So there should have been a disclaimer with the blessing [Blessing of Backpacks] for our young people this morning: after those few minutes, it does not mean their backpacks are filled to the brim with magic now. Because we did a short Bible reading, it does not mean their report cards will be overwhelmed with straight A’s. Because we prayed to God, it does not mean there won’t be any issues whatsoever for them at school. Our youth will still have to work just as hard, study just as much, as if we didn’t do a blessing of any sort for their upcoming year in the classroom.
You see, the blessing isn’t so much for God to hear; it’s for the children, it’s for you as parents and grandparents and fellow sisters and brothers in Christ to listen and realize that this God is going to be with them each and every day, no matter what. God didn’t need the blessing this morning to do that. God wasn’t waiting in Heaven to be convinced; listening so intently this morning for some carefully chosen words so as now to think, “Well, these kids are indeed worth watching out for this year.” God already loves them enough. God didn’t need any convincing.
Nevertheless, we do have a tendency to believe that don’t we, and it includes with how our schools are run. We hear time and time again that the state of public education would drastically improve if only God would be let back inside those brick walls. If only it could be like the good ‘ole days when classroom walls were filled with posters of the Ten Commandments and pictures of Jesus and that prayers started every morning, and the story of Creation would be taught freely alongside that of evolution in science class. If only God would be openly talked about as God was before, our schools would be so much better off, including our children, not to mention our future as a nation.
But when did we get the idea that this almighty God, this God of boundless love, needed a special invitation from us to show up into people’s lives? When did we get the idea that God would only walk through the door if Scripture verses were hanging on the other side? When did we get this narrow-minded audacity in thinking we could somehow control where this God springs into loving action, watching over our children?
The majority of our youth will never hear a prayer spoken over the loud speaker as it was decades ago, but I have a feeling God’s still going to go into those classrooms uninvited. I have a feeling this God loves too much for that not to be the case. I have a feeling that even though not all our young people are here this morning and thus didn’t receive the blessing directly, God is still going to be with them too. I have a feeling God cares for them too much for it to be otherwise. I have a feeling God knows better than any parent, any teacher, any school board, any department of education, how much pressure we place on our children, and it only gets worse year after year.
In the end, we want the blessing that will not only get them God’s intimate care, but those straight A’s, and also the 100th percentile on the standardized tests, for good measure. Because that means they’ll not only make their parents proud, but it also means that will result in more funding for our school districts. And, after all, they’ll end up getting better jobs, which, along with all their academic scholarships for their 4.0 GPA and 36 ACT score, will reduce the financial burden on their parents for college, and so better care for the rest of the family. And all the research shows that the higher the education for a population in turn decreases the crime rate immensely. Not to mention they need to do all this now so as to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in college loan debts, and thereby dragging down the American economy and destroying our national credit rating and send our country into epic collapse yet again! No pressure or anything children: the future of the world is in your hands.
The readings this morning were also filled with such pressure-packed expectations on all of us children of God: “[live] blamelessly, do what is right…speak truth from [the] heart…and do [absolutely] no evil [of any sort]” (Psalm 15). We obviously don’t pull that off very well, but it shouldn’t stop us from trying either. It’s what we owe to our God of mercy, and to our children, for a better world now; not for them to make it for us in the future. And yet, before we start feeling bad for ourselves, we must realize the weight of the world is not on our shoulders.
God took that weight of the whole world out of love. Jesus lifted the massive weight of a cross on His shoulders, and He did so without us inviting Him. God loves too much. God cares too much to let us go by otherwise. Obviously the young people will be watched over this year, whether we remember to pray that morning they go off to school or not. God doesn’t need an invitation to show up into their life. But we need to hear it for ourselves. We need reminded of it every day: that this God loves us just that much to never let a single day go by without surrounding us with the same compassion that saved us all on the cross and out of the empty tomb. And for that, for God’s constant presence among us and with our youngest sisters and brothers in Christ, we give thanks to this God of everlasting life now and forevermore! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon