Here is the foundation of my presentation. As with most presentation scripts, there were times when I elaborated on my words. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and speak with the Women’s Ministry group at St. Peter, Macomb.
Thank you for inviting me to speak at your Back-to-School meeting for St. Peter Women’s Ministry. What an exciting time of the year. As a teacher, I love this time of year. It’s like starting over. Students stumble back into class, outwardly whining about going back to school, but inwardly excited about seeing friends, hanging out at football games and immersing themselves into hours upon hours of grueling homework. Well, at least they’re excited about some of those things.
I see that your theme for this year is “Teach Me thy Way.” Perfect. This is your Back to School Night meeting and your theme is Teach Me Thy Way. I’m a teacher. What a perfect connection!
Since August 25 I’ve started teaching my English students my way. Now the point of view is a bit different. I’m teaching them My way. They may not be passionately saying, “Mr. Brandt, I hear we’re learning about gerunds and then thematic consistencies in Shakespeare followed by a rousing lesson on the Harlem Renaissance complete with linguistic morsels of Zora Neal Hurston’s vernacular that proves she was not only an author but a poet. Oh, please, please, please, Mr. Brandt, Teach me thy way! No, they’re not usually that responsive. However, last night was our back to school night where I met with the parents of my students and I handed out this, my syllabus. It reveals what we’ll be studying as well as how I expect them to behave during class. It’s a bit dry but it helps me teach my students my way.
While crafting the syllabus I wanted to make sure I was clear about my expectations for my class. Here are some examples:
1. Food or drink will not be permitted in the classroom. If you come into the room with food you must throw it away, not whoof it down and then tell me it is gone.
2. Water, for those of you who may be confused by number 1, is considered drink. Do not bring water to class. Do not drink it in class. Do not hide it in your purse and try to drink it in a covert manner.
3. This room is not a mall, a grocery store or a train depot. You do not have the privilege of getting up whenever you want and wander around. You do not have the freedom to stand up and throw something away during class. The scrap of paper can wait until the end of the hour. If you need tissue to blow you nose, politely ask me and I will or will not grant your request. The bottom line is that when the bell rings to begin class, you do not get to leave your seat until the bell rings to end class, unless I GIVE YOU PERMISSION.
It may seem harsh but I want to be clear when I am teaching them my way.
My grandfather was just as clear about teaching us his way. Living and growing up in my grandparents' house was an incredible blessing. I’m just not sure I understood or appreciated it all the time. Although I never asked my grandfather to teach me his way, he certainly did... quite often...without hesitation... on plenty of occasions. The clarity of my classroom instructions is nothing compared to the clarity of my grandfather’s instructions, especially concerning dinner table behavior. Dinner was a time to eat, be respectful and not act up. If I forgot those commandments of dining behavior, my grandfather would slowly and very deliberately take the butter knife, along with its hard, wooden handle, and just as slowly turn it in his hand so the handle was facing the misbehavior. That was the warning. If the disruption continued, it ended immediately when the handle met my head with an authoritative smack.. My grandfather, just taught me his way.
As odd as this may seem, Our Lord, uses a similar technique to teach us His way. David’s prayer to God in Psalm 86 reveals that similarity and it’s also the heart of my message for tonight. David prays to God beginning with verse 11,
11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.
There it is. We along with David pray, ask, plead, and implore God: “Teach my your way, O Lord.” And thankfully, as with all our prayers, He has graciously answered. The answer is seen in verse thirteen. “For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” Now the thwacking of that butter knife handle may have stung a bit, but nothing like the eternal sting of death that we have created for ourselves. And yet, David’s prayer reveals that our Lord has delivered us from the depths of the grave.
Paul echoes the same glorious news in I Corinthians 15:55. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Clearly, powerfully, eternally, our Creator has taught us His way by delivering us from our eternal damnation.
Teach my Thy way, O Lord.
Let’s make no mistake, Our Lord’s way was obedience. We failed. Upon our failure, our Lord’s way was still obedience but now it is only accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ’s sacrifice cleansed us, made us righteous and delivered us from the depths of the grave, forever.
