Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Trinity and St. Jacob’s on May 14, 2017, the 5th Sunday of Easter. The gospel reading is John 14:1-14.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This sermon today is about passing on the faith. How do we Christians pass on faith in Jesus Christ from one generation to the next? What is the role and responsibility of mothers and fathers to our children? What is the responsibility of grandparents?
The gospel reading today is part of the farewell words of Jesus before his arrest in the Gospel of John. Jesus is speaking to his followers back then and followers throughout the ages. He is pleading with all of us to have faith and to know that his is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus goes on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know the Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
I’m reminded of young Timothy in the Bible. Timothy was called and used by God in wonderful ways in the early church. How did he learn and how he nourished in the faith? For all time, we have this answer which Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:5, I remember your faith (Timothy). That faith first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I know you have the same faith.
On this Mother’s Day, I am thinking of my mother, Margaret Helen Dunkle Kniseley.
Her nickname was “Billie” and she was mother to 4 boys and grandmother to 11 grandchildren. What are some things I remember about her and how did she pass on the faith to me? Mother was not comfortable talking about faith and the Bible. She left the talking to my father, the pastor. What she did was demonstrate her faith in how she loved us unconditionally, encouraged us to pray at bedtime when we were little, and made sure we were always at Sunday School and Worship and Vacation Bible School and Youth Group. She expressed her faith in music. She taught the children’s choirs. My sense of my mother’s style of being a mother was that she was always there for us. She encouraged us. She didn’t judge us. When we were hurting, she comforted us. To this day, I believe that she was showing me a love that certainly reflects the love we know in Jesus.
The Living Lutheran magazine had an article entitled “Tending Souls/Helping Parents Nurture Spirituality in Children”. They made the point that God has placed in children an innate spirituality – an insatiable curiosity, a delightful sense of spontaneity, a deep capacity for trust, surprise, and creativity. What they don’t have is the language to express it. A key role for parents is to give them the language, the tools to reflect and explore their spiritual experiences. Spiritual awareness must be learned or it will remain dormant for a lifetime.
The writer of this article, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, suggests 5 ways parents can nurture the faith of their children. I would add that oftentimes grandparents need to help too.
Martin Luther was reflecting on the role of parents and Christian Education and he is what he thought: In the home, the father is an evangelist and apostle to the children. In fact, the father is the Bishop and the mother is the Bishopess of the family. They are called by God to instruct the entire household in the basics of the faith.”
Today we thank God for parents and grandparents who are fulfilling their duties and responsibilities, and we encourage all of us to do our part in passing on the faith from one generation to the next.