The opening of the 2020-2021 school year for both public and private schools will be remembered for the vigorous efforts to overcome obstacles. State-by-state and district-by-district restrictions, plus internal school board decisions, have had to be weighed. How much will be learning online? How to do in-classroom sessions in keeping with the health guidelines? How to proceed if there is an outbreak?
Prayers are needed. We ask our Lord to protect the health of every student in all schools of our nation. We know that learning at every age is vital for the well-being of our citizenry. For if we do not have educated youth, what can we expect for generations to come?
Especially we come before the throne of our Heavenly Father with our petitions for each one of our own Lutheran schools. Yes, learning in general is important, but how much more vital is learning the way of God for everyday life and, most of all, for the life to come. All of us are sinners. All of us. That knowledge presents us with a soul-stopping hard fact: We could gain all the knowledge and prestige and power that the world has to offer, but if we and our children and grandchildren do not know and believe the way of salvation that God has provided through Jesus, we are more than simply miserable for this current age. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his own soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Here is where our Lutheran schools come in. Yes, creation, not evolution, is taught. Morals are imparted. Discipline is enacted. Instilling a dependence on God as our daily Provider is in the curriculum. Attention to Bible details is given. But educating our young minds in the classroom with lasting truths is not just inculcating their brains with facts and precepts from Scripture. It is daily imparting to them the proper division between Law and Gospel, with the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ receiving predominance. This is a worldview – or better, a view of the real world beyond – that counts!
Martin Luther once described with a negative example how seriously all Christians are to take the matter of educating our children in the Word of God. He referred to the ostrich. There is not an irrational animal that does not look after its young and teach them what they need to know. “The ostrich is an exception; God says of her (Job 39:16) that she, hardened against her young ones as if they were not hers, lets her eggs lie on the ground. And what good would it do us if we possessed and performed all else and were downright saints but neglected the chief purpose of our life: to take care of the young? I do believe that among outward sins none so heavily burdens the world in the sight of God or deserves such terrible punishment as the sins which we commit against children by not educating them.” (E. Plass, III, p. 1565)
The guidelines of our ELS Handbook for our elected Board for Lutheran Schools contains this statement: “The synod’s Christian schools exist to promote the mission of the Christian Church through providing well-trained youth. These Lutheran schools must teach the certainty of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ because ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge’ (Proverbs 1:7).”
The COVID year means prayers are needed for our nation’s schools in general. How much more needed are the prayers for our schools of the Word! Give thanks to God for our dedicated Lutheran teachers, and may our Lord bless the training they provide even if through mask or through screen!
O teach them with all diligence
The truths of God’s own Word,
To place in Him their confidence,
To fear and trust their Lord.
To learn that in our God alone
Their hope securely stands,
That they may ne’er forget His works,
But walk in His commands.
(ELH 180:4, 5)
Rev. John A. Moldstad