Every Sunday our family goes to Church together. There is no question about whether we will attend or not, it is a given. Sunday Divine Service and Sunday School or catechesis is what we do every week. Why? We are Christians. Our Lord Jesus meets us each week in the Divine Service. We gather to hear the Lord’s preaching. He understands and penetrates the deepest needs of our lives with His Word. He calls us to see our doubts, our fears, our unbelief, our stubbornness, and self-centered loves. He calls us to repentance—to see our sin— that He might restore and renew our lives with His forgiveness. Our faith depends upon His Word and Sacraments. In His Word and Sacraments Jesus meets us and ministers God’s love to us by His Holy Spirit. It is a way of life for us to gather each week to hear His Word, to confess our sin, to pray for our family and the needs of our brothers and sisters in the congregation and community, to sing the praises of our Lord’s love and salvation, and to receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith in Christ and our love for one another.
When the Catechism begins each section of the Six Chief Parts of Christian doctrine with the subtitle, “As the Head of the Family Should Teach…in a Simple Way” most Christians don’t have a clue of the profound beauty, wisdom, and simplicity of the statement. We teach our children the Christian faith not with smart boards, classroom lectures, or doctrinal essays and exams; we teach our children the faith by doing with them those things that are central to what it is to be a Christian. When weekly attendance at the Divine Service and Sunday catechesis is the normal pattern for a Christian family, children learn that Jesus and His Word and Sacraments are the most important thing to Mom and Dad, and that the practice of our faith in Christ is at the center of our lives as Christians. In short, the habit of weekly attendance at the Divine Service and Sunday catechesis teaches our children what is most important in life.
Included in the habit of weekly attendance is the spirit with which parents approach the liturgy, hymnody, sermon, and catechesis with their children. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is simply to talk about what is going on in the Divine Liturgy that Sunday. What are we going to celebrate? What is this Sunday’s Gospel about? What hymns will we sing? When we return from the Divine Service we might talk about how we were drawn in to the Gospel story for the day and how Jesus demonstrated His love for us and for all people. We might also reflect upon the needs of those in the congregation for whom we prayed, and remind ourselves to keep them in our thoughts and prayers over the coming week. Finally, we as parents might be given the opportunity to reflect upon what we have heard and use it as an occasion not to upbraid our children with the Law but to confess our own failings to them and ask their forgiveness. By this they will learn that the Lord Jesus really is present in our lives and that our faith in Him really does matter. Such “sanctified conversation,” seasoned with a discussion of what Jesus has actually done for us and given us in the Divine liturgy and Sunday catechesis, can be among the most impactful and memorable experiences in our children’s lives. By bringing them to the Lord each Sunday and celebrating with them all that the Lord has given them in preaching and the Sacrament, they will learn to love Him as their Savior and Lord.