Biblical Text: John 17:11-19
Full Sermon Draft
We all start off as parents with great expectations. It doesn’t take long, and the older they get, to see those expectations give way to more realistic definitions. Instead of forming the next president we take on goals like stopping them from doing stupid stuff, or in Chris Rock’s formulation “keep them off the pole”. We might think this is miles away from Jesus especially in that High Priestly Prayer on the night he was betrayed. But I think we’d be wrong. His formation of his spiritual children, those disciples, was over. And given the fact of what Judas and Peter were about to do we might even say it was a failure. Yet what Jesus prays is akin to every Mother’s prayer – “keep them away from the evil one”. It is not a prayer of formation or heroic desire, but of salvation and preservation.
And while that prayer often gets a “not yet” response, as it did with Jesus himself. It ultimately gets a “yes”. He will not lose a single lamb that has been given to him. On that great day, his children will be kept away from the evil one. And this is because Jesus consecrated himself, dedicated himself to the purpose of saving sinners. While formation as solid adults, prayer for their well being, and all the other higher goals of parenting good and proper. The highest truth of the job is to relay that truth – whoever has the son has life, and wherever we are at however stupid, we can have the son. Teach them that truth and the good shepherd will keep them from the evil one.
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This is a great reflection on families, faith and maturity.
…Christ calls us to become like children again. Counterintuitively, part of what this might mean is that there comes a time to get over our mocking, knowing, puncturing phase and learn to be true grown-ups. This is the maturity that once again allows us to proclaim truth in all simplicity, to be like children. To say it another way, true grown-ups can parent.
My students are often Christians who are old enough to mock mercilessly the people that gave of their time sacrificially to disciple them when they were young but who are not yet mature enough to be able to disciple others. I often find them quick-off-the-draw-ready with a forceful and sophisticated critique of most any traditional religious belief or practice.
They can be sadly flummoxed, however, by a simple request to explain what is true. If I wonder, “What are some problems with the doctrine of the atonement?” hands fly up all over the room, but if I straightforwardly ask, “What is the gospel?” the room falls strangely silent, and I find myself staring at rows of students quietly avoiding making eye contact.
To sketch what the gospel is would be to risk a rough draft that someone else would get the joy of critiquing; it would be to express a childlike faith; it would be to do the work of parenting…
Roman Catholic Simcha Fisher with a short list of prayers that should have but failed to be included in the “prayers for all occasions” in the hymnal or prayer book…
Parents’ Morning Blessing
Father of mercies, we ask you to bless these children, which, with some uncharacteristically poor judgement, you have entrusted to our care. Make them strong enough to follow your ways, kind enough to spread your love, and smart enough not to repeat what Daddy said about people with Obama bumper stickers on their cars. Let these children be a beacon in a dark world. Let them be a shining witness for the culture of life. And let somebody come by with another few bushels of hand-me-downs, because the boys all grew out of their pants again last night.
Is that a tithe deductible expense is a common thought expressed in regards to church giving. In that ledger book in our heads we have a category labeled charity. We mentally fulfill or drain this over the week or month, and then whatever is left is given to church. And pastors like me are hopelessly conflicted. In most of our churches the pastor’s compensation is over 50% of the budget. Even if your pastor is a saint, the sermon on giving can seem a little tainted. But it probably falls under the category of ‘things that make you go hmmm…’ that tithe is the one word in this culture that brings out the biblical expert in everyone (just read the comment thread).
Elizabeth Scalia (AKA The Anchoress) takes comfort while watching her kids. For everyone whose seen one stray.
And Elizabeth Drescher looks at the religion of the next generation and sees relevancy not in gadgets but in what the church would call the priesthood of all believers.