Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Take Up Your Cross

TAKE UP YOUR CROSS

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus knows that when he gets there he will be arrested, beaten and crucified - and as was the custom for all condemned criminals Jesus knew that he would have to carry his own cross up to Golgotha where he would be nailed to it and there he would die. He knew that and he had been trying to prepare his disciples for this to happen. He kept trying to tell them that he was going to die when he got to Jerusalem and they just wouldn’t believe him.
So on this particular trip to Jerusalem Jesus tells them again about this trip, how it will be the last one, how he will go to his death in Jerusalem and once again the disciples say NO! this cannot happen.
Finally Jesus just stops, and pretty much says to his disciples, “Look, you all have been following me for almost 3 years. You have heard what I have taught. You have heard what I have said to you. And here is is, listen! Now, you have to make a decision. If you really want to follow me; if you really want to be my disciples this is what you have to do. You have to deny yourself, you have to carry your cross, and then you have to follow me. If you want eternal life, that is the ticket - deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
On this Stewardship Sunday, that is what we need to think about. We see Stewardship in terms of giving to the church. You have heard what the church wants from you - financial resources so the church can exist - practical things like keeping the lights on and the heat running on a cold winter morning. Necessary things that keep as existing as a church - music and pastoral leadership. Necessary things like opportunities to learn through Sunday School and Bible Study and other times when we gather to learn.
And we may think of Fellowship things as being frivolous, but according to scripture gathering together to just enjoy one another’s company is vital to understanding our role as the people called to be Sweetwater Presbyterian.
And most important - stewardship is being the arms and legs of Jesus living out in the community what Jesus lived out for us when he fed the hungry and healed the sick and cast out demons and cared for whomever would come by and ask him for help. Without mission we cannot be a church. So as much as we hate to talk about money, money is essential to being a church. Even Jesus and his disciples had money in order to operate - Judas was the treasurer and carried the money bag used for their expenses.
But real stewardship is so much more than money. Stewardship is hearing what Jesus tells us is required of us as his disciples. And what did he tell us - in order to be his disciple, in order to be the church, we have to first deny ourselves. What that means is realizing that if you are a disciple of Jesus your life is no longer about you. Hear that again, you life is no longer about you. The focus of you life is no longer what make you happy, or pleases you, or about your dreams and desires. You life is about being the person Jesus knows you can be. A person who doesn’t live for themselves but submits to the plan and purpose God has for your life.
Does that mean you will never have fun or get to do things you enjoy or be able to buy that new iPhone you really want? No. Denying yourself doesn’t mean you have to sell everything you have and go to live in a monastery and do good deeds and pray all day.
Denying yourself just means you have to change your perspective on what life is all about - and it isn’t about me - its about Jesus.
Deny yourself, Jesus says, and then he says, Take up Your Cross. Take up YOUR cross. Jesus carried his cross and now he says to us - Your Turn. I carried mine and now I am challenging you to take up yours.
So what does that mean? It means that each of us is given responsibilities; each of us is given gifts; each of us have a special place in God’s plan and we need to pick up that responsibility and do it. Almost sounds simple. Here, God says, here is your talent. Now go use it like I ask you to. Don’t bury it under a rock. Don’t use it exclusively for yourself. Use it for God’s work. Use if for the work of the church.
So this is what it takes to do that. You need to spend some time with God and figure this out. Sometimes you know what you are good at and sometimes you don’t. And all our talents are not visible talents like singing or speaking or playing an instrument. Some our talents are being able to organize or cut our materials for Sunday School or cleaning or taking someone who is lonely out to lunch or fixing a meal for someone who is hungry or praying for those who you know need prayer.
God asked Jesus to take up the cross and die and he did it. God asks you to take up your cross and do what he asks you - even if it is hard cause he surely isn’t going to be as hard as it was for Jesus.
Jesus says, Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Follow Jesus. What does it take to follow Jesus? First it takes learning what he teaches - what he really teaches not just what other tell you he taught - what did he teach - feed the hungry, give to the poor, love your enemies, if you have 2 coats give one to someone who needs it, love God with all your hear, soul and mind, love your neighbor as yourself.
Stewardship. Stewardship is hearing the call of Jesus to Deny yourself, take up your cross and to follow him. To allow God to so transform you that true stewardship becomes easy because it is who you are.
Remember - to be here, to be a child of God, to live under the grace of Jesus, to have the promise and assurance of eternal life costs you nothing.
But to live with the peace of Christ filling you; to live with the joy of God in your life - will cost you everything you are.

