Pastor Lynn Rubier-Capron’s Sermon
May 13, 2018
I have some good friends who are celebrating their child’s first birthday this month. They say things like this: The world is so unpredictable! Our daughter will have way too many options, and we are very concerned about the choices that our she will have to make. They said: “We know how to prepare her for the world we grew up in, but it has become a very different place – more than once – since we were young.” They don’t have clear and concrete ideas about how prepare their daughter for a world that they cannot imagine or know.
I look out over this congregation and see parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles and many other people who nurture children. I think many of us share the same concerns as my good friends.
Psalm 1 gives us one kind of assurance. It distinguishes the person who follows after lawlessness from the person who “delights in the law of the Lord.”
A person who meditates on the law of the Lord is like a big, beautiful healthy tree which is planted by a stream of water. And, as Christians, we know that God’s law is fulfilled in Jesus Christ our Lord. So, we meditate on the Law by meditating on him. Yesterday would have been a good day to sit down under that tree with a picnic and just enjoy being alive.
And that’s the point. People who sink their roots down deeply into
God create oasis of life, joy, lightness and grace. And we want to be around them.
Psalm 1 also seems to speak of a very simple world in which we can choose one thing – the good law or the other thing – lawlessness.
Life has always been more complicated than that. In our day – choices abound more than at any other time in human history. And parenting is, to a great degree, about giving children the habit of making “good choices.”
One of the best ways to do that is to make connections between good choices and things that are beautiful and interesting. Is it possible that the “law,” as presented in psalm 1 – is something our children would desire? And not because they are a kind of “goodie two shoes,” but because they are full of life and lightness and because they want to choose good things?
The psalmist knew the power of beauty in shaping human desire and so he said: “the person who meditates on God’s law day and night will be like a big, beautiful tree. It yields delicious fruit in due season. It’s leaves are strong and beautiful, not full of disease. And, no matter what happens, it’s well being comes from within rather than from outer circumstances.”
This is a promise that gives hope for the young people we are nurturing. Because we don’t have to know what their world will be like. We just need to give them exposure to those big, beautiful trees as much as possible. That is how they can find their desire to sink their own roots deeply into God. Mothers, Grandmothers and anyone else who loves children – you are not able to always be that beautiful tree. No one expects you to.
Sometimes you are. If you are like me, sometimes you aren’t. But you have chosen to bring your children here to a place where many people love God. Sometimes you are that beautiful tree, sometimes other people get to be the tree. I hope thinking about it that way takes the pressure off of you. We are all human. And, for the thousands of times when you have chosen God’s way, know this: your children see it and they will be attracted to it. Don’t let the minutia of daily responsibilities and over whelming schedules fool you. Most of the time, children consciously recognize the beauty of their Mother’s example after they have their own children. But even before they consciously recognize your example – know that they will be attracted to the good in you.
Even if they can’t say it now, to them you are like that beautiful tree planted next to a stream of water. Their attraction to God’s ways comes through many sources, and it also comes through you.
Believe it or not, the other scripture passage that gives me hope on the topic of nurturing children is this little story about Matthias from the book of Acts. It’s a story about leadership, and parenting is definitely about leadership. It’s about leadership when no one knew what to do because they were in a time a massive change.
Here is a description of the change they faced:
Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared several times to his followers – eating food and trying to do things that would show them that he was still alive and with them in body, mind and spirit.
Then, he gathered his followers, told them he would send his Spirit to them soon, and ascended to heaven. 120 of his followers were in a room, praying like mad because they didn’t know what to do next. Peter was their leader, and he stood up and said “well, we can’t only have 11 apostles.” You remember that Jesus had chosen 12 men to follow him around for 3 years and learn him. Those were the people Jesus sent out to bear witness to his resurrection. The problem was, Judas was one of the 12 apostles and he had betrayed Jesus and then died.
Peter thought they better replace Judas with another man who had also followed Jesus around from the very first day of his public ministry. They ended up with Matthias as their 12th apostle.
Here is the interesting thing about Matthias. We never hear about him again. That doesn’t mean he didn’t do good ministry. Maybe many people were impacted by him. But, in the book of Acts, he serves as a foil for another follower of Jesus. I am talking about the apostle Paul.
Paul wasn’t Paul when he was a little boy. He was Saul. His parents raised him to be a Pharisee of Pharisees. They wanted him to be that tree that was planted by streams of water – strong in the law and leading their people through a pure and powerful expression of their Jewish faith. And they knew the world they were preparing Saul for. It was world in which the strongest most beautiful tree was a Pharisee.
There is no way Saul’s parents could know that Jesus’ Spirit would go out after his ascension and create the new Christian Church. And there is no way they could have anticipated the role that their boy would play as the world began to change in ways would defy their imagination.
But you and I are sitting here today in a Christian church because of the ministry of Paul the man who was Saul when his Mother raised him.
Saul became Paul as an adult, on the day he traveled down the road to Damascus. That is another story for another day. For today, I want us to notice this: all that nurturing and hoping and praying that his Mother did prepared him perfectly for his ministry as the apostle to us gentiles. She just didn’t know at the time.
She didn’t know that Saul would be confronted by the Spirit and God and renamed, “Paul.” She couldn’t foresee that her little boy would initiate one of the greatest changes in human history.
Paul understood that in every synogogue of his world, there was a significant cluster of “God fearers.” These were gentiles who didn’t get circumcised and who didn’t keep kosher. But the message of God’s kingdom called out to them, so they worshiped at their local synagogue. They became such a significant part of the community that they got their own name. “God fearers” was a technical term for this group of people in the New Testament. God called Saul to be Paul and to bear witness to Jesus’ message, mission and ministry through the God fearers in synagogues of the ancient world. Once Paul gained ground in that community, he expanded to people outside the synagogue and went as far as Rome with his efforts.
Rome. Just think about that!
When Paul was Saul and his Mother was preparing him for a role that she understood and could imagine, she was being faithful the best way she knew how. Paul is, in part, a story of her faithful parenting and of how God used of her faithfulness even though she didn’t know what she didn’t know.
And what about Matthias? We started out with his story – the 12th apostle whom Peter had the early church choose to replace Judas. Peter was confused by the fast paced changes of his time as well. That’s good news for Mothers, grandmothers and nurturers of children. Not everyone can be a world famous innovator. Some of your children will make the pages of history, and many will simply make the world a better place, bearing witness to the presence and power of God through the choices they make. Their impact will be local, but exactly what God had in mind.
Either way, this room is full of people who make little and big decisions every day. Sometimes, we all make decisions that we regret. Thousands of times a day, you are like that big, beautiful tree who has deep roots, healthy branches and good rich fruit with which to bless those around you.
It is enough. God used Saul’s Mother to prepare him to be Paul and she didn’t even know it. God used Matthias in ways that didn’t make the history books, but which were no doubt meaningful to the people around him. God is using you and God will use your children. And that tree is God’s metaphor to remind us – we don’t have to know how God will appear to our children. But we can trust that God is calling out to them, and that God has made them to respond to God’s presence in their lives and in their world.