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Posts Tagged ‘children’

Prayer of the Day

O God, who alone knits all infants in the womb, You chose improbable servants—old and childless—to conceive and parent the forerunner of Christ and, in so doing, demonstrated again Your strength in weakness. Grant us, who are as unlikely and unworthy as Zechariah and Elizabeth, the opportunity to love and serve You according to Your good and gracious will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

About Zechariah and Elizabeth:  Zechariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Zechariah, a priest in the Jerusalem temple, was greeted by the angel Gabriel, who announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially, Zechariah did not believe Gabriel’s announcement because of their old age. For his disbelief, Zechariah became unable to speak. After their son was born, Elizabeth named their son John.  Zechariah conformed his wife’s choice, and his ability to speak was restored.  In response, he sang the Benedictus, a magnificent summary of God’s promises in the Old Testament and prediction of John’s work as forerunner to Jesus (Luke 1: 68-79). Zechariah and Elizabeth are remembered as examples of faithfulness and piety. (Modified from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  The Gospel according to Luke begins with the birth of John and Jesus.  As part of the warp and woof of the narrative is the praise of God in what could be called Psalms:

  1. The Magnificat, Mary’s Song of Praise:  St. Luke 1: 46-55
  2. The Benedictus, Zechariah’s Song of Prophecy, St. Luke 1: 67-69
  3. The Gloria in Excelsis Deo, the Song of the Angels, St. Luke 2: 14
  4. The Nunc Dimittis, the Song of Simeon, St. Luke 2: 29-32

The titles of these psalms is from the Latin Vulgate translation and reflect an old tradition of naming a psalm after the first word in the song:  1. Magnify;  2. Blessed; 3. Glory in God in the highest;  4. Now depart.  All of these songs have been included in either the Prayer offices of the Church and/or the Divine Service.

In their old age, like another “unworthy and unlikely” couple centuries before,  Abraham and Sarah, the priest and his wife would have a son:  the son to be the forerunner of the very Son of God, the Messiah.  What almost becomes overlooked by the faithful and diligent reader of the Word is that the Lord’s promises come through married couples and their families: Adam and Eve, Noah and his wife, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel and Leah and throughout all generations to Zechariah and Elizabeth and another unlikely couple:  Joseph and Mary.  Why does the Lord do so?  I do not think we know directly from Holy Writ but we do know the Lord created marriage and family,and it was good.  And given the state of the family, yes, even in the Bible, the contrast between His saving promise and our utter need for His salvation is clear!  Only He can breach the gap and has. He did not want His love of His good creation,  in bondage to sin, to end but be extended in His redeeming in the fullness of time: the gestation and birth of His only-begotten Son.  His promise of redemption could only find it’s home in a family for the generations of humankind.  We must lift up as the Church at every opportune time the importance of family and children when marriage is denigrated by same sex marriage and children in the womb are murdered and “harvested” for their organs.  Zechariah had much to sing about in the  praise and blessing of  the Name of the Lord in  his  marriage to Elizabeth and so does every family in Christ!

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
   for He has visited and redeemed His people
69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of His servant David,
70 as He spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies
   and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
   and to remember His holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
   whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (St. Luke 1)

How do we know salvation and the Lord who is our Savior:  Answer: “by the forgiveness of our sins” The Benedictus is the song sung every day  in Matins. As John paved the way for the coming of Jesus the Christ, so by the Lord’s promise fulfilled to Zechariah, we each and every day in prayer, in the Benedictus, prepare our selves for the work of the Messiah in our vocations, and we too are “improbable servants”.   Matins is good way to begin the day as His family.

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“Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD” is an article from Psychology Today and is found here.  It is worth a full read.

From the article:

“French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word “no” rescues children from the “tyranny of their own desires.”

This was of course the ‘American’ philosophy as well but it really is not an American philosophy, it is the Biblical doctrine and practice from the Lord Himself in the 4th Commandment, with Martin Luther’s concise teaching on it:

The Fourth Commandment

Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.

What does this mean?–Answer. We should fear and love God that we may not despise nor anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve, obey, and hold them in love and esteem.

In most of Luther’s concise teaching on each of the commandments there is a Negative and a Positive of the Law, including being a child and being a mother and a father.  It comes as a revelation in America’s popular magazine  Psychology Today that French parents actually say No to their children.  For instance: Just think about the use of the word “affirmation”:  without any discipline, no “No” so that  the child’s “self-esteem” is not hurt.  The tip-0ff to the real American philosophy of child rearing, not the Biblical one, which began with the elites telling Americans the way to parent was epitomized by Dr. Benjamin Spock in his seminal best-seller:  Baby and Child Care, first published in 1945.   I very quickly found these two quotes from Dr. Spock:

What good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best after all.

Happiness is mostly a by-product of doing what makes us feel fulfilled.

 So a mother or a father can run on her or his “feelings”?   It seems such advice of following one’s heart is the quagmire  from which  the exponential rise of  child abuse rose  in our generation.  Happiness is a by-product, but not from”FEELING fulfilled”, but happiness is a by-product of doing a task, a job, a service well.  “Feeling fulfilled” is amorphous, and I can feel good and fulfilled after a drink, a pizza and while we’re at, why not drugs?  A mom told her pastor that her one year old child is the “boss”.  I tried to gently correct her and I pray she hears.   “Amorphous” literally means without form.  God’s Law forms our lives. Limits are boundaries as “Forgive us our trespasses”.  There is no law in a feeling but there is Law in  God’s Word and disciples of Jesus Christ adhere to a discipline which is godly and humane.  Note that Luther lists “love” as the last quality in the 4th Commandment.  In The Large Catechism Luther correctly teaches that honor includes love. Note:  what Psychology Today, which is all about the somewhat science of psychology, is implicitly applauding in this article: spirituality, the spirituality from Law, as part of the remedy of ADHD.  

