Rev Jim Splitt
Sept. 12, 1999
Matthew 19:13-14 Jude 20-21 Deuteronomy 11:18-21
Matt. 19:13-14 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Jude 20-21 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in Godís love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Deut. 11:18-21 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them 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 doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
I have a great deal of respect for my parents who taught me at an early age that Sunday school was important. From as early as I can remember, and all the way through High School, I went to Sunday school. Even when I attended college, away from home, I continued to participate in Sunday school. My parents believed they had a moral and spiritual obligation to raise me to know Christ, understand the Bible, and learn what it meant to be a Christian. They also led the way in showing me that church was a fun place to be, where our friends were, and how the church is to be a central and important part of our lives.
I wonder what my life would be like if I never went to Sunday school or if my parents didnít care about my spiritual growth and development. I always felt that they made church life the highest priority in our family life. It was the one time that we always did something together as a family. This morning as we recognize our Sunday school teachers and affirm their ministry in this church, I want to point out some of the reasons why Sunday school is important. There are many reasons, but there are a few I want to highlight this morning.
What we study in Sunday school is a preparation for life. Sunday school is the place where we learn what God wants us to learn. Sunday school is for everyone for a lifetime.
SUNDAY SCHOOL IS A PREPARATION FOR LIFE
Read the letter of Jude! It is a short letter and can be read in a few minutes. The point of the letter is real clear. There are those who want to teach us false doctrine. There are those who want to corrupt us with teaching that will undermine our values. So Jude says: BUILD UP YOURSELF IN YOUR MOST HOLY FAITH. Faith is the ally of the soul against sin. Sunday school is the academy of faith. It is the place where we learn to trust in Godís love over all. Jude warns against certain teachers who destroy faith and promote self-serving values, greed, and perversions. Christian education is our only defense against such practice. That is why Sunday school is a preparation for life. This is the arena for teaching values to children that they can apply to healthy living, honesty, care for others, and justice.
In my confirmation class, I try to teach a few simple, yet important values, that we are to love one another, that God has created us holy, and that Jesus cares for us. Children in Junior High are faced with the peer group challenge of teasing and berating one another. This is picked up in elementary school and is in full swing by the time children get to Junior High. With the pressures of status, popularity, and changing hormones our children look for those with a weakness to exploit. Over and over again, I try to re-teach children to respect one another against the tide of their experience that tells them just the opposite. This is just one real way our children are exposed to teachings that will ruin them for life. Love your neighbor is a hard concept for Junior High youth to embrace and accept. Some do and they find a valuable lesson that will serve them forever. Faith is the power of the soul to trust Godís teaching rather than that of Satan. Satan enjoys it when our children pick on one another and make fun, tell lies, cheat, and bully others.
Judeís instruction was to keep us in the love of God. We prepare ourselves for life when we get it in our minds and hearts that God loves all of us. We miss the point if we thing Godís love is selective. How we treat others, how we express ourselves in marriage, how we conduct ourselves in the work place all depends on whether we learn to keep ourselves in the love of God. The secret of all blessedness to live in the love of God. It is the business of Sunday school to teach this value at every level of Christian education.
SUNDAY SCHOOL IS THE PLACE WHERE WE LEARN WHAT GOD WANTS US TO LEARN. Thereís an Old Testament instruction that puts all this in perspective. It comes from the book of Deuteronomy. We are to: Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Godís word is the only word we are to pay attention to. Godís word is to lead us, guide us and inspire us. We are to keep Godís word fixed upon our minds and upon our hearts. Godís instruction is the curriculum of our Sunday school. The textbook for all our classes is the Bible. There should be something in each of our homes that remind us of Godís word. The Deuteronomic lesson is that we are to have lots and lots of reminders all around us and in our homes that keep Godís word the only word that we are to obey and follow. I went around our house and counted how many Biblical expressions we have on the wall or on a desk. I counted 42 items from scriptural sayings to praying hands and Noahís ark. This doesnít include lots of mugs and bells that have religious messages. Godís word is around the doorpost of our home. It is important and it is a reminder to us that Godís Word comes first. I learned as a child Christian education and Sunday School begins at home with parents who set the standard and keep it foremost in the mind of a child. One of my favorite religious wall hangings in my room as a child was a cross that glowed in the night and reminded me to pray. It was something I got at Sunday school.
The message of Deuteronomy is based upon the same thought as that of Jude. We build our faith, keep ourselves in the love of God, and remind ourselves of Godís word so that we obtain long life, eternal life, and the salvation of our souls. What we learn in Sunday school lasts forever.
SUNDAY SCHOOL IS FOR EVERYONE FOR A LIFETIME.
If youíve been around Sunday school and church for any amount of time, you have learned the verse that comes from our Gospel lesson. I learned it this way: "Suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven." You will read the NRSV version as the meditation for today in the bulletin. Jesus invites us as children to come to him and the invitation never ends. Jesus reaches out to the children, but he also reaches out to the beggar, the blind, the poor, the lonely, the elderly, the rich, and the powerful. Jesus teaches everyone. Our Sunday school follows the example of Christ. Is there anyone here today who feels they donít need to sit at the feet of Jesus? Has anyone here out grown their need for the love of Christ and the message that Jesus has for us?
How we are filled with excuses. We can find all kinds of excuses not to be a part of Sunday school. Two weeks ago when 10 members of our church attended the New Perspectives In Stewardship workshop, I was in one of the small group discussions in which a woman shared how difficult it is for her family to set priorities around Sunday worship and Sunday School. This woman was the confirmation class teacher. Her own son was a member of the class. He played on a soccer team, which practiced on Sunday morning at the same time as the class. They have boldly told the coach that they go to church as a family every Sunday and that he will be late to practice after church, not during. The consequence is that their son had to sit out for the entire season, not being permitted to play except in the very last half of their last game. While this example seems extreme it is not hard to imagine.
Going to church is sacred, it is a special time despite the fact that it cuts in on soccer or other conflicts in our life. Thatís a difficult decision for families today, juggling priorities that conflict with Christian education. What values do we need to address as families as we face these situations?
When we read this story about Jesus welcoming the children, we have to remember one very important aspect of this story. Jesus does instruct the disciples to let the children come to him, and Jesus does bless them. But more importantly, we need to remember the very first part of this story. Read and re-read the part of the story that says: "They brought their children to Jesus. They brought their children to Jesus so that He might bless them. They brought their children to Jesus. Sunday school doesnít happen unless you bring your children so that they may be blessed in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we need to remember that we are all Godís children. Sunday school is for the children of God. Not only do we bring our children, but we too come so that we can be blessed for a life time Ö for such is the kingdom of heaven.
Each of our scripture texts this morning affirms why we are to go to Sunday school While they come from different parts of the Bible, they have a common message. They are instructional texts, teaching us to grow in faith, learn about faith, and practice our faith. God wants us to receive the blessing of eternal life. So why is Sunday school important? It is a preparation for life, it is the place where we learn what God wants us to learn, and it is for everyone for a lifetime. AMEN!