A new school year is upon us. Iíll admit that at first I dreaded it. But once I gathered with the children and teachers and a couple of parents for the first chapel, I was fired up. Itís great to be back in an atmosphere of learning, especially with little ones who eat it all up. From Bible stories to two plus two, they love it. Praise the Lord! May that continue!
Itís also a new year for Sunday School at Zion. The last Sunday of August was Rally Day. Children celebrated with donuts and treats that morning. I pray that our Sunday school will be a blessing to our children, to their families, to the church and to the community as they go forth rejoicing in the God who is active in the lives of His people.
As the year goes on, numbers typically dwindle in Sunday school and Bible study. Isnít that how it goes in many things? We make commitments. We vow to do better. We know the need for the nurture of Godís saving, life-giving Word, yet we neglect it. We reject it. We figure that we know the Gospel. What more could there be?
David begins Psalm 86, ďIncline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.Ē Thatís the cry of the Christian. Thatís the cry of faith. Thatís a cry that craves what the Lord has to give. We are poor and needy, always poor, always needy. Even though we know the Gospel, we need its life-giving nurture daily. How easily we stray from the life God has given us in Baptism. How easily we turn to the wisdom of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh for daily life, rather than to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).
In Christ God has made us new, and makes us new daily. Even though weíre always poor and needy, we also never lack anything in Christ Jesus. He stands with arms outstretched, palms open to you, offering to you all that He won when those same hands were nailed to the cross. Discipline in the Word of Christ trains us in righteousness and fills us with the good things of God in the Gospel of His Son. It equips us for every good thing (2 Timothy 3:17). Yes, that can be done in private, but what a blessing to be able to receive the Word with your pastor, with fellow Christians with whom you are bound together in Christ, members of His body. If youíre not receiving the Word together, are you even receiving it in private?
Our congregation has struggles, significant ones at that. I donít shy away from bringing them up. I would be a foolish and unfaithful pastor to ignore them. We have a tremendous lack of faith among some, a lack of faith in the Lordís provision. We have a tremendous lack of understanding of the need for what the Lord has to give and the value of the ministry of the Word, especially as that ministry takes place here at Zion Lutheran Church and School. Positive thinking and ignoring the problems donít make our situation better. Saying, ďNot me,Ē wonít help either.
We suffer together. We rejoice together. We kneel together at the rail to be bodied and blooded together in Christ. Can we not also submit to the Word of God together, to sit down together and hear the Lord speak His wisdom? Itís contrary to the ways of the world, to our ways. Ministry suffers when we run it our way rather than the Lordís. Many of our congregational leaders arenít in Bible study. What does this say about us? Perhaps itís now showing itself in the state of our church and school. Maybe thatís part of our problemóa resistance to grow, to become mature in the Word of God, to receive the Lordís way. Perhaps, like some Corinthians, we think weíre already fully mature. Think again!
The Lord will show you otherwise. He already is. Heís showing you in your struggles, Zion. Heís giving you the opportunity to see what is dear to you, and to hold it dear once again. Is the ministry of this church and school dear to you? Is His Word dear to you? If not, perhaps He will snatch it all away. Donít put it past Him. The Lord works in mysterious ways. He has a way of giving people what they want, or think they want. And the snatching away may be closer than you think! Right now youíre probably thinking Iím crazy. Nope, just Biblical.
Open your eyes. Open your ears. Let Him open them for you. The Lord is God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness to all who call upon Him. The sign of His favor stands before youóHis Son, arms stretched wide on the cross, blood pouring forth from His wounds, blood that cleanses you of all sin. Christ cannot and will not be taken from you! Repent! Call upon Him. He will answer. God has spoken by His Son. Christ is the answerófor you and for our congregation. Seek Him where He may be found! And pray like David, ďTeach me your way, O Lord,?that I may walk in your truth;?unite my heart to fear your name.Ē Amen.