The Lutheran Confessions teach that all Scripture is correctly divided between Law and Promise (Gospel), that is:   God’s No and God’s Yes. I have preached, taught and  discussed that we have so relegated God’s No as “rigid” in our self-affirming, self-esteeming American society. Churches and congregations which try to teach God’s No and God’s Yes  are likewise considered too strict or worse, fundamentalist! If a political party is not “affirming”, it’s called “the party of no”.  And now we can see what happens when folks try to distinguish between No and Yes as in France and for many of you in  your own families.    With our self-indulgent, slothful child-rearing, we have sown the wind and have reaped the whirlwind, and it is children who are being spiritually, emotionally and physically hurt.  We can’t follow our heart, we should only follow God’s Word.  He knows more about us than we do.

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“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” St. Matthew 18: 10

Introduction:  The following quote is from Luther’s House Postil  (“House Sermon”: he preached daily in his home) on St. Matthew 18: 1-10.  This is one of the two appointed Gospel lessons for St. Michael and All Angels, see “Read Before You Hear” above.   He is preaching on the Word in which the Lord says that children have guardian angels. He takes up the topic that the Lord highly values children, even to send His “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1: 14) to guard them. After reading this sermon, the take away can be “things don’t change”.  In negative, sadly yes but also in the positive, in the Godly:  The Lord commands and helps us to raise our children, something no government, nor school can finally do.  Government and school are to protect and defend families, not replace them.

“Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.” In other words, Whoever is responsible for a child, physically and spiritually, trains him properly so that he learns to know God, learns not to curse, swear, or steal; to him I say that he is receiving me personally, is loving me as if he were carrying me, Mary’s child, in his arms and taking care of me just as my mother Mary has taken care of me. That is preaching ever so sweetly and tugging at us ever so winsomely.

 But why does the Lord do it? Solely for the reason that he understands very well how eager young people are to listen to obscene things and how easily they are misled. Moreover, evil mouths are only too happy to lend assistance here and—may plaintive cries rise to God in heaven!—we now find boys and girls, ten and twelve years old, who can curse and swear a blue streak about hurts, physical disorders, pustules, and the like, and are otherwise devoid of shame and are vulgar in speech. From whom do they learn this? From no one else but from those who should be restraining them, from father and, mother, and from shameful, wicked servants (see footnote below). Young people come to know such things more quickly and pay more heed to them than to the Lord’s Prayer. This has its roots in that old, evil firebrand, our sinful nature, that sticks within us. That is why Christ preaches here so compellingly and admonishes so tenderly to take care of young people, saying, When you train one of these little ones, when they are brought up in the fear and knowledge of God, in godliness and modesty, you then have done me the greatest service. I have assigned my noble servants, the beloved angels, to serve and attend them. Remember this and do likewise, do not offend them, let them hear no evil, and minister to them willingly.

Footnote:  Most of us do not have servants in our homes, but we do have electronic servants:  television, radio, CDs, DVDs and especially the internet.  They are our servants not our masters, yet young people in particular can mastered by them with a false, heretical and devilish view of the world. (And so can adults!) Young people can know a wicked song lyric quicker than the Lord’s Prayer, as Luther points out.  These servants can be wicked and want to master.  Fathers and Mothers, and Grandparents must be, with the angels, on guard for such, restricting at times the abuse the devil heaps on us through them.

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In a sermon entitled, “Where are you, Adam?”, by Rabbi Marc Gellman (published in First Things), among the many cogent Torah-centered observations he preaches, this is one of many that stands out:

In The Altruistic Personality, their book about Christians who saved Jews during the Holocaust, Samuel and Pearl Oliner asked what distinguished the rescuers from the majority who did nothing, or were complicit. Their conclusion was that they were not distinguished by educational level or by political views or even by attitudes towards Jews. They were, however, different in two critical respects: they were strongly connected to communities that had straightforward and unsophisticated understandings of right and wrong, and they had a powerful sense of moral agency and shame. They said over and over again in interviews that they could not have lived with themselves—and many said they could not have answered before God—if they had not done what they had done. The righteous gentiles of the Holocaust came from communities and families that had prepared the way for their courage by teaching them how to feel shame and therefore virtue and courage. In this country those same institutions are often preparing the way for moral relativism and cowardice by teaching that nobody really knows what is right and what is wrong, so what the hell.

Jesus taught about children being brought to Him and His erstwhile disciples who were preventing parents from bringing  the children to Him, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 19: 14)  Why do children get it, that is Jesus? Children know right from wrong.  It’s that simple.  They know goodness and evil. The families coming to Christ in His reign knew this.  The good fairy tales and children’s stories are filled with this moral clarity.  Children are ashamed when they are caught.  Their understanding is wonderfully unsophisticated.  Rabbi Gellman’s citation is most illuminating.   It was not the academic elites who resisted Nazism and their treatment of the Jews but those who knew right from wrong.  Many were Christians who are derided in our day and time as “fundies”, or cultural neanderthals and the like.  A  good documentary on one village of 5,000 Huguenots in France who saved the lives of 5,000 Jews is Weapons of the Spirit by a man who was saved at birth in Le Chambon, Pierre Sauvage.  Why did those villagers risk so much?  Their answer:  we had too.  Why?

Your Word is a lamp to my feet
   and a light to my path. Psalm 119:  105

His Word is quite clear and lights our path.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (St. Matthew 11)

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