As you think about that pledge card; as you think about that Time and Talent sheet remember Jesus’ words - If you want to come with me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus, will live a true and joyful life.

There We Will Not Fear


THEREFORE WE WILL NOT FEAR

It is Reformation Sunday. One of the few Sundays our of our church calendar where our emphasis is not on Bible Stories, but moments in history where the understanding of God and church and being a child of God took a turn. Moments of history that changed the whole direction of the church and of God’s people. Moments in history we really need to recognize because these historical events shape how we come here and how we worship.
So a brief recounting of what happened during the Reformation. From the time of Jesus until about the year 300, the church was a loose collection of individual churches. They were loosely organized but there was no real council or person who joined them together. The Catholic Church came along about the year 380 and all churches, everywhere, were collectively pulled into this organization. The word “Catholic” means ‘universal’ - idea being there was one universal church of Jesus Christ. And a hierarchy which included a Pope and Cardinals and Bishops and priests began which began to govern all the churches, establish a pattern of worship, a system of how to live and work and it was mandatory for all people. Everyone was automatically included as part of the overall church and their local church.
Now I have to admit there is a part of this system that I believe is attractive and useful.
A church was established in every neighborhood - just one and you went to your neighborhood church. Churches were the center of everyday life because of their proximity to the people and the people in the neighborhoods literally worked and worshiped together with a Priest to care for them.
But like every organization that is made up of humans, no matter how well meaning, the leadership of the church - the Pope and the Cardinals and the Bishops began to enjoy the power they held and the Catholic church not only became a source of spreading the care of God to the people but a means to regulate the lives of the people and they became an authority that dictated all aspects of your life and if you did not conform, or agree with every teaching of the church, you could be arrested or fined or even killed. The church became not only about discipline but about money. Church attendance was mandatory but it would also cost you. There were ‘taxes’ or ‘dues’ that were required, tithing was not an option, and the church became rich while the people became poorer and poorer.
Then the practice of indulgences began. An indulgence was a price you paid to get to heaven. You bought the indulgence, which was a piece of paper, and the church taught that if you did not have that piece of paper you could not get into heaven. And they were expensive. People would spend their savings and often would buy multiple indulgences so that if they lost one sheet of paper they would have a spare. And then to make more money the church began to allow you to buy indulgences for your family members so you could make sure they made it to heaven. So if Uncle Frank dies and you aren’t sure he had his piece of paper with him you would buy a special indulgence for him just in case to make sure he made it to the pearly gates.
It all sounds rather bizarre to us but this was real and this is really the way people lived…. We talk about the difference in economic status today between the have and have nots but in this period of European history it was far more extreme than anything we are familiar with - and the fault was with the church.
This was also the time in history when the church ruled the governments. There was no concept of a democracy or a constitutional republic or any form of government which involved people making decisions. All decisions regarding your life were made by the church and then supported by the government. And the church and the government cultivated a culture of fear - fear of the government, fear of the church and fear of God whom they were taught wanted nothing more than to find a reason to send them to hell.
It is also important to understand that the local parish priests had no power either. They were not permitted to read the Bible on their own. Their sermons were sent to them by the Pope and Catholic service was much


