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Evalgelical Lutheran Church in America Northeastern Ohio Synod
Letters from Pastor Alan Smearsoll

March 2018

The season of Lent was a time in the early church for the preparation of adult candidates for baptism. For those already baptized, it was a period of time used to refresh their learning in the faith. It was an intense period of study for those entering the faith and those already a part of the church in preparation for baptism/baptismal renewal at the Easter Vigil.

So, it seems to me that Lent is an appropriate time to focus on faith formation. At baptism, this promise is made on behalf of the infant/child by the parents and sponsors:  In Christian love you have presented this child for Holy Baptism. You should, therefore, faithfully bring her to the services of God’s house, and teach her the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. As she grows in years, you should place in her hands the Holy Scriptures and provide for her instruction in the Christian faith, that, living in the covenant of her Baptism and in communion with the Church, she may lead a godly life until the day of Jesus Christ. Do you promise to fulfill these obligations?

Public schools will teach the lessons necessary to be able to find a job and be a productive member of society. Parents will teach the lessons necessary to function in the world, “life’s lessons.” Often forgotten, or made a low priority in education are the things of faith; I suppose because these seem less “practical” in the larger scope of things. But, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Faith formation is critical in helping children and adults deal with and process the things of this life. Often times we forget that along with the mental and physical aspects of our lives there is the spiritual. Public schools won’t touch that and parents often aren’t familiar enough with it or comfortable enough to tackle it. The church specializes in it!

When someone enters a public school and opens fire on innocent children, faith provides a solid foundation to understand and cope with the tragedy. If one does not have an understanding of how Lutherans view the world and God’s interaction with it, a Lutheran might innocently misinterpret the event as a “sign” of God’s wrath on a country that took God out of schools. Sermons during worship, adult Sunday school discussions, High School Sunday school lessons and Catechism class instruction all help to properly process and interpret the things of everyday life that logic can’t comprehend but faith can enlighten.

Math can’t do that. Science can’t do that. Basketball can’t do that. Soccer can’t do that. While all of these may seem important at the time, they don’t provide for the basic understanding of our humanity and God’s role in our lives and this world. Faith formation does. Bring your children to Sunday school one hour a week. As an adult, take one hour a week to join in the adult forum on Sunday mornings between services. Faith education encompasses a lifetime. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a faithful adult say “I have known that Bible story since I was a kid and I have never heard it explained in that way before. Now it all makes sense.” 

Let Lent be a time of faith formation renewal for you. For your children. In the long run, it will be the best investment of time you could ever make. And it is only an hour or two a week!

Pastor Alan

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