Monday, October 7, 2013

Passing On the Faith

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.

A number of years ago, I stumbled on a recording of me singing that song when I was just a little tyke.  I might have been three or four years old; I don’t know for sure, but I do know that someone taught me that song.  Someone helped me learn those precious words that even now are burned into my heart, and I need absolutely no music to sing them by.  Just like another song learned long ago.

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Again, as I sing that song, my mind takes me back in time to sitting in the old parsonage in my home congregation.  Our Sunday School group met in what once was the living room, and Mrs. Kepler would lead our opening singing and playing the piano.  Actually, I was a little afraid of Mrs. Kepler.  She was an imposing figure, and when I was little, this intimidated me.  But as I grew, those fears abated, and now I realize those songs of faith that still reside within me because she was willing to play and sing with us little kids: This Little Light of Mine, Kumbaya, If I Were a Butterfly, and others.’

If I were a butterfly, I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings.
And if I were a robin in a tree, I’d thank you Lord that I could sing.
And if I were a fish in the sea, I’d wiggle my tail and I’d giggle with glee
But I just thank you Father for making me, me.
For you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile.
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child.
And I just thank you Father for making me, me.

And I remember growing in faith through Vacation Bible School.  In those days, you didn’t have fancy snacks or anything.  We got one cookie and a little cup of Kool Aid, and we thought we were doing great.  We’d play games outside, and do arts and crafts, but eternally burned into my memory was the march.  At a certain time during the morning, the previously mentioned Mrs. Kepler would head to the piano.  We children were given little drums, bells, triangles, and sticks.  Mrs. Kepler would strike up “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and we would march around the building, making as much noise as we possibly could.  I think this is one of those reasons I still love that hymn even if at the time I could not possibly have remembered the lyrics.

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war.
With the cross of Jesus, going on before.
Christ the royal Master, leads against the foe.
Forward into battle, see his banners go.
Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war.
With the cross of Jesus, going on before.

And as I grew there were other people who influenced my life of faith–who taught me about the greatness of God and depending only on Him.  There was the day my grandfather was meeting with an extension agent about spraying his cotton for an infestation.  They debated about when to spray.  Grandpa figured it was going to rain soon, and if they sprayed and it rained, it would wash the poison off, and his crop would be decimated.  If he delayed too long, the insects would destroy the crop.  It was a troubling situation.  The agent finally looked and grandpa and said, “Do you have crop insurance?”

    Grandpa, without a moment’s hesitation said, “No.  If the Good Lord wants me to have a crop, I will have a crop!”

    That was the final answer, and the extension agent simply looked dumbfounded.  And then and there, a young teen saw what true conviction really was.

    I also saw that conviction in what for me was a very scary moment.  We were painting the exterior of our house, and my dad had climbed a ladder to paint around where the electrical wires entered the house.  He proceeded to scare the living daylights out of me by telling me the danger he could face if he slipped and accidentally touched the wires.  Of course, I was in no mood to hear such talk.  I didn’t even want to consider the possibility of my dad dying.  But dad talked about it with such a matter of factness.  There was no evading the conversation.

    And as dad stood atop that ladder, painting around the electrical wires, talking about death, he said, “Kevin, that is one song I want sung at my funeral.  “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.”  I know dad said some more after that, but I don’t remember those words.  Those have long sense gone away, but the assurance my dad had with his faith remains to this day. 

What a friend we have in Jesus.  All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.

    As you can probably see, my faith formation took place over many years and was influenced by many people.  It continues to be formed and molded to this day and influenced by others.  While the Holy Spirit indeed brings us to faith, we are instructed in that faith in our relationships with one another.  St. Paul illustrates this beautifully in our second lesson this morning from 2 Timothy: 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline 8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.

    Timothy had a long history of faithful relatives: his grandmother and his mother.  Paul appeals to that history as he seeks to strengthen Timothy in his own faith as Timothy becomes a follower and proclaimer of Jesus Christ.

    Today, we as a congregation, celebrate the installation of our own youth and family director: Christa Klar.  She comes to help us do what Paul is doing to Timothy.  She comes to help us do what my relatives and church members did to me.  She comes to help us pass down our faith to another generation so that they may reach out with the good news of Jesus Christ.  She comes to help us rekindle the gift of God that is within each and every one of you.

    May God grant her grace and strength in this task, and may God grant the rest of us courage and a willingness to have our faith rekindled that we may gladly work in this endeavor as well.  Amen.

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