First Mennonite Church
November 19, 2017
Teaching By Example: Dedication of Aymie
Text: Ephesians 6:1-4, Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Today I will make a detour on the series I started last Sunday. Today we are celebrating Thanksgiving and having the dedication of Aymie N. Evenson. I am pretty certain that Ahrean and Catherine are very grateful to God for blessing their family with the coming of Aymie. Ahrean and Catherine want to give thanks to God and want to publicly commit themselves to raise Aymie and August in the way of the Lord with our support and counsel.
It is well-known that the apostle Paul was not a married man and did not have family of his own. Yet, he was mindful of his pastoral duty to the family. Congregations are made up of individual and families who share a common faith. In most of his letters, Paul addresses family issues. In his letter to Timothy, Paul gives instruction on how husbands should treat their wives, on how widows should be cared for, on how older women should be example to the younger women, and on how church leaders should lead their families as well. But in the letter to the Ephesians chapter six, he has specific instructions for children and for parents.
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Although Paul was writing to church in the Gentile world, he quoted God’s commandments given to the Hebrew people. The commandment to honor parents, Paul says, is the first commandment that has a promise. Children who obey their parents in the Lord have the promise of God prospering them and giving them the blessing of a long life. How desperate our society needs to go back to this basic commandment of God regarding the family.
A couple of months ago when I was paying for my groceries and being that there were no other people behind me, the lady at the cashier station started the conversation. She asked me if I have children. I said I have three and told her their ages. She asked how well they are doing at school. Then she told she has two boys, one 10 and the other 12 years old. She said she simply does not know what to do with them because “nothing has worked.” They are rebellious, do very poorly in school, and when they come home they do as they please. They scream at her and fight with each other. We know that her situation is not unique. There are many more.
It is obvious that the commandment to obey parents is given to children who are at the age of using their capacity to reason. And in the context of the Ephesian church, it included the adult children of older church members. As parents we expect obedience from our children not until they are able to reason. The truth, however, is that younger children almost instinctively obey their parents. If you tell a toddler to sit down when it is meal time, he or she will sit down. If the baby is eating something not edible and you say, “Sweetie, will you please give me that?” more often than not the baby will give you what she is trying to eat. If you take the toddler to bed and you say, “It time to close your eyes. Good night!” A baby that has been trained to go to bed at a certain time, will close his eyes, even if only while you are there, but will close his eyes.
In the context of Christian family, Paul reminds children that obedience to parents is the right thing to do. Obedience to parents should not be out of fear or self-debasement (a sense of worthlessness), but because when children obey their parents they honor the Lord. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. When children obey their parents, they also fulfill God’s commandment to honor parents. It is not uncommon to hear teenagers say they make choices, or refrain from doing certain things their friends do because these teenagers do not want to hurt their parents. On the other hand, there are parents who lament or say they are embarrassed by what their children do.
Dr. Ghali said in his presentation two weeks ago that honor and shame are powerful guiding forces for moral life in ancient societies as those in the Bible. Honor and shame are still powerful guiding forces in some eastern cultures today. We all need to be reminded the importance of honoring our parents and others. Honoring parents is especially important in these times when “I-don’t-care-what-others-say” attitude prevails. The culture in which our children are growing up vies to shape our children and young adults. That is why we as parents must hear the word of advice Paul has for us.
In this short instruction for the family, Paul concludes by putting greater emphasis on the parents, and particularly the fathers. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. It is clear that Paul is addressing this command to Christian mothers and fathers. Obedience, love and respect from our children grow out of our respect for them and patient dealings with them. Parents should not unnecessarily annoy or anger their children. Parents have the obligation to teach their children and to shape their character but these duties are positively done when parents teach by example and with loving patience. Christian education is not information to be taught. Christian education is a way of life to be lived before our children. Although parents must teach the Word of God, songs, how to pray and the faith stories to their children, our children’s spiritual formation is best guaranteed when we teach by example at home and the church.
The Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is God’s revelation on how to instruct our children in the faith and way of the Lord.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
We can say that child dedication is the public witness that we have started the journey of raising our children in the Lord’s way. Child dedication is a life-long commitment with God and the fellowship of believers that we as parent want our children to be raised under the Lordship of Jesus.
Every young child is by God’s will and grace an heir of his kingdom. A child does not have to have faith in Jesus to be saved. A child does not need to be taken to church to belong to God. But as the child matures and begins to exercise his or her free will to choose, so also does the child begins to become responsible before God for those choices and actions he does. That is why in both the Old and New Testaments parents are encouraged to take advantage to shape the mind and character of their children when they are still young. Proverbs 22, verse six, says: Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
So once again, child dedication is act of gratitude to God for the blessing of a child. Child dedication is a public commitment on the part of parents and congregation to raise the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Child dedication is a life-long journey together. A child’s faith and Christian formation is better achieved if the parents teach by example. Lastly, child dedication is not to access salvation for the child, because it is to him or her that the kingdom of God belongs. Children are, by God’s will and grace, owners of his kingdom. Amen!