Today as a church family we celebrate all things education! We celebrate the passing down of truth from one generation to the other. We celebrate the custodians of this truth in our community. Whether science, theology or philosophy or math...it is TRUTH and graduation means somebody passed a body of knowledge down to another. I stand here as one who has received much TRUTH and GRACE from this church family.
If my sermon has an illustration then it is the image and ritual we witnessed here last sunday. Last Sunday at the 9:30 service, we witnessed as a family, the confirmation of 6 young people. That ritual is the “show...of which I tell” this morning. In that service the confirmands each knelt down here and their family, teachers and pastors laid hands on their heads and prayed for them. That image of them on the kneelers with the hands laid on them and the Holy Spirit descending on them will forever stay with me. Because it represented the community that was responsible for handing down the faith that was being confirmed.
These young people had spent a year learning and asking adult questions about God, their church traditions and most importantly their faith and relationship with God.
This is the same faith that their parents committed them to when they were babies. Last Sunday they said, in the presence of God and full of the Holy Spirit, that they embraced this faith as their own. God is no longer just the God of their fathers and mothers but theirs. In every life where the Spirit of the risen Christ is at work, there does or should come a day when this claim, this transition is made.
For me, this is the essence of education. This is the goal of Christian education: when God is no longer the God of my fathers but my God. At the resurrection, when Jesus encounters Mary Magdalene at the tomb...He said to her “Go and tell my brothers that I am going back to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
Moses, in our text had such a day in the wilderness while going about his ordinary day and routine. God encountered him and introduced himself as “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. That whole chapter is teeming with repetitions about who God is...God’s identity, how God is to be known in the new generation. In Moses generation; In the generation that was not Abraham’s nor Isaac’s nor Jacob’s. The generation that had lived for so long in bondage and had no official custodians of the covenant.
God introduced himself to Moses so he could know and have a relationship with him like his forefathers did. This happened just before God sent Moses on the mission of his destiny, because there is no destiny is completely fulfilled outside of a relationship with God
God introduced Himself to Moses as the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (his fathers). This legacy of covenant and faith in God was possible because Abraham taught his son Isaac who taught his son Jacob.etc. This teaching was not just with words. It came through experience and just simply sharing the same space. Can you imagine what it meant to be Abraham’s child...and to come along on the adventures God called him? What impression must that have made on Isaac about who God is, and what it means to be in relationship with him? This chain of succession now officially included Moses.
Well we too have a covenant! The new covenant forged in the blood of Jesus which confirms us as children born of God and not just of our earthly parents. We proclaim here every Sunday that we belong to God by creation and redemption.
Now, who are the custodians of this new covenant of God? Who has been assigned in our generation to pass on the legacy of faith in and relationship with God? Just as the patriarchs in the Old Testament were assigned to pass on the legacy of faith in God through the generations. It’s easy to point to the clergy or Christian education staff and stop there.
Today we celebrate the all "keepers" of this legacy of faith and relationship with God ie. the educators in our church family. Whether formal or informal, these men and women work with words, with time and creativity to initiate our relationship with God. Apart from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose names God mentions, there were others who fought to preserve and transmit the legacy of faith to Moses.
Think of Jochebed, Moses’ mother who fought the instinct of fear to save this child...the lengths she had to go to keep the sounds of his cries hidden for 3 months until she no longer could; think of the impression this must have made on Miriam. This is the same Miriam who bravely kept watch over her baby brother’s make-shift basket and then facilitated the return of the child to its mother. The mother who would teach Moses of the relationship of their community with God and start laying the seeds of their freedom. All of these events in Moses life was confirmed in the wilderness when God appeared to him.
The same is true for us in this generation. Not in an order of importance, there are our grandparents who continually pray for us. There are our parents and Sunday school teachers who read picture books aloud to us; who teach us scriptures we might not necessarily understand, we watch these adults also struggle in their faith; we see God answer prayers in their lives; and like the confirmands, they have countless discussions with us about who God is.
Then they (trustingly) send us off with armed with curiosity knowing that the God of our fathers and mothers will definitely encounter us in our own spaces. In all of these activities in and out of the classroom, the knowledge of the new covenant of relationship with God is passed on.
I had one such teacher in sixth grade back home in Ghana. His name was Mr Titus Addico. I remember him now fondly but then not so fondly. He would have us learn and recite the psalms. . .whole psalms. Psalm 27, Psalm 121, Psalm 125 and we got caned back then if our recitation did not satisfy him. Why we needed this I do not know…(that is what I thought then!) Well in my adult years now, my sister and I have made attempts to find him. Just so I can say thank you for that exposure.
Because the Holy Spirit has repeatedly caused the life in those psalms already memorized and stored to come alive to me in some very difficult times. But is that not always the case, we wonder why our teachers bother us with vowels, and phonics and sounding out words. But later when with these same skills we are able to get lost in books … have enjoyable experiences, we rarely think of Ms Amy, or Mr John who labored with us.
The men and women we celebrate today are doing the same now. Teaching us the basic principles, the building blocks with are the stories in the bible. Jesus our Christ says that these seemingly simple stories are full of spirit and life!
And one day just as God encountered Moses and confirmed his faith...the faith of his fathers and mother...God encounters us too. But someone has to tell us the stories!
Regarding that someone, Paul says in Romans 10 and I end with this. “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
Parents and teachers in this room here today, you do have beautiful feet indeed! Amen