Midweek Lent 5 – Ephesians 6:1-4
How go your family devotions this Lent? Are you using the devotional booklets from Lutheran Hour Ministries? Are you praying the Litany daily? Are you keeping up with Portals of Prayer?
Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you have faltered in this practice. May I ask why?
Yes, it is difficult to do devotions when one child is pouting that the television has been turned off. And yes, it can be cumbersome when the dog will not leave you alone for the 10 minutes it takes to do devotions. And yes, there are a number of other reasons as to why some nights, devotions simply do not get done.
But might I suggest another reason why it is so difficult to do devotions together as a family: because we are rarely together as a family.
Yes, activities abound; every minute of every day is overflowing with things to do. There is rarely a night not claimed by meetings or sports or some other activity that does not claim one or more members of the household.
Are these activities sinful? Not in and of themselves. It is commendable to volunteer time and talent to serve on committees and boards that work for the good of the church and the community. It is admirable and quite beneficial to participate in sports. And work needs to be accomplished; things will not get done on their own, they need attention, sometimes seemingly constant attention, from the overseer.
But while these things may not be sinful, do not think that they are always beneficial or even neutral either. Do not think that the absence of one member of the household is of no consequence on the rest of the household.
God did not create Adam and Eve and bless them with children so that each could be its own entity unto itself; rather He created them and placed them into a family, because God in His infinite wisdom saw that each member of the household benefited from the other members of the household.
Children benefit when they are under parents, father and mother, who love and care for each other and for them, who bring them up in the Christian faith, who lead devotions, who teach and admonish, and do not just delegate responsibilities to those outside the home. Children who grow up in homes that are centered on the faith, are much more likely to remain in that faith, and practice that faith in their own homes when they are grown.
Likewise, parents benefit by being over children. No longer are parents tempted to live just for themselves, rather they are humbled and focused, so that they may realize that they do not accumulate possessions and titles for their own benefit and glory, rather they work and labor so that their children might benefit, and in turn, society might also benefit. Parents realize that they do not just gather for worship because it is good for them, but they do so because it is good for their children as well.
Well do we see both parents and children as blessings; but there are certainly days when that blessing is difficult to appreciate. Parents can be seen as overly harsh, not understanding how things are different from when they were young; and children can be seen as stubborn and disobedient, not understanding that parents have experience and wisdom that exceeds their own.
And yet, both parents and children are called to fulfill their vocations in light of their baptism.
Children, do not cause your parents unnecessary stress and grief; do not be like the prodigal son, running away from the family you have been placed into so that you might seek the sin and debauchery that is all around. Rather, love, honor, serve and obey your parents, for they are gifts given to you by God for the purpose of bringing you up in the Christian faith.
Parents, do not be unfair to your children; if punishment is required, be fair, and if reward is required, again be fair. Do not abuse your authority over your children for personal gain, and do not neglect your authority by delegating it to others. The children in your home are under your authority and no one else’s, and their upbringing in the Christian faith is dependent upon you; failure to do so will be held against both them and you.
But when there is strife; when there is trouble; when the blessing feels more like a curse; then both parents and children gather together here, before the altar of our Lord and hear the promises and blessings that are spoken to you, and to all the baptized.
Gather around, both parents and children, and remember that God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you for your failures and your shortcomings.
Parents, when you fail in your role of providing for your children, seek their forgiveness. Children forgive your parents, for they are baptized into the same death and resurrection of Christ as you are.
Children, when you fail in obedience to your parents, seek their forgiveness. Parents, forgive your children, for they are baptized into the same death and resurrection of Christ that you are.
The hour for family devotions together is not too late. Regardless of whether your children are in diapers, or grade school, or high school, set a time together, and hear God’s Word together; bow your heads in prayer together; kneel at the altar and receive the body and blood of Christ together.
For the legacy that parents can pass down the easiest, and the legacy that children can carry with them the longest, is not a legacy of money or land or possessions; instead it is the legacy of faith, a legacy where the family gathers together and hears the Word of the Lord in the home and in worship.