Friday, December 15, 2006

The Word of Christ in Our Homes

On Sunday, November 12 the assembled congregation of Redeemer Lutheran, Huntington Beach bowed their heads in the sanctuary and prayed,
Almighty God, everlasting Father, you created your people to offer thanks and praise to you. Grant your blessing upon these copies of your holy Word and the Lutheran Service Book, that they may be for the author of our faith and instruments of praise by which may we may worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Even though this happened in the sanctuary, our prayer was not only for Bibles and hymnals under the roof of the sanctuary, but also the Bibles and hymnals that would be placed under the roofs of our homes.
It was the Reformer Martin Luther who prophetically announced that if the re-discovered truths of the Reformation did not make their way into the homes of Christians, all would be for naught, and so it is with the Christian Church today.
Our focus as a congregation gathered around Christ and his Word and his Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion is not only on what happens in the sanctuary and the Sunday School room one or two hours on Sunday morning. We are called to "let Christ dwell in us richly" (Colossians 3:16) each and every day -- especially in our homes. The same guideline we have as a worshiping church family (the family should worship together on Sunday morning) is the same guideline we should have during the rest of the week (the family should worship together in the home).
Our guest speaker November, Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto, powerfully reminded us that we live in an age of rampant individualism and a culture of "me, me, me;" an age and a culture that threatens a healthy balance of family identity -- on Sunday and every other day of the week.
We've all read the bumper sticker: "The family that prays together stays together." I would submit that the family that remembers it's Baptism together, the family that hears the Word of God together, the family that received God's blessings at the Communion Rail together, stays together.
For generations now we have enjoyed the convenience of hymnals and Bibles sitting in the pews, waiting for us to use them on Sunday morning. But the temptation is greater than it has ever been to begin believing that hymnals and Bibles are only for Sunday morning. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A few months ago I visited a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease. It was difficult to begin a conversation with her. She could not remember where she was or even what year it was. She couldn't remember the names of her children or the name of the Lutheran church she was baptized and confirmed in. I began to think that my visit would be for naught. But then I began to recite the Apostles' Creed. "I believe in God, the Father almighty ... ." She joined me in that confession of faith immediately, and continued with even a stronger voice when I lead the two of us in the Lord's Prayer.
What passages of Scripture are we tucking into the deep corners of our heart, that they would be there when we have forgotten or lost faith in everything else? What word of Christ do we remind ourselves of on a daily basis, that they would be close at hand when we find ourselves fearful or lost or alone?
God created us as creatures of order and predictability. That truth should be reflected in our families as well as our church families. What do you remember from your childhood? Table prayers? Christmas and Easter hymns? The songs of Vacation Bible School or Sunday School? Parts of the liturgy?
Christians have had hymnals in their homes since Old Testament times. The Book of Psalms was the Church's first hymnal (and Jesus' first hymnal), and that tradition should continue in the homes of our church family.
The Reformation under Martin Luther fought for the Bible and the Catechism and the Hymnal to be available in the language of the people and in the homes of the people. Recent articles in The Lutheran Witness have highlighted the opportunities each of us have to make use of the Bible and the Catechism and the Hymnal in our daily lives.
The early church got it right when it said, "Lex orandi, lex credendi" -- the way we worship shapes the way we believe. If you're making a New Year's resolution this year, why not make prayers and Scripture readings part of meal time or wake-up time, or go-to-bed time? Let's grow in our Christian faith together -- on Sunday morning and throughout the rest of the week -- with a Bible in one hand, and the Catechism and the Hymnal in the other!