Summary: About parent’s role and responsibility in transmitting faith to their children.
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 31, 2011 Proper 13 A
St. Andrew’s Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
One morning a zookeeper discovered that a kangaroo was out of his enclosure and roaming freely in the zoo. Knowing the kangaroos can hop very high, he instructed the zoo workers to construct a ten foot high fence around the kangaroo’s enclosure.
The next morning the zookeeper discovered that the kangaroo had once again gotten out of his enclosure, so this time he instructed the zoo workers to construct a twenty foot high fence. The next morning the kangaroo was once again found wandering around the zoo. This time the fence was extended to 40 feet high.
The camel in the next enclosure asked the kangaroo, “How high do you think they will go?”
“Pretty high,” the kangaroo replied, “unless somebody figures out to close the gate at night.”
[from Tommy Burrus, “Passing the Torch,” sermoncentral.com]
For parents, there comes a time when we have to open the gate for our children. We teach them right and wrong. We teach them about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We help them to understand how to best function in society, and we instill in them ways of thinking and patterns of behavior. After all this, we know that there comes a time when we have to leave the gate open and allow our children to wander out into the world.
Our psalm this morning highlights one of the most crucial aspects of parenting, but first the psalmist declares,
vv. 1-2 Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
The psalmist assumes the role of a teacher. He encourages his hearers to listen attentively; he will now speak to them in parables. As we know from Jesus’ use of parables, they are wise sayings that can sometimes be hard to understand. In Psalm 78, the Psalmist intends to reveal the “mysteries of ancient times.”
v. 3 That which we have heard and known, and what our forefathers have told us, we will not hide from their children.
Ancient Israel was an oral culture. The law of God for the people of Israel and Israel’s history was primarily passed on by word of mouth. Fathers and mothers taught their children, grandparents, if they were around, taught grandchildren.
v. 4 We will recount to generations to come the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, and the wonderful works he has done.
In Old Testament times, there were two ways to know God. First, by observing or learning about divine action:
God created all that is.
God called Israel to be His people.
God acted on their behalf.
Divine action is what the psalmist calls God’s praiseworthy deeds.
In time, God called Moses to be His prophet to Israel and through Moses God taught Israel how to live. The law was God’s gracious gift to Israel. Law is the second way that Israel learned about God.
Law and divine action are both necessary for us to know God and to live in relationship with Him.
Torah, often understood as simply law, has a broader meaning. Torah is story and commandments. It is God revealing Himself and His ways for us.
It is essential that we “recount to generations to come the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, and the wonderful works he has done.”
Recently we have seen that young people are wandering away from the church in unprecedented numbers. For various reasons they leave the church when they are free of parental control. This is a huge problem. Youth don’t know the Christian faith and don’t see its relevance for their lives. A first step is helping youth to see how God is still active in the world.
What has God done in your life?
What has God done in St. Andrew’s, our church and people?
What is God doing in the world today?
Can you communicate solid answers to these questions to your children and grandchildren?
v. 5 He gave his decrees to Jacob and established a law for Israel, which he commanded them to teach to their children;
Decrees, laws and precepts were given by God for the betterment of His people. God commanded that parents teach His ways to their children. One reason for this is given in verse six.
v. 6 That the generations to come might know, and the children yet unborn; that they in their turn might tell it to their children;
This succession of transmission goes from generation to generation, and the purpose of this responsibility in given in verse seven.
v. 7 So that they might put their trust in God, and not forget the deeds of God, but keep his commandments.