Sep 1, 2011
Summer of the prophets
We completed our vacation Bible school for the summer in five days, from Tuesday, August 16, through Saturday, August 20. In addition, on Sunday morning, August 21, the sermon was tied in with the final lesson of vacation Bible school and after the service, several students were recognized for outstanding memorization of Bible verses. Sixteen children attended the first day of vacation Bible school, with attendance of around 30 for each of the following days. Each daily session included an opening devotion, songs, crafts and games. This year's Bible school focused on several prophets of the Old Testament: Elijah, Elisha, Joel, Habbakuk and Christ in His role as prophet. The materials were developed and provided to us by the Lutheran Church of Venezuela.
The text for the first lesson was 1 Kings 17:1-15 (the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath). The objective was that the children might learn that God provides all that we have and all that we need. Each lesson was divided into a teaching of the Law and a teaching of the Gospel. In the first lesson, the message of the Law was that we often are afraid that we will not have everything we need because of a lack of faith that God will provide for us at all times and in all circumstances. The Gospel message: Knowing what God works and how He provides for each of us in our need, He promises to multiply the blessings in our lives, so we seek first the Kingdom of God and all the rest will follow.
The text for the study of Elisha was 2 Kings 4:38-44 (Elisha and the miracle of the great pot). The theme was the miracles of God in our lives and the objective was for the children to learn that in any situation, good or bad, God never will leave us and will provide the means necessary for us to emerge victorious. The Law: When we do not trust in God, we do not see His wisdom displayed in our lives, therefore we do not receive all blessings He intends for us. The Gospel: God has the power to transform the bad things in our lives into blessings. The text for the third lesson was Joel 2:27-32. The theme was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in baptism with the objective that the children learn about holy baptism and the Holy Spirit comes to them through the visible means of grace. The Law: God judges all nations according to His commandments and punishes those who do not trust in Him. At times we may believe that we can obtain salvation through our own works and forget that we are saved only by the merits of Christ, Who comes to us by means of Word and the sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper). The Gospel: God will pardon all who call upon His name and all who receive the Holy Spirit in baptism will be illumined by His gifts and be able to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The text for the fourth lesson was Habakkuk 1:2-4, 3:17-19, and the theme was the just shall live by faith. The objective was that the children understand although many bad things may happen in this world, God does not abandon us, but justifies us through faith in Christ Jesus. Law: We may be tempted to despair, because we do not trust in God does everything good in His perfect time. The Gospel: We may have confidence that God will do justice in the perfect moment because we are not traveling through the valley of fear, but rather climbing the heights of faith.
The text for the fifth and final lesson was Matthew 17: 1-8 (the story of the Transfiguration). The theme was that Christ is now the one and only prophet and that the children understand the office of Christ as prophet, knowing that there is no true revelation from God apart from Him. Law: There are many things that we do not understand, so we look toward our own security and avoid venturing outside our comfort zone. The Gospel: With Christ as our Guide and Counselor, we need not be afraid and look toward the future with hope and joy.
That Sunday's sermon text was 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, in which St. Paul compares Moses, whom the Jews regarded as the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, with Christ, the prophet greater than Moses of whom Moses prophesied, and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery with redemption and new life in Christ. In baptism we cross from slavery to sin to freedom in Christ, as the Israelites by a mighty show of God's power, were able to cross from slavery in Egypt to liberty on the other side of the waters of the Red Sea.
But they still had a long journey to the Promised Land, so God provided for them food and drink in the wilderness, as He provides His body and blood in the Lord's Supper to sustain us through our journey through this life. Despite God's loving care, however, most of the Israelites died in the wilderness and did not reach the Promised Land. So it will be with us if we do not stay true to the faith of our baptism and fall into idolatry. No matter if we receive the blessing of baptism, if we do not live as sons and daughters of God, if we fall into sin and not repent, we will not escape the judgment of God on the Last Day. And if we receive the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily, that is, without repentance, we receive the sacrament to our condemnation.
We give thanks to God for the children who were able to attend this vacation Bible school and we hope to host another during the Christmas-New Year break.