Treasures

treasures

Have you ever found yourself wondering about how the building and grounds that we call Christ Lutheran became what it currently is? As a new person in ministry here, I find myself pondering these kinds of things. One such incident occurred when we first visited. The first thing that struck me was the three crosses on the hill near the exit to our campus. This was one of the first things I associated with Christ Lutheran. Being that they were at the top of a small hill, I thought it quite fitting for a Lutheran church and school.

Sometimes late at night when everyone is gone and the building is quiet, a person can get a lot of work done. The setting of late night work in an empty building affords one many opportunities to consider the setting. When alone in such a setting, I often find myself taking little breaks from work to walk around the building. While walking around, I usually think about the people that built Christ Lutheran. It is during times like this that I think of the sacrifices that people in the past made to build such a place where believers can worship and send their kids to receive a Christian education. This reminds me of Matthew’s words where he states “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, ESV). How many people past and present poured their hearts into the place we call Christ Lutheran? One can only guess, but if you pay attention, you will see them.

All of this is not to say that we should hold a building in a higher regard than we ought. After all, the church and the school is about the people. But the desks, the halls, the bricks and the mortar, they are a reminder of the dedication of many who came before us that shared the same purpose. The times have changed, but the reason that we are here is the same. Our heavenly Father who gave up his Son for us is the author and perfecter of the universe. He is at the center of what we do here. This fact is especially important for a school such as ours, for a true education must have at its center the creator. Otherwise our tendency as sinful humans is toward making the center, the created.

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Like Family

thumb_IMG_3075_1024In every Lutheran School where I have served, the theme of “family” has always been a part of the culture that attracts parents to the school. Often times, when parents are questioned about why they send their kids to the Lutheran school, the response is something along the line of “It just feels like a family”. Being that I have served in a few Lutheran schools in various parts of the state and country, this common answer always gets my attention. I believe that this family atmosphere is a natural product of people living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Luke gives us a good picture of a healthy family atmosphere in the early church in his writings in Acts. He writes:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 English Standard Version).

What an amazing community that must have been. Can we mirror this at Christ Lutheran Church and School? I propose that we already are. In my short time here, I have witnessed people giving of themselves in many ways to help the community at Christ. I have seen:

+A mother who gives of her time daily to transport kids that are not her own to Christ

+Volunteers who give of their time and talents to deep clean and paint our bathrooms

+People who volunteer regularly to help Mrs. Bhatti with our hot lunch program
+A subscriber to our newsletter from outside of our community that purchased a microscope for our middle school science program

+Our teachers, who tirelessly give of themselves to make our program the best that it can be

+Many other people who anonymously and generously give random gifts to benefit the ministry

+Adoption of my family into the family at Christ with many encouraging words and gifts

In all of this, I am sure that I am missing something. Look around our church and school on any day and you will see many people who volunteer their time, talents, and treasures to keep things running smoothly.

Is this family perfect? Absolutely not. We are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory. Like any family, our schools have their ups and downs. But in the end, we all call the same God, “Father”.

This fact that we share the same father helps us get through the struggles that inevitably come in a sinful world. When we meet together in worship, we confess together our sins and receive His forgiveness. This is what makes our Lutheran schools different. In a world that lives in darkness, our schools are a shining city on a hill. To God be the glory.

Do The Right Thing

RightThing

Decisions are like answers to questions. When I think of the word “decision” or “decide” I think of the multiple choice test question where two of the choices seem right, but I can’t decide which one. I also think of Robert Frost’s illustration in his poem “The Road Not Taken”. Like a traveller at a fork in the road, Frost’s words “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back” (Frost, 1920) illustrate the challenges that can come with a simple decision.

It is said in education that teachers make thousands of decisions every day. If you live with a teacher, you may have noticed that at the end of the day, they are tired of questions. This is because they answer so many during the 7-8 hour period we call “school”: “Will we have homework today?”, “Who’s turn is it?”, “Can I go to the bathroom?” That last one is for you English teachers. But, at the end of the day any teacher will tell you that they are tired of decisions and questions. I believe that mindless sitcoms are distinct favorites of teachers for this very reason.

“Do the right thing”. Out of all of my graduate work, these words of my mentor stick in my mind. While completing the practicum portion of my master of education administration degree, I worked under the supervision of Christopher White. Mr. White is principal at Crossroads Charter Academy in Big Rapids, Michigan. In one of our many discussions regarding the many decisions that a principal makes, he answered, “Do the right thing”. I don’t exactly remember the question that necessitated this answer, but the question was about the sometimes difficult and often complex issues that principals deal with. On the face of it, the answer seemed too simple, and yet there is a lot of wisdom in the simple stuff. It can get so easy to focus on the complexities of problems that your attention can get distracted from the basics. I think this is where Mr. White wanted to direct my attention, and in discussions with many other principals, I have heard similar advice.

