who wash in its water and sink their roots down into it effervescent flow, they grow up to be strong and nourished and they bear fruit and a harvest for the Lord.

The wise father came to Jesus in his weakness and he received the joy of his faith. You too. Come to Jesus. Be where He is. Be planted beside the Scriptures. Let the Word of God flow through you with the Spirit of Life. May that fountain well up in you to bathe you in the grace and glory and the goodness and the love of God.

Amen.

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