How do we pass along our faith? It is an important question among many which we wrestle with as a community of Christian faith. It is important to who we are and the responsibility we have been given by Jesus. It is important to our children and the generations that follow them. It is also a question of faith, for what faith can we claim if we are not faithful to what we have been specifically instructed to do in Matthew 28. Make disciples and baptize the nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
It is also a question for which we seem to not have an easy answer. It is a question that frustrates us. It is a question that frightens us. Yet it is a question of utmost importance, so we can not brush it under a rug somewhere.
One thought is to look toward Jesus. I invite you to consider how frequently in the New Testament did Jesus pass along his faith in the synagogue? Only once, at least as the Gospels report to us. That was in Luke where Jesus read Isaiah in the synagogue of his hometown Nazareth. Otherwise, the Gospel witness tells us that Jesus taught and prayed on the road, where he met the faithful and the unfaithful.
Again in the Gospel of Luke, the risen Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He does not tell them who he is, but walks with them, asking about their lives. Of course, they want to talk about what has just happened in Jerusalem and how their life has come crashing down with the death of Jesus on the Roman cross. Jesus asks them detailed questions, although we know that he was already very aware of what had taken place. The disciples lay out before Jesus their lives, their pain, their heartbreak. And Jesus listens. It was only then that Jesus begins to teach them beginning with Moses and all the prophets, and offers interpretation of the scripture concerning himself, explaining the way of the cross and how it glorified the Father. Then at the table, as Jesus broke the bread did they recognize who he was.
I think what is important is that in this story and in the telling of parables faith is passed on to others through meeting them in the middle of their lives where ever they are at. It takes place when we listen; when we pray, when we carry with them their burden. And only then the traditions of faith can be shared.
So how do we do this? We start by going outside the walls of the church to meet people where they are. We listen to their stories. We tell them our stories. In the midst of the story telling we pray for them. And then we tell them there is good news, the good news of love and forgiveness that is the story of one Jesus of Nazareth.
And what about sharing the faith with our children? What may be most frustrating to us is that what once worked, dragging children along with you to church for Sunday School and worship, no longer works. In fact, it may be even working against the sharing of faith with our children. The biggest complaint I am hearing from parents is that they are tired of fighting their children week in and out to get them to church. It exhausts them. It also fractures the family. So for those of us who care about such things, what can we do.
We also need to be meeting our children where they live, in the middle of their lives. In part the answer is up to the parents. Parents, you live day in and day out with your children, through their joy, through their pain, through their mis-steps. You are in the front line of faith sharing. You can do it by including in their lives some traditional techniques that fail only because they are not used. Return to daily prayers at meal time, blessings as you leave your house, bed-time prayers, and story reading from the Bible. The other part is that we as a church should be equipping you to do this. We should be encouraging you in your own faith walk. If you are stuck about it as a parent, then let us talk about it. This is of vital importance, for if you can testify to your children of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus the Messiah, who will?