I think that part of this has to do with the difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is the understanding of facts while wisdom is the ability to understand knowledge and apply it for lasting success. As Christians, we recognize that true wisdom is from God. And it is found in His word. This is where Lutheran Schools thrive because they are rooted in God’s word. Lutheran teachers, with the help of the Holy Spirit, not only impart facts and figures but also wisdom to their students. All of this, because they are called by an Omniscient God into their mission field.

This can lead a person to ask, “And what about when we get it wrong?” Here too our Lutheran Schools are equipped to lead people in the way they should go. We recognize that we all are sinful and in need of God’s saving grace. Our Lutheran schools talk about and show forgiveness. When troubles arise, and they always do, we find peace in the fact that there is forgiveness. We find comfort in God’s word which shows us examples of God choosing imperfect people to do His work on earth. Like a sower who scatters seed, we instruct students in our Lutheran Schools and pray that those seeds of God’s word take root in our students. That seed of God’s wisdom makes Lutheran Education vital in our world today.

All I Needed

IMG_3248 “‘But please, please- won’t you- can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?’ Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself” (C. S. Lewis- The Magician’s Nephew).

If ever there was the theme of grief and despair in Literature from the point of view of a child, it is found throughout the story of C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. The book opens with a young Digory introduced as a blubbing boy (another way of saying crying like a baby). He later explains that “so would you… if you’d lived all your life in the country and had a pony, and a river at the bottom of the garden, and then been brought to live in a beastly hole like this… And if your father was away in India- and you had to come and live with an Aunt and an Uncle who’s mad- and if the reason was that they were looking after your Mother- and if your Mother was ill and was going to- going to- die.”

The story is really quite a fantasy. Digory and Polly, through circumstances not their choosing explore new worlds. Along the way they become friends and overcome their differences all while attempting to somewhat forget the reality of Digory’s situation. And yet throughout the adventures of the story, nagging at the main character is the underlying despair of his dying mother. One gets the sense that death is certain and the child character Digory is trying to come to grips with it.

At Christ Lutheran this past Veteran’s day the theme of grief and despair was relayed to our students through stories from veterans in our community. These veterans visited our classrooms after a special chapel service dedicated to their service. Students were captivated by the descriptions of the norms of war and service in the military. Stories of how to survive while being forced to drink dirty water, sleeping wherever one could find comfort, and being in a foreign land at the age of 18 spoke to the students in my classroom.

Throughout the discussion of one particular veteran that saw a lot of fighting in Italy in World War II, the theme of despair was a real impact for the students in my class. The veteran spoke of the duty of being the first one into battle regardless of the consequences. The students were silent as this man spoke of courage, fear, and despair. When it came to the end of the discussion, the veterans were asked to share the most important thing that they wanted the kids of our class to know. The World War II veteran immediately said that, “even in the darkest of despair, all I needed to know I learned in my Lutheran School. I knew that Jesus was with me.” The students and teachers were speechless. Everyone in the room had heard what it took for this soldier to move forward into battle against almost certain death and despair and when he was asked what was most important for kids to know, it was that despite the horrid conditions of war, God was with him.

Our Lutheran Schools teach that God is with us. We teach that we are made in His image. With the Bible as our foundation, we instruct students of the importance of God’s direction in our life. With that in mind, we pray that when our students grow up and meet the challenges that lie ahead, that their foundation is solid, that they can meet despair with the knowledge that God is with them, and that it matters. Being chosen by God, we pray that in the darkest hour, our students can say to God “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 English Standard Version).

Nothing New?

Cross2

It doesn’t take much observation today to come to the realization that we live in a broken world. One doesn’t have to look too far to find some kind of crime, scandal, or human downfall. It can even get downright depressing to watch the local and national news sometimes. We live in a world that is broken, and many people don’t realize it.

A common misconception that has built traction in recent times is this belief that people are inherently good. Yes, we like to think that we are good people, and that we do great things. Just look at the great technology that we have built to make our lives easier and more convenient. And yet, look at the ways that we have come to use technology to anything but benefit humanity.

In class today, we were talking about some of the events of 9-11 and how the world has changed. I asked the question of the students- “Why is it that the world has events like 9-11? The answers varied from, different cultures, different beliefs, and so on. I asked them to think about it for a minute and asked, what do all bad events like 9-11 throughout history have in common. The realization we came to is that they happen through people, sinful and broken people.

