Rooted and Growing ~ Sunday, August 11, 2019
Updated: Aug 17, 2019
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Colossians 2:6-7 ~ Sunday, August 11, 2019
In preparing for today’s service and sermon to start a new school year here at Christ the King, I was doing some reading about what parents today want from education for their children. In my reading I came across this interesting finding from a research study commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation:
Parents care about academic achievement as a minimal prerequisite to a quality education. They want more than that. As material from the report says, “Educators and advocates are focused on what makes good education, but parents are focused on what makes good people.” They say the ideal education is a holistic one that develops social and emotional skills in conjunction and in parity with the development of intellectual skills. (https://www.excelined.org/edfly-blog/new-research-asks-what-do-parents-want-from-education/)
It seems to me that what we aim for in Christian education is the kind of holistic approach that parents are seeking for their children. Developing students’ academic ability is one of the key components but the focus is far more comprehensive than just filling minds with accurate information. It’s also about providing a safe and positive environment for the formation of healthy friendships, developing emotional health and resiliency, and doing all of this that encourages lifelong learning and growth. The bible verses chosen as the theme verses for this school year say it memorably: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
We aim to provide a good education by connecting students to the One who is perfectly good: Jesus Christ. Each school day begins with a devotion that focuses students on Christ. Teachers work each day at building up students in forming positive relationships by practicing the good principle that Jesus taught: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This kind of culture is where good relationships can form and good friendships can grow even stronger. Students are taught how to manage their emotions in the light of rock-solid truth, developing emotional resiliency as they deal with difficulties and work through issues, guided by Christ’s Word. Our teachers strive to pique the curiosity of students so they want to learn about God’s wonderful creation and develop in them the desire for discovery and continued learning long after they graduate from CTK school. The kind of holistic education that parents say they want for their kids according to the study commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation, is the kind of education we strive to cultivate at Christ the King.
I chose the phrase “strive to cultivate” purposefully. In that phrase there are a couple of realities that I think are crucial for us all to understand and embrace.
The first reality is connected to the word “strive.” There is confession in that word, and the confession is this: our campus culture is a work in progress because each of us, students, staff, pastor, parents, parishioners, we’re all a work in progress. We’re growing and each of us still has more room to grow. We’re being built up but God isn’t done working on any of us yet. We’re being strengthened in our faith which is also a reminder that we still have places where we’re weak.
Those weaknesses show up and show out in attitudes and behaviors that reveal a lack of energy, lack of focus, lack of respect, and/or a lack of love for others. Examples are always helpful so here are a few: Students don’t always take to heart what they’re being taught and put it into practice in their work as well as their interactions with teachers and their relationships with fellow students. Teachers and teacher aids don’t always know where each student is struggling, or fully grasp why they’re struggling, or know always what will best help them in a particular struggle. Parents sometimes run to social media or their social circles to vent their concerns rather than taking them up directly with the teachers and administrators who are in position to actually address what’s on their hearts. Sometimes co-workers run down their colleagues to people who aren’t directly involved rather than working out their issues with those who are. When these sorts of things happen disruption of learning, destruction of reputations, and damaging of relationships is the result. Honestly, this type of stuff happens everywhere and our campus is not immune.
The way we work through it and grow from it is what makes the difference. When weakness shows up and shows out in campus life it is easy to stay stuck in problem by pointing the accusing finger. Real growth can’t happen and it won’t happen if we’re unwilling to examine our own hearts and lives to identify where we may have contributed to the problem or learn better ways of working through the problem. A campus culture that ministers to the whole person is the kind of culture where we personal responsibility is highly valued. That means being honest when its hardest to do so: coming clean about our weaknesses and owning up to our part in a problem, whether we caused it or got caught up in it. It’s a culture where we own the reality that we’re still works in progress, not to excuse weakness, failure, or fault, but to get help, support, and strength for changing what needs to change in us and about us so that growth continues!
Which connects with the second key reality: the culture of this campus isn’t a product we put up for purchase for our kids. It is something we’re all called to cultivate that grows out of and is built up by and is strengthened through a personal connection with Christ that we live out in Christian community. What happens on this campus is so much more than just teaching kids what is good. It’s about connecting people to the one who is perfectly good, namely, Jesus Christ. That’s the focus of the ministry of this campus. And what is offered here isn’t just for our kids.
Let me explain with a quick grammar refresher as we look again at the bible verses that serve as theme verses for this school year: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7). Received, rooted, built up, strengthened – those are all verbs, words that convey action. All of those verbs are in what is called the “passive voice.” So the actions described are happening to the subject of the sentences. And who are the subjects of the sentence? Children Yes! Teens? Absolutely! Adults? Without a doubt! These passive verbs describe the kinds of things that Jesus Christ is actively working to accomplish in us and among us, not only among our students but among all who are connected to this campus: teaching and administrative staff, pastor, parishioners, and parents too!
Just what is it that Christ is doing in us and among us? Through his Word He gives himself to us as Savior of our souls and Lord of our lives so that we become rooted in Christ. As we gather around his Word, we draw our life from him, who was raised from death to life to life for us. Through his Word, Christ builds us up to know God’s unconditional love, a love that isn’t earned by our achievements or performance but is given to us as a free gift in the form of forgiveness for our failures and fresh energy for continued growth and development. As we spend this time in his Word, He strengthens our faith, our understanding of who God actually is and our trust in what he has done and continues to do for us! Not only is God holy and mighty but in Christ we learn he is also gracious and merciful. The God to whom we must answer, Christ also reveals to us that He is the God who has done everything to rescue us from destruction. He is the One who connects us in community. He does it not just for the educating of our children, but also to give us support and encouragement to keep on growing, growing closer to him as Savior and Lord in our lives, growing closer to one another as we develop lifestyles that looks more like his because our hearts are filled with his life, his Spirit, his love as members of his family of believers!
In other words, Jesus is working to create the kind of culture among us that is based on unconditional love, full and free forgiveness, where we overflow with thankfulness for the goodness of God at work in our lives. Where that kind of thankfulness spills out into the world through us as we reflect his presence in us, pouring out his blessings on all those around us!
As we get ready to start another school year, it is heartwarming to hear people share how they see God at work here! One parent shared with our principal the other night: "It is obvious the Holy Spirit is at work among the faculty, staff, and students at CTK." She noted the joy of serving on those who serve in our school and the focus on Jesus as our Savior as her evidence. Every instructional day, these are the blessings Christ pours into the hearts and lives of our infant through VPK students through our Early Childhood ministry as well as our Kindergarteners through 8th graders in our Lutheran Elementary School. Give thanks for that! Be a part of helping those blessings continue to root, build up, and strengthen among us, not only because you want this for your kids and their education but also because you want these things for your own heart and life. And you want to be connected to this kind of community where the blessings are so abundant they flow out from you to to bless, benefit and build up others in our families and neighborhoods, our campus community and our wider community too! God grant it to us and through us! Amen.