"Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But names will never hurt me!"
This was a popular rhyme when many of us were younger. We all know this isn't really true. Part of growing up is learning to deal with "name calling".
We as teachers work with this on a daily basis.
The Eighth Commandment says, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." This means that we should protect our neighbor's (friend's) reputation at all times. This includes the way we address our friends and neighbors. This is a very difficult concept for children of all ages to comprehend.
We know that the tongue is a powerful weapon. We are told in Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
It is hard not to fight back when someone hurts your feelings. Both children and adults often lash out with words, with name calling. Often when a child is called a name and his/her feelings are hurt they identify with the name he/she was called. As many times as we tell them they are not that name or that they should ignore the name they were called they have difficulty following our words.
What then can we do?
We can teach them to stand up for what they believe in - by our example!
We can teach them to have faith in their LORD and that He created a unique human being in His image - by our example.
We can teach them through our actions and language that we respect all people as our LORD does.
We can show them through the examples in the Bible where our LORD faced the same issues we face today. We can show them how He faced these challenges as both God and man.
We can teach them that there is one name by which we all are to be called, that will not hurt us for eternity - CHRISTIAN! This is the name that will guide our behavior. This is the name we are given as followers of Christ. In John 15:14-16 Christ tells us that we are now His friends and that He makes everything know to us that He learned from His Father.
We have a choice when calling people names.
We can call people by names that will hurt them.
We can call people by the name that will help them for all eternity!
John 15:14-16 (NIV)
14You are my friends if you do what I command.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
We have had some changes this past week at Grace. Mrs. Hoffman left to teach at another school, grades, first, second, and third, joined with fourth and fifth.
Two classrooms that were separate are now one. There are adjustments to be made. We have made many adjustments. We are beginning to work as one. It is interesting to watch the children working together. They are beginning to put each other first. They are beginning to put value on each other.
As I began to think about this week's message for THE CONNECTION, I read back over some of the one's from past years. One from spring of 2017, made me do some thinking. I've used this as a basis for my message this week.
What do you value?
Do you have enough?
Do you want more?
Do you look to what others have and think, "If only, I had what someone else has." Or do you think, "Why don't I have enough ____" (you fill in the blank.)
We as parents and teachers have what can be an over whelming job at times as we attempt to balance our time, talents, and treasures with those we love and work with. At times, it almost seems like we are walking a tightrope and doing a juggling act all at the same time - and we certainly don't want to fall and drop anything. We feel like we are being pulled in many different directions.
We want to please and help everyone - but we can't!
There are fires to put out - large fires, medium fires, small fires. Which do we handle? Do we put out the small fire first, which could turn large, or the large fire that might burn itself out?
We try to be fair - We try to be equal.
We have to remember there is a difference between being fair and being equal. To be equal means that all are treated the same - NO MATTER WHAT! To be fair means that each is treated rightly according to his/her needs. Sometimes we need to be fair; sometimes we need to be equal with people.
Everyone wants something - FIRST!
Jesus had something to say about this. He told us to be like servants - to be first we had to be last. (Matthew 10:16) We had to serve to be first. We are also told that where our treasure is, that is where our heart will be. (Matthew 6:21)
Sometimes we are so intent on getting our fair share that we fail to remember that we already have more than our fair share.
Our Father in Heaven gave us more than we deserved. He gave us a promise of more than we deserve. What we deserve is not a life of salvation. Not a single one of us - we are all equal in that we do not deserve to spend life with Him. We deserve a life separate from our loving Father.
Our Father through His love for us has given us equally a promise of eternal salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. We are told this in John 3:16 & 17.
He did not treat us fairly. He did not give us the fair share - eternal damnation - eternal life separated from Him.
Our Father doesn't play favorites - He doesn't give any one person more of a chance than another. He doesn't bless one more than another because of who we are - but rather He expects more from us because of what He has given us. We are told in Luke 12:42-48 that those of whom are given much, much is expected of us. This covers all things. Our time, our talents, our treasures, and YES, our faith.
This past week, I have had to balance between being equal and fair as we pulled together and started to become one as a classroom.
So, place your value in the LORD our Savior and follow His lead as a servant leader.
When we teach children safety about crossing the street, we tell them to stop, look both ways and listen for the traffic.
At Grace we have a phrase we use with the kiddos when we want their extra close attention. It is "stop, look at me and listen". All I have to do is say this phrase and all eyes are on me, and the children are waiting for an important announcement.
This past Sunday we celebrated the TRANSFIGURATION of Jesus. The day we remember when Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah to three of His disciples. What I find interesting is that while Jesus is on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, Peter is busy talking and making plans about what they should do while Moses and Elijah are there. I think this aspect appeals to the teacher in me. I have to wonder if Jesus just wanted to tell Peter "Shhhh!" Jesus didn't have to do anything. His Father in Heaven took care of it for Him. While Peter was still speaking, God the Father said, "this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5).
When the disciples heard the voice of God, they were terrified and fell on their faces. Jesus, the Great Comforter, told them to get up and not be afraid. He knew the love His Father had for His children. He knew the message and ministry that was to come and the purpose He, Jesus, had to accomplish.
It is important that we as Christians stop, look, and listen to the Word of God, just as the disciples had to stop look, and listen on the mountain.
We need to STOP what we are doing once a week. Stop and attend a church service. Stop what we are doing and be in fellowship with other Christians through Word and Sacrament.
We need to LOOK, pray, and meditate daily on the word of God and seek His message in our lives.
We need to LISTEN to what He has to say to us throughout our lives through His word. The Word of the LORD is a living and breathing word. It has applications for us at every stage of our lives. We need the fellowship of others to help us understand what He has to say to us.
The children of our school stop, look, and listen to the word of the LORD each and every day. We as adults need to do this as well.
This is what our LORD told us.
Wednesday begins the season on Lent with Ash Wednesday.
This is a time of the year so many people give up something. There are many reasons for doing so. The reasons range from following Christ's example to making oneself better, to following the crowd - everyone else is "giving up something."
The tradition of giving up something for Lent has its roots in our doing something for God, rather than God doing something for us. This is what was required before Christ's death and resurrection.
While we observe the season of Lent as a time of sorrow and preparation in remembering what our LORD and Savior Jesus did for each one of us, we are not required to give up or deny anything for what Christ did for us. Jesus, "himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24)
Jesus' death and resurrection is a pure gift, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were to sacrifice their first fruits to the LORD. They had to give of their best. This after all is what was going to happen when Christ would go to the cross - He is the only begotten Son of the Father who would be the final sacrifice for all.
Once Christ died on the cross and uttered the words "It is finished" (John 19:30) and the Temple curtain was torn in two, there was no more separation between man and God. We do not have to sacrifice to the LORD - Christ did it ALL.
Now, is there anything wrong with giving up something for Lent? No, not if your heart is in the right place. Is it being done for betterment? Is it being done for improvement? Is it being done to make a deal with God? When the item being given up during Lent becomes the focus such as "I can't wait until Lent is over so I can..." then the focus isn't where it should be.
Remember, our LORD doesn't call us to sacrifice to Him as was done in the Old Testament. He does tell us to "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24). This doesn't mean just for Lent - this means at all times
If you are giving up something "for Lent," are you focused on what you are giving up or are you focused on the better person in the LORD you are becoming? If you are giving up something for Lent that has cost you money in the past, are you able to use that for the betterment of others?
One possibility of actions in Lent is performing an act of service for someone without their knowledge. By doing this, we make not only others better, but ourselves better as well.
How about you? What will you be giving up for Lent?
Vicki Helmling is a teacher at Grace English Lutheran School