Back to School

Joseph Winston August 13, 2006

Sermon
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 All around Texas, public schools are beginning. Of the local schools, Angleton started the school year the earliest by having its first day of classes last Tuesday. The other school districts in the area have followed suit. Alvin’s classes began on Wednesday. Clear Creek, La Porte, Pearland, and many other school districts had their first classes on Thursday. Most of the public schools will begin classes later this week. Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas and the seventh largest in the US, will have its first day of school on Monday. Santa Fe ISD is planning to begin this Wednesday. Fort Bend and Galveston will start their school year the latest of all because they do not hold classes until Monday, August 21.
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3
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By no means is the starting of the school year limited to public schools. In a few short weeks, classes will have started at most colleges and universities. UH starts on the twenty-first. Texas A&M begins on August 28. UT’s holds its first day of classes on the twenty-ninth. Normally, the educational rhythm in most congregations closely follows the school year. Sunday Church Schools soon will be starting. By now, the curriculum for these classes has been selected and the teachers have been recruited. In the upcoming weeks, children and adults will once again learn the great truths that surround our faith. We will hear how God created the universe and everything in it so that all of creation would give God the glory. We will learn how humanity has fallen short of this basic goal. We will recall once again how God selected Abraham and his children to be God’s own people. We will teach how a descendant of Abraham and God came into the world to save all of creation. We will tell how Jesus lived and died. We will learn how the Holy Spirit keeps all believers in the one true faith and sends all of us into the world so that we can show others God’s love for the universe. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “And they shall all be taught by God” (John 6:45a). When we tell others about Jesus, it is God who is working through us. This miracle might be hard for us to believe since we often feel so unqualified to teach others about Jesus. Some of us might say that we do not know the Bible well enough. Others of us might feel uncomfortable telling people about the difference God has made in our lives because we seem so ordinary. None of these reasons should keep us from teaching others about God because when we provide 2

Christian Education, we are actually performing God’s will. The Gospel Lesson also tells us one of the results of Christian Education. When we are taught about God, we are drawn to Jesus (John 6:44a). The word that the author of John uses for draw is a rare word both in classical Greek Literature and in the Bible itself. The verb élkw generally means that an item is drawn or dragged somewhere using an external force.2 For example, a jailer drags the prisoner to jail, horses draw the chariot down the road, or an archer draws a bow. In each of these examples, the object does not change by itself. The prisoner does not walk to the jail under his own power. It is the jailer who brings the prisoner. The chariot cannot proceed down the road unless the horses pull it. The arrow will not be shot unless the archer pulls on the bow’s string. The same happens to us. We do not become Christians because we want to. We are here today because we have been drawn to this church by God’s power. Every one of us is here in this nave because God wants us to be at this place at this time (John 6:45b). The unfortunate reality is that some of us believe that we come to Jesus on our own. We think that our presence in church is because we wanted to come here. We assume that we learned the truths of the faith all by ourselves. We feel that we are Christians because we found Jesus. This attitude is absurd. Just like a chariot is motionless until horses pull it, we also do not move until the Father brings us to Jesus. Like a good teacher, God the Father is very persistent and He will use all meaThis verb is only used five times in John. The only other time that Jesus uses this verb is in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (NRSV)”
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sures at His disposal to teach us about His Son Jesus. Every day of our lives, He comes to each of us with the same lesson plan: Tell them that they are accepted. The methodology that the Father uses to bring us this lecture differs because each of us has our own unique learning style. The visual learner’s strength is their observation of the world. To reach these people, God uses impressive scenes such as beautiful sunrises, dramatic sunsets, and sweeping mountain ranges. All of these settings seem to say, “I love you.” The auditory learner’s primary method of mastering a task is through hearing. God uses music and words to reach these people. He brings the sweet song of God’s “Amazing Grace.” The primary sense used by the tactile learner is touch. For this type of student, God provides the physical world with all of its different sensations. The touch of skin or a rose might recall God’s welcoming embrace. The kinesthetic student learns through movement. Running and jumping could bring to mind how God comes out to us with His message of love. A teacher knows that some things such as multiplication tables are best learned through repetition. God the Father uses this same strategy in our education. God tells us over and over again that we are welcomed in His House. Other things like science and sports are best learned through object lessons. God teaches us in this manner also. He tells us, Come to the Bath. Be washed cleaned from the stain of sin. Dine at the Table with My Son. Taste and see that the L ORD is good (Psalm 34:8a). Unlike the public schools and universities that have fixed yearly schedules with a start and a stop to the school year, God the Father never stops coming to us 4

with His basic message. You are accepted. We can see, hear, touch, and experience this message throughout our life. A consequence of listening to this message is that the Father brings us to the Son. This is what the Father has taught us in today’s Gospel Reading. However, a fundamental problem still exists and it must be resolved. Even though the Father loves us unconditionally and has brought us to His Son, our time with Jesus is severely limited. All of us will die because each of us have sinned. It might appear then that our death will then break apart our relationship with Jesus. Jesus assures us in the Gospel Lesson and His Father teaches us that this will not happen. For when we die, He promises to raise us to life so that we will live with him forever (John 6:47, 51). This is our covenant with Jesus. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”3

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Philippians 4:7.

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