Faith Formation: It’s No Joke!

One of the greatest commitments of the church is to provide for the formation of faith for our young people. At their Baptisms we promised, along with their parents and sponsors, that we would support and pray for each of the baptized in their “new life in Christ.” (ELW p. 228) Part of praying and supporting our children (and by “our” I mean every child who enters this church) is to share in the responsibilities given to us in the Liturgy of the Holy Sacrament:

  • to live among God’s faithful people (that means coming to church, meeting them here, and being an active part of their lives)
  • bring them to the Word of God and the Holy Supper (as the pastor, this is a major part of what I do – preach, teach, and administer the sacraments – God’s means of grace. But, as our Sunday School teachers, Youth Club teacher, church leaders, and catechism mentors, you also bring them to God’s Word and the table of grace.)
  • teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments (not only what the words say in each of those things, but what each and every word means and how to apply it to our lives)
  • place in their hands the Holy Scriptures (we do not just put a book in their hands and say, “Read it!” But we read it with them, explain it, entertain questions from them, and learn together)
  • nurture them in faith and prayer (which means not just praying FOR them, but praying WITH them, talking about faith and what God is doing in their lives and in ours)

All of this is done so that they may:

  1. learn to trust God
  2. proclaim Jesus through word and action
  3. care for others and the world
  4. work for righteousness and peace

When you think about it, it’s really a tall order! But when we live up to our promises, God works mightily in the hearts and lives of our children! Faith is formed within them at every turn and they become well equipped to live a godly life in the name of Christ. 

Martin Luther wrote copiously about Baptism and in 1523 he put the Order of Baptism into German so parents, sponsors, and the whole congregation would hear and know what they were getting in to as they brought their child (or themselves) to the font. As with other aspects of the faith, Luther was sorely disappointed at the lack of knowledge about Baptism and the lack of respect that people had for it. People were just going through the motions – nothing new under the sun about that, is there? He considered their lackadaisical attitude toward Baptism to be nothing but frivolity. He wanted people to be “stirred to a greater faith” through hearing the Word of God in the liturgy of Baptism, which is why he took great pains to put it into German from the Latin. 

“In all Christian earnestness I would ask all those who administer baptism, who hold the children, or witness it, to take this wonderful work to heart in all its seriousness.”

Luther wanted believers to know, “this is no joke as far as the devil is concerned.” He wanted people to come to the font in all seriousness, in true faith, listening for God’s promises, and earnestly praying for the baptized. To do otherwise, according to the Reformer, would be an insult to God and a mockery for the devil to rejoice in. In this “new birth” through this “holy flood” of water, we are forgiven of sin, granted God’s comfort, and promised eternity and all of God’s gifts. 

Baptism is just the start of the journey of faith. As a community of faith, and as their parents and sponsors, it is our job to ensure that our youngest disciples learn the faith. For them to have any chance of withstanding the wiles of the devil in this world, they need to know all they can know, and trust in the only one we can trust. It is our duty to help them learn more about Christ, be strengthened in the faith, learn to love God and serve their neighbors. 

And this, is no joke!

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Tuesday, April 3

heisrisenRead:
Exodus 17
Psalm 84
Romans 13:1-14

Moses was a leader chosen by God. He didn’t lead of his own accord, but did and said as God told him. The people were difficult: they quarreled, they complained, they wouldn’t listen to Moses. But Moses listened to God and did and said as God told him.

In Romans we learn that God has given authority to those who govern over us and that no one has authority over us except as God gives it. God knows the big picture, we do not.

Do you quarrel and complain about the leaders God has put over you, or do you remember that God is in control? He is the God of peace. He asks us to love our neighbors as ourself. Do you humble yourself and live in peace and love?

April 2, Monday

heisrisenRead:
Exodus 16:17-36
Psalm 83
Romans 12:1-21

Moses instructed the people to gather the amount of manna that they needed, but to not keep any until morning. This seems like a simple instruction. But, some people kept some overnight and it rotted. The day before the Sabbath, they were to gather enough for two days. Again, some didn’t listen and went out on the Sabbath to gather manna, but it wasn’t there.

God gives us clear and simple instructions. Why do we sometimes refuse to listen, wanting to do things our own way? If we listen to our Lord and renew our minds by studying his word, we can discern his will, we can discover what is good and acceptable and perfect in his eye. Are you ready to follow his instructions?

April 1, Easter Sunday

heisrisenRead:
Exodus 15:1-11
Psalm 118
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
John 20:1-18

Are you ready to celebrate the Lord? He asks us to clear out the evil and malice and come to him as unleavened bread. Let us celebrate, not with old yeast.

When Mary discovered that Jesus was not in the tomb, she told the disciples. They discovered that the Lord was not in the tomb. Are you ready to celebrate the Lord? Have you allow Christ to wash away the evil and malice in your heart so that you can come to him as unleavened bread?

Saturday, March 31

threecrossesangledRead:
Exodus 15:22-16:16
Psalm 82
Romans 11:25-36

After all God had done for the people, they still complained. God even provided drinking water, bread and meat in the desert. He only asked that they listen carefully to the voice of the Lord our God, do what is right in his sight, listen and follow his commandments.

When we couldn’t keep all of the commandments he sent Jesus to forgive our sins. Romans tells us that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (they can’t be taken back). God loves us and wants us to listen.

Are you listening? Are you trying to do what is right in God’s sight? Do you go to him and repent when you mess up?

March 30, Good Friday

threecrossesRead:
Isaiah 53
Psalm 22
Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9
John 19:17-30

Did you notice the description of Jesus and his trial, pain and death in the Old Testament? This was written in detail by a prophet of God before Jesus was even born. The prophecy came true, and Jesus was crucified and suffered and died, matching in every detail, the prophecy. In his death, he became not only our King, but also our High Priest.

Can you trust that Jesus died for you? Do you remember that he sits on the throne in heaven and intercedes for you, as a priest would?

Thursday, March 29

threecrosses

Today is Maundy Thursday,
the day of our Lord’s
Last Supper. 

Read:
Exodus 24:3-11
Psalm 116
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Mark 14:12-26

In the Old Testament, after receiving the commandments from God, Moses took the blood from the sacrifice and dashed half against the altar and left half in the basins.

In the New Testament, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, blessing the bread and breaking it, saying that this was his body broken for them. Then, after blessing the wine, they all drank from the cup which Jesus said was the blood of the covenant poured out for all who believe. Christ mentions that he will never again drink from the vine until he shares it with us in the new kingdom of God.

Read from Luther’s Small Catechism to understand what Holy Communion is all about:

The Definition & Command of Communion
What is Holy Communion?
Communion is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and drink, as it was instituted by Christ himself.

Where is this written?
Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul say:
In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying: “Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

 

The Promise of Communion
What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?
It is pointed out in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Through these words the forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the Sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation.

The Means of Communion
How can bodily eating and drinking produce such great benefits?
It is not the eating and drinking alone, but also the words that accompany it, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

These words, together with the eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the Sacrament, and those who believe them have what they say and declare, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

 

Preparation for Communion
When is a person worthy to receive the Sacrament?

Fasting and other outward disciplines are indeed good preparation, but people are truly worthy and well prepared who believe these words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
But those who do not believe these words or who doubt them are unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require truly believing hearts.