as it is today - by following a standard liturgy.. which actually made sense back in the middle ages because very few people could read so the worship service had to be something people could memorize and repeat.
Then comes along a man named Martin Luther who changed the course of the church - one person who heard the call of God and responded. Martin Luther was a professor at the University of Whittenburg in Germany where he had access to a Bible - written in Latin because in that day and time all Bibles were in Latin to ensure that the common people would never be able to read it… But Luther began to read the Bible, specifically the book of Romans, and he quickly realized how far off the rails the church had gotten. So he came up with 95 things the church was doing wrong and naively thought the church would actually consider changing their practices…..
Luther also began to write little tracts which explained further how the church had strayed from actual Biblical teaching.
And in God’s good timing just at this time Guttenburg, who lived in the same area, invented the printing press and began to print Luther’s tracts which quickly spread throughout the area and people began to see what the Gospel really was about - faith and grace.
Without going into the details, what happened then included Luther’s arrest and appearance before the Cardinals of the area and his excommunication from the Catholic church where he began to hold services for the very first time in history which were not part of the Catholic Church. Now this wasn’t easy - he and the members of his church were harassed and as new church leaders began to grow and spread this ‘new way’ to worship and understand God they were killed and forced to leave Germany. which was actually a good thing in that it spread this new ‘church’ throughout Europe.
And from this came a man named Ulrich Zwengli who began the evangelical movement and a man named John Calvin who began the Reformed movement from whom John Knox began who we are today as Presbyterians.
And all of this brought about the simple message of the Gospel - it is by faith and the grace of God through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. that we are made one with God. And once we believe, we will never have to fear the wrath of God. The fear of our eternal future is removed and we can live in the peace and joy of life with our God.
Psalm 46 was Luther’s favorite Psalm. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
That is why we remember this day, this time in history, a time which allows us today to be able to live in the freedoms that come from a relationship with Jesus Christ - free from the fear of the wages of sin and death, free to come and worship because it is our choice not because the government has told us we have to, free to share the love of Christ with others, free to read God’s word for ourselves.
We will close the service today with Martin Luther’s great hymn A Might Fortress Is Our God which he wrote as he was on his way to be examined by the Council at Worms where he was sure he would be executed - but because he lived with faith in Jesus Christ he had nothing to fear.
And because of Luther’s work and the great moment called the Reformation - neither do we.

Amen.

Barnabas

Barnabas


One of my favorite stories is the story of Pollyanna. This was a short book written in the early 1900s by Eleanor Porter about a young orphan named Pollyanna who comes and lives with her very stern and quite unhappy Aunt Polly in a small town that has truly lost its spirit. Pollyanna brought a whole new outlook to this small town through a marvelous sense of optimism and the ability to look for the good in everyone. She went about the town, never meeting a stranger, and introducing people to her ‘Glad Game’. This game consisted of looking for the good in every situation regardless how hopeless it may seem to be. The story was made popular by a 1960s movie staring Haley Mills. In fact the book and movie became so popular that the term ‘pollyanna’ became synonymous with anyone who shares that great optimistic, look at the bright side attitude. Even though at times it is used as a derogatory term - “Oh you are just being a pollyanna”. But this is the character of the man we read about in the book of Acts that we know as Barnabas. He was able to always see the good in people and was a great defender of those whom others wanted to write off.
No discussion of Barnabas, however, can begin without first talking about the Apostle Paul. Paul is the chief evangelist for this new thing called Christianity shortly after the ascension of Jesus. But it didn’t happen that easily. Before he was a champion of Christ, Paul was a Pharisee. Remember the Pharisees were the group of Jewish religious leaders that Jesus kept criticizing for putting the following of the law above the true worship of God. The Pharisees had simply just gotten off track in believing that it was through following the law that one became part of the people of God instead of what Jesus was trying to teach - that it was through simply putting your faith in trust in God that made all the difference. But the Pharisees held fast that it was the Law that was the most important. So when Jesus ascends and the followers of Jesus begin to teach Jesus’ message of faith over law, Paul saw this as a direct violation of his beloved Judaism and knew he had to do something about it. So Paul starts a campaign to arrest and sometimes kill those Jews who were becoming followers of Jesus. It got to the point where the name ‘Saul’ as he was known to the Jews struct fear in those who were living as Christians.
One day as Paul was headed out to Damascus to arrest Jesus’ followers there, he was confronted in a sand storm by the risen Jesus who talked with Paul and eventually converted him to be a disciple of Christ rather than a persecutor of those who followed Jesus. That was all well and good, but if you are one of those who were following Jesus and had been afraid of Paul, or who had been persecuted by Paul or who had had family members tormented by Paul, how easy was it going to be for you to really believe that Paul had changed? Or was this just some kind of trick where Paul sucked you in by making you think he had changed and then would go after you? Paul was going to have a tough challenge ahead of him convincing those that he had been persecuting that he was now one of them.
After his conversion, Paul decided he needed to go to Jerusalem and talk to the leaders of the church, to let them know of his new mission and also so that he can talk to the disciples. He knew that as a new convert there was much he needed to learn and why not go straight to the source and talk to the ones who had spent so much time with Jesus. But when Paul arrives in Jerusalem, the Jesus followers there were understandably reluctant to welcome him. They thought his story was a trick to capture them. Paul, however, ran into Barnabas in Jerusalem. They had known one another - conjecture is that they went to school together and studied together under the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel. Barnabas, who was a Levite and well known around town agreed that he would help Paul integrate himself into the society of Christians in Jerusalem. This was not an easy task, but it was because of Barnabas’ reputation as someone of integrity, that people began to reluctantly accept Paul as a true follower of Christ. Paul’s acceptance into the Christian community was due to Barnabas’
support and Barnabas’ willingness to stay positive when so many around were unwilling to trust in what God can do.

