Summary: God's Word is my great heritage
I was just reading the other day about a couple in Minnesota that was celebrating an unusual wedding anniversary**(see footnote). What made it unusual was the number. They had been married for 83 years. They’re both right around 100 years old. Can you imagine celebrating an anniversary like that? 83 years of marriage! They have 39 grandchildren and over a hundred great grandchildren. Just think of all the experiences they’ve had together, all the changes in the world they’ve seen. The Guinness Book of World Records is investigating to see if they’ve set the record for being the longest married couple alive – an 83 year wedding anniversary.
Today we are celebrating an anniversary in our church services. It’s not a church anniversary, although we are very thankful that God has blessed St. Paul’s church and school over the years. What we are celebrating today is a part of our ministry of the Word at St. Paul’s – part of our ministry of Christian education to high school students, known as Lakeside Lutheran High School. This is one of the ways we serve our Lord here at St. Paul’s. Now if we were teaching these high school students right here in this building, or in a building attached to our church (kind of like our preschool / grade school), this ministry might be something that is more on our minds.
Over the last few years a good number of young people from St. Paul’s attended and graduated from that ministry. Every year, the members of St. Paul’s dedicate a part of their church budget to support this aspect of Christian education. Today, we celebrate its 50th year.
The passage we are focusing on as we do this is taken from the Psalms, where the writer talks about how much he values the Word of God in his life. He writes, “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” As we celebrate this 50th anniversary of Lakeside, our theme is “The Word of God – our heritage and our future.”
Now why did a group of Christians in the Jefferson County area band together to start a Lutheran high school? This area already had enough high schools. But there was something missing, something that all the Lutheran elementary students had enjoyed from kindergarten through the eighth grade, and that was the Word of God. Still today, our grade school students enjoy the Word of God every day in their classrooms, and what a treasure that is! Every day, pastors and teachers build into our students that strong spiritual foundation of God’s law and gospel. They learn the truth about sin, their own sin and the sin of the world. And then they learn the joy of the Gospel, how God in his grace has saved us through his Son, Jesus Christ. What could be more important than that?
But why have that stop at eighth grade? If there is ever a time when the Word of God is needed, it’s during those high school years, which can be filled with so much drama, so many ups and downs. And so, Christians throughout the area joined together years ago to organize a high school, where the Word would continue to be present in the classroom. It started in the basement of a church in Fort Atkinson, and I’m sure that the founders of that ministry never dreamed that it would be what it is today. They went through all of this because the words of Psalm 119 were in their hearts: “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”
Isn’t the Word of God our joy as well? Whether you’ve been educated in a public school setting or in a Lutheran school setting, what a joy it is to know Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin. We need this, because there are a lot things in this world, in this life, that bring the opposite of joy.
Just think about our own lives, for example. When we look back on our lives, whether it be for the last 50 years or 50 days or even 50 minutes, not every moment is a reason to celebrate. We see those good moments, those good things we’ve done. But when we take an honest look back on our lives, we also see those mistakes we’ve made, those sins we’ve committed, those words we wish we could take back, those people we’ve hurt, that pain we’ve caused. We can see all those acts of love that we have left undone. These all come from the sin that we’re born with. And this doesn’t bring joy into our lives. Our sin brings feelings of guilt, feelings of shame and regret.
And then someone we love dies. And then what do we feel? Confusion – how can someone I care about die? Sadness, feeling of emptiness and loneliness because that person I love isn’t here anymore. Maybe even felt a little anger at God – how could he do this to me?