Summary: A look at the importance of one generation passing the faith on the next.
Raising the Future
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: I want you to look around the room today. What do you see? Did you notice how unusual this group is. I didn’t say odd! While that might be true (particularly of certain pews toward the back), that’s not what we’re talking about today. Look at all the different people. Folk in this room come from many walks of life, different backgrounds, and a countless variety of religious upbringings.
You can also see a cross section of ages. On any given Sunday, this room contains three or four different generations. Sometimes five! All in the same place! All focused on the same thing. That’s what is unusual about church. At least this church! There are not a lot of places in society where you can find that kind of mixture. Not any more!
Once upon a time, generations of families grew up in the same neighborhood. A young married couple might set up house-keeping down the road or next door. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, and in-laws and outlaws might all be involved in raising the next generation. That still sometimes happens in small towns like this. But not in most places. Today jobs, changing social structures and mobile lifestyles keep generations apart.
That’s what makes a church like this special and important. We are an inter-generational fellowship. Individuals from across generations meet, worship, and learn together. We obviously have programs especially designed for kids and other activities for adults only. But we try to keep a balance. We think it is important that families and different ages also be together at least part of the time. That mix of generations is an important ingredient in a healthy church and healthy families. That’s also a value we should all work hard to cherish.
That’s also what our text is about. We are in the last half of our 2005 Season of the Family. Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day each year we celebrate the Christian family and explore what God’s Word teaches us about making our families even better. Most of the time, we focus on topics that tend to isolate one particular role. We look at mothers or fathers, older or younger folks, or married couples. Today’s text spotlights the interconnectedness of the family. Psalm 78 is a wisdom or teaching psalm. It is not so much a praise song as it is a history lesson. Most of Psalm 78 reviews the events of the Old Testament and the lessons to be learned, good and bad. As the opening verses that I read insist, these lessons make up the curriculum in the school of faith that older generations teach the younger.
I invite you to explore two questions. Why is this interconnectedness of generations so important? How can we make the most of it in this place? Let’s try to answer those questions as we learn the lessons of the psalm.
First, why is it important that the church be a meeting place of different generations? It is obviously important to the young. How else will they learn the things of faith? Psalm 78 contains an interesting little tidbit of information that we might easily miss. Note verses 5 and 6. “ He (God) decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.” The Lord reveals. We teach. God doesn’t constantly reveal himself and his Word to each new generation. That’s not how he works. Faith is not about our discovering new truths every day. God has spoken. The next generation learns from the previous. That’s God’s plan.
So much for the silly notion that parents should have a hands-off policy toward the faith of their young! That’s a tragedy of our times. We have all heard parents say that they will not force religion on their children. They will just remain neutral and let their child decide for himself when he gets old enough. Of course, a child must decide for himself. But it is the previous generation that must to teach and guide. Our kids need it.
Today’s kids grow up in a high pressure world. Anyone who thinks this world is religiously neutral is kidding themselves. All of kinds of forces are vying for the hearts and souls of the young. Just scan the TV channels that target teenagers and you’ll find all the proof you need. We are setting our young up for spiritual and moral disaster if the older generation fails to teach them the lessons of faith. That’s first of all a parent’s job. If parents aren’t doing it, then caring, responsible adults in the church must do what they can to step in.