Contrast that to the story we read from the Old Testament book of Numbers which is a story which reminds us what a difference a bad attitude can make. The story starts out with the Hebrew people along with Moses standing on the bank of the Jordan River ready to cross over into the promised land. God says to get the land all they have to do is cross over the river. But the people are afraid and so they decide to send over 12 spies to check out the land and let them know whether the land is safe or not. before they commit to cross over So the spies go and when they come back 2 of them, Joshua and Caleb, talk about how great the land is, how much food is there - it will be a great place to live! But the other 10 spies, while they admit it is a great land, full of food and great land for raising their sheep and their crops , they tell the people there are some overwhelming obstacles - it is full of giants and those giants will just stomp them so they recommended that the Hebrews not go into the promised land. Here these Hebrews had spent 40 years traveling to this place and now they don’t think they should take that last step. Joshua and Caleb argued that God got them this far, surely he would be with them in this new land. God would help them and look at the great benefit they would get! But the negative attitude and the fear of the other 10 spies spread throughout the camp - to the point that the people said they preferred going back to Egypt into slavery rather than taking the risk of going into this new land - even though they admitted it sounded like a great place. The people allowed this negative attitude, this fear, to hold them back from this great blessing God offered them. So God sends the people back into the desert to wonder around and lead a difficult life until they have all died - and then he would bring back the next generation and try once again to offer them this promised land.
But Barnabas shows us the other side of the coin. It would have been very easy and very politically prudent for Barnabas to jump onto the ‘don’t trust Paul’ bandwagon. Barnabas, however, continued to champion Paul and convinced at least the former disciples Peter and James to talk to him. They did but Paul really wasn’t brought in as part of the fellowship and so Paul left Jerusalem and went back to his home in Tarsus. But Barnabas didn’t give up on Paul. He followed Paul to Tarsus and convinced Paul that he was called by God and that he did have a viable ministry and why didn’t they head out together and begin to preach the good news to the Gentiles. It was Barnabas’ coaxing that motivated Paul to go with Barnabas to Antioch and there they began to preach and teach and they established a large Christian church comprised of Gentiles. Because of Barnabas’ encouragement, Paul’s ministry began and Paul became the largest influence on the spread of the gospel other than Jesus himself! What a difference a positive, encouraging attitude can make.
It was Barnabas as well who began the career of Mark - the writer of the second Gospel. Barnabas saw great potential with Mark and invited Mark to come and share missionary duties with Paul and himself. Now, Mark was young and Paul and Barnabas were experiencing persecution in their attempt to teach the message of Jesus Christ. Mark had joined them and was doing a good job, but things at one point became so difficult that Mark ‘chickened out’ and went home to Jerusalem. This infuriated Paul who had experience much more difficult persecution and thought Mark was giving up way to early and Paul just didn’t have any use for Mark any longer. Barnabas came to bat for Mark and said, “He’s just young, he needs some encouragement. Have some patience and understanding.” Paul was unrelenting and so Barnabas decided Mark needed him more than Paul did and Barnabas went to help Mark. Through Barnabas’ patient, positive, reinforcing nature, Mark joined Barnabas and went back out on the mission trip, teaching and preaching the message of Jesus Christ.
By the way, Paul and Mark eventually made up and Mark then helped Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome and then became Peter’s right hand man when Peter began to work with the churches in Rome - and then Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark. Without Barnabas’ help, Mark very easily could have run back to Jerusalem with his tail between his legs, given up on his calling to spread the gospel and then would not have become the voice for Jesus that he did.
Tradition holds that Barnabas was martyred like all the other early missionaries by being stoned to death in Cyprus where he was serving as the Bishop of a group of churches there.
Barnabas is a wonderful example to help us remember the value of an encouraging word, a willingness to build up and support and have that ‘pollyanna’ attitude when things might not seem all that bright and positive. But a good attitude, as Barnabas shows us, can quickly turn around situations that might even seem hopeless.

