Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
This year three fifth graders went through the Pastor’s class, a class intended to guide them in a deeper understanding of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the sacraments of Baptism and Communion, our church denomination—The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—and hopefully have it all culminate in them deciding to make a confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, son of the living God, accepting him as Lord and Savior of their lives, followed by being baptized into the body of Christ, and then receiving their first Holy Communion.
That’s the intent and goal of my pastor’s class, and so to tend to and strive to meet this goal, I always start with an exploration of the Bible, where I bring in a large stack of bibles that I have amassed over the years—different translations and versions, different sizes and shapes.
We talk about the simplicities of the Bible, as well as the complexities.
We talk about big words like Pentateuch, and what words mean, like Torah and Gospel.
We talk about the difference between a Major prophet and Minor prophet and the difference between an Epistle, an Apostle, and a Disciple.
I encourage them to read the Gospels to learn about Jesus, the Psalms to learn how to pray, Proverbs to learn wisdom, and I tell them not to read Song of Solomon until they are at least thirty years old!
(If you don’t get that joke, then go home and read “Song of Solomon”, or “Song of Songs” as it is sometimes called, and it won’t take long before you get it!)
From there we move onto to talks and studies about how God is revealed to us, how Jesus is revealed to us, and how the Holy Spirit works in our lives, and knits us together in the body of Christ.
Then after several weeks of all this, I then begin to simply have conversations with them, and I typically start those conversations by asking them, “Why are we here?”
And the answers to that question always amaze me.
A minister was doing a children’s message one day and asked the question, “What is 2+2?”
A young boy piped up and said, “I’m pretty sure the answer is 4, but since you the pastor are asking, I’m going to say ‘Jesus!’”
This old joke comes to mind when I start asking my Pastor’s classes the question, “Why are we here—why are we in church—why are we in this Pastor’s class?”
Inevitably, I always get some kind of answer that basically amounts to “Jesus.”
This year, the go to answer for that question was, “To learn about God.”
Truthfully, it’s hard to dismiss that answer.
Why are we here? To learn about God.
Why are we in church? To learn about God.
Why do we go through Pastor’s class? To learn about God.
Who could argue such, for such is absolutely true.
We are here to learn about God, and God’s ways.
And such is the faith of a fifth grader as they approach the day they make their confession of faith, get baptized into the body of Christ and receive their first communion.
And though this day marks the beginning of a new kind of faith journey for them, I can’t help but wonder how long does the faith of a fifth grader last? How long will they see church as the place where we learn about God and God’s ways.
Because truthfully, how we see God and the church, changes the older we get. Which, in a lot of cases, isn’t always so good.
I have a “dumb phone.”
That’s what non-smart phones are now called.
And admittedly, I have grown rather self-conscious about it, so much so that I try not to talk on it in public because I have convinced myself that people see my flip-phone and are trying not to laugh until then pass by me.
Soon, though, I am going to fix that—I think. Who knows?
But my point is that today not even a phone can be a phone—it has to be a smart phone.
TV’s aren’t TV’s anymore—the have to be flat screens in HD.
Computers have to be faster, clothes have to be trendy, cars have to be sleeker—everything has to fit into a carefully constructed, socially acceptable way of life.
The pulse of this postmodern life has been created by the electronic circuitry of our technological partners.
It is seemingly impossible for us to proceed through a normal day without reaching for the aid or comfort of some gas-powered, electrically-charged, 3G and/or Wifi-controlled gizmo.
This electronic age has enslaves us in our work and home lives more than ever before.
And what this all has seemingly led to is a day and age where it is far easier, and far more preferred to have faith in the technological world of things human beings have created, while it is harder and far less preferred to have faith in the promises of God.
“Having faith” is not nearly as desirable as “having comforts, control, and power—all right in the palm of our hands.”
Living “by faith” is far more frightening to us than living “on credit.”
Staking our futures on God’s promises sounds riskier than investing our futures in the possibilities and conformability that is promised by more technological gadgetry.
To “have faith” and to live “by faith” may have been okay for some old wandering Aramean with no mortgage, no car payments, no deadlines, even no children.
But, today, we so often see “faith” as far too shaky a basis for our own complex, convoluted lives.
Our church’s fifth graders—though well versed in today’s technology—obviously more well versed in it than me—have learned about God and they have been introduced to the idea of living by faith in God and Christ Jesus, which is sustained through the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is a simple faith.
One that calls on them to tend to it through prayer, worship, community, service, and loving God with your whole heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.
It is simple, but it is pure and right.
It is a faith that the writer of Hebrews speaks to—a faith in the assurance of things hoped for—the things that God has assured us through Jesus.
It is a faith that has conviction of things not seen—that God’s Holy Spirit is always present and always at work.
It is a faith like that of Abraham and Sarah, who put their faith in God when everything around them told them that to do so would be a futile effort.
They were old and barren. They were strangers in a strange land living without stability or control.
They held nothing in their hands.
All they could cling to were the promises of God.
That is the faith that our fifth graders have been taught.
And it is here, at their church, where they have been assured that those promises are received and lived out.
It is my hope and prayer that their simple faith will continue to grow in that manner.
It is my hope and prayer that our faith will be influenced by theirs.
Because truthfully, the faith of our fifth graders today, can show us that with more faith in God, and less allegiance to our technology, we will always have everything we want and need in life. Amen.