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Sermon for May 9, 2010

Acts 16:9-15 (6th Sunday of Easter—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

May 9, 2010

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Reading from Acts 16:

 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

             A blessed Mother’s Day to all of you mothers!  Today we thank God especially for you. 

Dr. Joyce Brothers gives a few pointers on “What kids really need from mom.” 

  1. Train their hearts.  Moms need to demonstrate that treating people well—with kindness and courtesy—is just as important as succeeding in school and sports;
  2. Boo less, cheer more.  We all know that praise can do wonders for people.
  3. Talk “taboo.”  We live in a dangerous world where kids are exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex at ever younger ages.  Children who have honest discussions with their parents are less likely to use drugs and alcohol;
  4. Let limits grow as children do. 
  5. Show the way.  Kids need a moral compass.  That means instilling in them a sense of right and wrong not only about the big issues, but also day-to-day matters;
  6. Enjoy them.  Children crave a good time with Mom.

I think that there is some pretty good advice in these six points.  But something of the utmost importance is missing.  Do you know what it is?  The missing link is God’s Word that teaches children about the Savior, Jesus Christ.  If Christian mothers (and fathers) do not bring God’s Word into the home, how will the children grow in their baptismal faith? 

“Oh, well that’s an easy problem to solve, Pastor.  We’ll bring them to you and the Church.  After all, isn’t it the Church’s job to teach children about Jesus?  That’s why we have Sunday School.  That’s why you teach Confirmation classes.  You and the church teach our children about Jesus for us.  That’s one less thing parents have to worry about.”

How spiritually shallow and insensitive to the needs of our children can we be!  Is it simply a parent’s responsibility to feed and clothe a child, make sure it stays healthy, then send it off to school to learn the things of the world and off to Church to learn the things of God?  Is not a parent’s responsibility and joy to raise their child with love and nurture, they themselves teaching the child about the things of God and the things of this world?  Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Who has the primary responsibility for this training?  Is it not mom and dad?  God tells us in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers (and by implication, also mothers), do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Too often in our sin-warped world parents, including Christian parents, are giving up their God-given responsibilities over to others—schools, churches, coaches, or children’s peers.  These things ought not be so among you. (Mark 10:43)

      Today we have a model for Christian mothers and fathers to follow.  Today we also have the power and the ability to more faithfully follow God’s role for Christian parents in bringing God’s Word to our children in our homes.  Our model is Lydia and our power is God the Holy Spirit working through His precious Word.

      Lydia was from the city of Thyatira in present-day western Turkey.  She was now living in the city of Philippi, where the apostle Paul came on his missionary journey.  Since there were not enough men to start a synagogue (you needed 10), the Jews met outside the town on the banks of the river for regular prayer on the Sabbath day.  Lydia was a Gentile convert to Judaism.  She believed that Yahweh, the Triune God of Israel, was the one true God.  Yet, she had not yet heard that the promised Messiah-Savior had come in the person of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus, until that wonderful day when Paul and his companions arrived to share the Good News of Christ. 

      Now Lydia was a businesswoman and apparently a mom because Luke mentions her “household,” which included children and even servants.  Lydia was a seller of purple goods.  Purple goods of all kinds were in high demand.  The rich wore purple, as it was very expensive to have the cloth dyed.  Prominent ladies loved the royal color; rugs and tapestries contained much rich purple.  It was used by officials for state robes and by emperors for their courts.  This was Lydia’s business.  But as busy as she would have been, she still made time for regular worship “down by the riverside.”  She understood the importance of coming together with fellow believers to receive and to give encouragement. 

      And the encouragement she received in this particular day was truly God’s miracle of saving faith.  “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”  Because God the Holy Spirit opened her heart to hear the message of the Gospel, He created saving faith in her heart.  She believed what Paul said about Jesus being the only one in the world who can save us from going to hell because of our sins.  She didn’t object when Paul must have pointed out her sin as he did with all his audiences.  She didn’t protest and claim that she was a decent person.  Lydia was aware of her sins and she came to know by the Spirit’s power through the Gospel message that she needed to be covered in the cleansing blood of Jesus shed on the cross for her. 

      Now Lydia’s gift of faith didn’t sit on her heart like foam on a beer, to put it as Martin Luther once did.  Her saving faith was living and active, just like ours.  She went home and told her “household,” her children, her family, about Jesus.  And they too, along with her, were baptized, having received the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel now shared by Lydia!

      Notice that Lydia didn’t wait to drag the kids to Church and Sunday School the next week.  She brought God’s Word of salvation in Jesus home with her and shared it right away.  God’s grace in Jesus is something her children needed to hear, first and foremost, from her.  If this saving faith is of that much importance to mom (and to dad), will it not be so to the children who want to be a part of the things that mom and dad hold as important?  Who better to teach and share Jesus with our children than we adults, than we parents, who have been baptized and taught the Christian faith according to our Lord’s command in Matthew 28?  “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” 

      One of the reasons Luther wrote The Small Catechism was to give a tool to parents to share the Christian faith with their children.  At the beginning of each of the Six Chief Parts, it says, “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.”  The sharing and teaching of Christ begins in the home.  The Pastor and the Congregation form the support and the encouragement to Christian parents to take home what the Lord gives in Word and Sacrament on a Sunday morning.  Here Christ forgives your sins and gives you life and salvation through His Gospel Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  Here Christ strengthens your faith and equips you for a life of service in His name through His Word.  Here Christ sends you back to your homes filled with His Word and Spirit to share with your children and family the Good News of our Savior. 

      Use the Order of Family Worship in the beginning of Portals of Prayer with your family.  Talk with your children throughout the week about what they learned in Sunday School.  Use the thoughts provided for you in the worship folder and in the lesson sheets they bring home.  Pray regularly with your children.  Read them Bible stories, or have them read to you.  Remind them often of their baptism into Christ.  Celebrate their baptismal birthday each year.  If you don’t have a baptismal candle, let me know and we will get you one to make the day even more special. 

      Maybe it was not the Lord’s will that you have children of your own or maybe your children are now grown and out of the house.  If you are a grandparent, you can share Jesus with your grandchildren by reading them a Bible story or simply praying when you go out to lunch.  If you are an aunt or uncle, you can share your faith with your niece and nephew.  Ask them what they learned in Sunday School.  If they don’t have a Sunday School or church home, invite them to come with you one Sunday and then take them out to lunch afterward. 

      There are so many ways that the Holy Spirit enables us to share our faith in the home as moms, dads, grandparents, relatives, and friends of our children.  We have the blessed example of Lydia—a working mom—who shared the most important gift of Christ with her household.  You and I have received the gift of faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Our sins and failures to faithfully bring Christ and His Word regularly into our homes are all forgiven.  We are renewed by the Spirit so that we are able more faithfully to share Jesus with our households as we give our children God’s Word. 

So what do kids really need from Mom?  Jesus Christ is what kids really need—from mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, aunt and uncle.  Jesus Christ is what kids really need in their Christian home.  And both children and parents need to be supported and nurtured in their faith by the pastor and the congregation through the Word and Sacraments of Christ—in worship, in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and just getting together as Christians to have a good time.  That’s what kids need, and that’s what Jesus provides through His Word, first at home, and also here in His holy house.  Amen.

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