Amen!

Rahab

RAHAB

I don't understand this idea of God using me for something. What does that mean? I'm not anyone special; I don't have any special abilities - at least not any real valuable ones. I can't sing or play an instrument; I'm not good at meetings. I'm just a regular person. What could God possibly do with me? Or. God doesn't want me for anything. I've done way too much wrong in my life. I haven't been a very good person. In fact I've done some really rotten things. I'm just not God material. Or. God can't possibly think I can do anything for him. I don't know enough. I don't understand that Bible at all - and every time I try to read it it just doesn't make any sense to me. So forget me when the God responsibilities are announced.
These are all arguments that we've all heard - and ones that perhaps we have all used at one time or another. But this is precisely why we learn about these people in the Bible. Because I guarantee you that we have never thought of an excuse of why we can't do something for God that someone in scripture has not used before. And there is nothing so bad that we have ever done that God can still not use us. And sometimes, God uses us for his purpose and we don't even know that we are being used to carry out a part of God's plan. Sometimes he just uses what we doing in our ordinary day to help carry out his plan. Today we are looking at the person of Rahab, a character from the Old Testament who represents for us many of these doubts we have about whether we are worthy or able to work for God - or whether we may even realize that God is using us to do his work.
As usual we need a little background. This story, like so many, begins at that time in the history of the Hebrews when they are traveling through the wildness on their way to the promised land. Their journey across the wilderness is over and the next phase begins. Remember the whole purpose of the journey through the deserts of Sinai is to reach the promised land. The promised land was to be a place where the people of God, who had lived in captivity in Egypt for 400 years, would have their own country, all their own. So, now, here they are at the banks of the Jordan. Moses has died and they are now being led by Joshua, who is a a military leader. God has given them the bad news - he is not just going to give them the promised land. They are going to have to earn it by militarily conquering the land.
So Joshua is on the banks of the Jordan, working on his strategy to begin the invasion of the land of Canaan - the land we would call Israel today. The first major city he is going to have to conquer is the city of Jericho. Remember the song many of us learned as a child in Sunday School - "Joshua fought the battle of Jericho....." But in our story today, Joshua is trying to develop his strategy for that battle of Jericho and he decides the first course of action is to send a couple spies into the city to check it out - find out the layout and where it might be vulnerable. Like most cities in this region it was a walled city. The walls of these cities would go completely around the city and normally there would only be one entrance into the city. Inside the city walls, homes and businesses used this outside wall as the back walls of their home or business and they would put windows in the outside wall on the second or third story so that there was still an element of invulnerability to the city.
So the spies Joshua sent, go into the city of Jericho, do their spying work, and then visit the business of Rahab who was a prostitute. Her establishment provided a place to stay overnight as well as to take advantage of her services. It would have been a logical place for the spies to go because they would have just blended in with the other customers at Rahabs place.
Keep in mind that by some means, what the Israelites were about to do in coming to invade and occupy the territory, had become common knowledge in these border towns, so the people were a little on edge about what might happen. The word had gotten to the King of Jericho that there were Israelite spies in the city and he takes a small contingent of soldiers and heads out through the city to see if he can find the spies and kill them. And in the course of searching for the Hebrews, he ends up


