Like I do every August, I’m busy preparing for the kick-off of our year long confirmation program for 6th graders and our nascent year long catechism for graduating seniors. Throw in there plans for a class on Mark I’ll be teaching.
Meanwhile our youth and children directors are getting ready for their years and the hundreds of kids who will come through the doors after Labor Day.
Throw in all the admin time such time requires.
And here’s the bitter, ironic but abiding reality:
NONE OF WHAT WE DO MATTERS
NONE OF IT MATTERS
NO SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS, CONFIRMATION RETREAT, YOUTH GROUP SESSION CAN MAKE YOUR KID A CHRISTIAN IF NOTHING WE DO WITH THEM AT CHURCH IS ECHOED BACK AT HOME.
WHERE THEY SPEND 98% OF THEIR LIVES.
Martin Luther, the Reformation theologian who spent his whole life embroiled in matters involving the institutional church, was convinced that Christian formation actually happened in the home not in the Church. It happened in the family.
If ever the People of God are to flourish, Luther believed, if ever people will be capable of believing in God’s love it will be because of what happens in the home, in the family, and not in the Church. For Luther, teaching about God’s love had less to do with the official words of the Church and more to do with the love shared in the home.
Luther called it ‘echoing back.’
It’s the kind of teaching that happens in families- around dinner tables and shared struggles, in conversations and in ordinary moments.
Echoing back: it’s where the words of scripture and the words Church are made visible in the lives of the people who love us. In other words, our ability to understand Christ’s love for us depends on whether we see that love, experience that love, through the lives of those who love us.
According to Luther, the words of the Church alone can’t do it because God invites us not just into believing in him but into a way of life. And for a way of life, we need more than words; we need guides, mentors, friends.
If it’s true that the laos have abdicated the ministry to the cleros, it’s also true in too many cases that families have abdicated Christianity to the Church, leaving it to pastors and badly paid staff to Christianize (or at least inoculate them against the corroding effects of secularism) them.
The one bright side is that if kids and youth don’t grow up in homes where the Church’s message is echoed back by their families, then they’re still ripe and vulnerable to an anti-family, fight-the-Man-renegade like Jesus of Nazareth.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.”