It can be tempting to think that we have progressed to a better or greater state. With the things that we have invented we can easily surmise that we are somehow different from the people of ages ago. After all, our ancestors would be amazed at how far we have come. At the same time,  I suspect that they might be horrified by some aspects of our world today.

The common thread throughout the history of mankind is that we are inherently sinful. We daily betray God and others in thought, word, and deed; by the things that we do and by the things that we leave undone. The technology has changed, but the sin is still there. No matter how far we advance, the words of King Solomon will ring true:

“What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say,

‘Look! This is something new’?

It was here already, long ago;

it was here before our time.

No one remembers the former generations,

and even those yet to come

will not be remembered

by those who follow them” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 New International Version).

But the story does not end there. There is one that has been and will be remembered for generations. He covered the brokenness and made it right. The Son of God on the cross paid the price and “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 English Standard Version).

When we go to Him in baptism, we are made new. When we go to Him in confession and asking forgiveness, He forgives. When we come to His table he renews us. Because He died for us “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 English Standard Version).

Why would we not speak of the one who makes us new in our classrooms and in all of our subjects? Can you truly have a well rounded education without acknowledging the creator of it all? I propose that you can not. I believe that this is what C. S. Lewis spoke of when he stated that “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

A hope that does not disappoint

Romans5

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:1-5 New International Version).

For the Christian, one of the challenges in life is that he doesn’t always see the fruits of his labor on earth. In many facets of life, one can somewhat expect hard work to be rewarded, but when it comes to the work of God our rewards are not achieved on earth. In fact, they are not even earned by us. They are earned by Jesus. Following Jesus can be difficult in a world where a person’s worth is often associated with his or her wealth.

In education, we often say things like, “if at first you do not succeed, try, try again” and “you have to get back on that horse!” In Lutheran education we strive to show our students the value of hard work and dedication. These characteristics are important in building children up to become productive participants in a world that so desperately needs citizens and leaders that reflect our creator’s will.

The ongoing theme in those sayings and others like it is that eventually, if one is diligent they will win the prize. That said prize is often something of earthly value and received with much fanfare. And yet there are things that we are called by God to fulfill where our rewards are not received with earthly things. Caring for others or those in need does not earn one a prize. Standing up for a person that is being bullied often results in gained hardship on the side of the one standing up to the bully. When it comes to things of heavenly importance, the prize is often not seen on this side of heaven. In fact sometimes following Jesus’ example results in hardship and inconvenience. Instead of a reward, the follower of Jesus will sometimes face hardship. If one is not careful, they can easily become discouraged.

In everything, we need to focus on Christ, the one who showed us how to live. Often times Jesus faced struggles while following his father’s will. Often times the disciples of Jesus struggled because their focus was too much invested in things of this world. Like the disciples, we too can become easily distracted by things that in the end are not really all that important.

In Lutheran education, teaching children to follow Jesus is what we are about. In addition to teaching math, science, technology, etc., students in Lutheran schools are instructed on things that benefit them today and tomorrow, an education rooted in the master teacher, Jesus. The benefits of tomorrow are not often understood today, but the benefits are there. And they mattered so much that our heavenly father gave up his Son on a cross to achieve them for us.

What is Truth?

JN18.33

“What is truth?”

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I Jew? Your own nation and chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:33-38 English Standard Version).

After being baffled by Jesus’ words regarding his arrest and purpose on earth, Pontius Pilate gives a most interesting cynical response, “What is truth?” Even though this was to be a dismissive end to the conversation, it does leave you wondering why such a response?

Today, much like in Jesus’ day, the truth can be pretty hard to find. As a little kid in the 80s, during an assembly at my school I remember hearing an expert of technology saying that the coming era would usher in a struggle to find reliable information. The information age, as he spoke of it, would bring a time where there would be hundreds and thousands of television channels and computers would be everywhere all interconnected. Information and knowledge of the universe would double at a rate never imagined. And yet the struggle would be information reliability, or truth.

We are living in the information age. Due to the overabundance and ease of access to information, a common problem has arisen, reliability of the information. It seems that for every fact, there is a conflicting fact. If one is not careful, one can be left cynical, like Pilate, saying “What is truth?”

What is truth? where can it be found? Is it even important? In Lutheran education, the truth is vital to our existence. It is found in God’s word that we so often share in our classrooms. This truth should be the focus of our schools as they look to the future and their place in it. Since the days that Jesus walked on earth, many things have changed. People have come and gone and yet Isaiah reminds us that “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8 English Standard Version). It is on this word of God which Lutheran schools stand. God’s word is the center of what we teach. His word is the truth which is our foundation. In a world where truth is often hard to decipher, may we all listen to God’s word. Despite the many changes that face our Lutheran schools, may they continue to be rooted in God’s word which never fades and always provides truth for His people.