at Rahabs house.
In the meantime, Rahab told the spies that she knew they were Hebrews and she knew what they were up to. But she said she had heard the stories of their God - how their God had parted the Red Sea, and how God had led them to win some great military battles. And she told them frankly that she and the rest of the people of Jericho were afraid of the Hebrew's God.
I think we need to stop for just a second and consider this. Here we are in a time of history when there is no mass communication; no CNN, or Fox News, or NBC, or newspapers or radio, no Internet. These events that Rahab mentions are things that happened out in the middle of nowhere and quite a distance from where Rahab lived. Yet somehow, God has gotten the word out that he truly is a mighty and powerful God and something to be feared and respected and that he would be with and his people and this struck fear in the people who truly considered what this God had been able to accomplish. This included Rahab and the King of Jericho and all the citizens of Jericho.
So Rahab hears the King is out looking for the Israelite spies and she gets them and takes them to the roof of her house and hides them in a pile of flax she has on the roof. Flax is a textle used to make cloth and was also used to make wicks for candles. So the spies are hidden and the King is pounding on her front door wanting the spies because the king had heard that the spies had been there. Rahab goes out to the king and assures him that yes, the spies had been there but had left just a few minutes ago and if the king hurried, he could probably catch up with them. So the king and his men head out of the city gates after the spies and they shut the gates behind them so that no one else could go in or out. They headed towards the Jordan.
Rahab goes and gets the spies and now barters with them. Essentially she says, "Look, I know that you guys are going to invade, and I know that with your God with you, you will conquer the city. So, since I saved your life, now I want you to save my life and the life of my family." And the spies said they were very grateful for what Rahab had done for them. Again we need to keep in mind that had Rahab been caught hiding these spies and lying to the King, she would have been killed on the spot. She put her own life on the line for these Hebrew spies, these foreigners, because she respected their God.
The spies told her that if she would hang a red cord outside her window, when the armies attacked, anyone in her house would be spared. So if she would round up her family members from around the city, and have them in her house, she and they would be spared.
The spies spend another night at Rahabs and the next day she helps them escape by lowering them out her window, which remember is part of the city wall. And again, she is risking her life should she be caught. She told them when they got to the ground to go to the mountains because the King and his army had gone towards the river.
When the Israelites invade the city of Jericho and Rahab and her family were spared and actually were assimilated into the Hebrew people and they became part of the people of God.
Rahab is mentioned several places in the New Testament as an example of faith. Here was someone who hadn't experienced the miracles of God, but yet believed in God's power and sovereignty simply from the stories she had heard. She was not a Hebrew, and yet still believed in the Hebrew God. She exhibited great faith helping the spies and trusting that they would save her and her family. And she, a Gentile prostitute, is mentioned in Matthew as a part of the lineage of Christ.
So whenever you think that you aren't able to help God, or you aren't worthy to help God, or you have done too many bad things to help God, remember Rahab who God holds before us as an example of how God uses whom he chooses, regardless of who they or what they may have done!

Amen!

Learn From Me

“Learn From Me”

Services like this one sort of put us off our game. There is a different rhythm, a different movement than we are familiar with, normal elements of worship are rushed a little, the sermon turns into a homily - which is just a word that means a short sermon. We do things we don’t normally do. But there is a reason for this difference; a reason for these added elements and the main reason is to remind us that God is an important part of everything we do. We recognize God’s work in every aspect of our lives as we live as people of God.
Because that is who we are - we are people of God. In our Baptism we say that we are signed and sealed as God’s forever. So if we belong to him, that means that every part of our lives is important to God and God is involved in every aspect of our lives and therefore we need to stop occasionally and do things within our worship to remember how much God values not only our worship but also our work in and outside of the church.
You know you are a child of God - but Jesus also reminds you that you are a disciple. The word disciple means - One Who Learns. You are a disciple of whatever it is you study and learn about. Whether it be fishing or golf or archery or sewing or the Church. That is why those 12 young men who followed Jesus were called disciples because their job following Jesus around was to learn. They called Jesus Rabbi which means teacher. That was the type of relationship they had - this student/teacher relationship. And when Jesus left them for the last time his charge to them was to go out in to the world and ‘teach’ people what they learned from Jesus.
Teaching, education, is a paramount principle all through scripture. It is the purpose of scripture. We have all this information for the sole purpose of learning about God and who God is and how much God loves us and cares for us and what God expects from us.
While ‘teach your children’ is not one of the 10 commandments, immediately after the 10 commandments come these passages from Deuteronomy:

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

If you type in to a Bible search “Learning” or “Teaching”, you find out there are 407 references to teaching in the Bible - which I think very clearly tells us how important the concept is to God. So that is why we have special days like this to remind ourselves of the educational ministry of the church because it is a vital aspect of who we are as the children of God; as Disciples of Christ and we ‘worship’ or honor God be recognizing the things that are important to him.
This call to education also challenges us to remember the importance of learning all we can about God, about Jesus, about the stories of the Bible so that we can better be those disciples God calls us to be.

Amen!