Now that’s a lesson plan. In fact, it’s a lesson plan that Christ continued to preach while on earth and continues to preach in His Word and Sacrament today.
Let’s journey over to John’s account of Jesus feeding of the five thousand for another lesson on How God, through His son, teaches us His way:
5When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Even as Christ is about to perform this miracle he is teaching. He’s teaching the people that have come to see in action this miracle-making prophet and at the same time he’s teaching His own disciples. Christ already knows how He will meet the physical needs of those surrounding him. Christ questions Philip to test his faith. Now you would think that Philip, who knew Christ was the Son of God, the Savior of the world, would also know Christ is in control and can easily meet the crowd’s needs.
Teach my Thy way, O Lord.
7Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"
Apparently, not. Can you believe the audacity of Philip? How could his faith in Christ, the Savior of the World, the Promised Messiah, falter? How foolish! How often do we do the same? How often does our faith in the Savior of the World falter? How often do we not trust in the promises of God? How often do we believe God has not met our needs? It is so easy to look at Philip and fault him for his lack of faith. Why is it not as easy to make that same evaluation of ourselves?
But Perhaps Philip was the only one. Surely there weren’t other disciples who also faltered?
8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"
Apparently, not. Can you believe the audacity of Andrew? How could his faith in Christ, the Savior of the World, the Promised Messiah, falter? How foolish!
You see, Philip, Andrew and all of us look at our earthly lives, make careful calculations with our earthly, sinful understanding and forget that God has His own way. John’s account reveals how Christ satisfied the needs of the people. Christ created matter. Understand the complexity of that miracle.
10Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
Now I may be a simple English teacher, but I’ve overheard enough study hall conversations from physics classes that I know it’s impossible to create matter. Impossible. He created more matter. It wasn’t like there was some baker in the area who just happened loaves upon loaves of extra bread. It wasn’t like there just happened to be nets upon nets of spare fish just waiting to be consumed. Christ created matter. Let’s go back to the beginning of our existence. God created matter then. He created everything out of nothing. The almighty power of God seen in creation is the same almighty power seen in Christ’s work on this day.
All of this may seem impossible, however, with God, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit all things are possible and on this day he proved He could completely meet the people’s needs. In fact, he proved he could do so much more than just meet their needs. Not only could he fulfill them, fully-fill them, he more than fulfilled them. Christ over-fully filled them. satisfied
Teach my Thy way, O Lord.
God’s Son does exactly that.
12When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
He didn’t just provide enough food for the multitudes to eat. He more than took care of their physical needs. By starting with five loaves of bread and two small fish and then ending up with twelve baskets of bread left over, he clearly demonstrates how he more than abundantly provided for all the people.
The lesson Christ taught Philip, Andrew and everyone else is the very same lesson He teaches us today. John 6:35 “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
Even in the midst of our failings, our sinful anxieties, our disobedience to God’s Law; our Creator, through the death and ressurrection of Jesus Christ, teaches us His ways. Despite our shortcomings, Christ declares us righteous in His sight. Christ has completey fulfilled the eternal conemnation of the Law. On that day, Christ taught the people then and teaches us today His Father’s way. All our needs, all our wants, are satisfied with Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Just as the earthly, physical hunger was satisfied with Christ’s work on that day, our heavenly, eternal needs are forever satisfied with Christ’s work on the cross. It is there where our Lord teaches us His way, declaring us righteous, forever redeemed.
Teach my Thy way, O Lord.
As I stated at the beginning of my message, this is a perfect theme for this year’s start of Women’s Ministry. God, in His Word and Sacraments, teaches us His way of grace, forgiveness, mercy and salvation in Jesus Christ. He teaches us that His way more than satisfies all of our temporal needs here on earth, and through Christ’s death and resurrection, our God teaches us that we are redeemed children of God, precious in His sight, forever His.
In closing I’d like to read selected verses from Romans 8 beginning with verse 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thank you Lord, for teaching us Thy way. Amen