Teach Me Your Ways
National Honor Society
Lutheran High School Northwest
October 30, 2013
I believe I had most, if not all, of you for Old Testament last year. I know we spent a significant amount of time studying the Bible’s account of creation. I know I taught you that the Lord formed the earth on the first three days before he filled it on the next three. I know that we reflected on the fact that everything was created by the Word of God as he spoke it into existence. However, due to time constraint, there was one aspect of creation that I was not able to share with you then. Well, I’d like to share it with you tonight. The hidden story of creation goes a little something like this:
First, God created the cow. God said, “You must go to field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of 60 years.” The cow said, “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for 60 years. Let me have 20 years and I’ll give back the other 40.”
So God agreed.
Second, God created the monkey. God said, “Entertain people, do monkey tricks, make them laugh. I’ll give you a 20 year life span.” The monkey replied, “How boring! Monkey tricks for 20 years? I don’t think so. I’ll give you back 10.”
And God agreed again.
Third, God created the dog. God said, “Sit by the door of your house all day, and bark at anyone who walks past. I will give you a life span of 20 years.” The dog said, “That’s too long to be barking. The monkey gave you back 10 years, so that’s what I’ll do too.”
So God agreed.
Finally, God created man. God said, “Eat, sleep, play. Do nothing, just have fun. I’ll give you 20 years.” Man said, “What, only 20 years? No way! Tell you what, I’ll take my 20, and the 40 the cow gave back, the 10 the monkey gave back and the 10 the dog gave back. That makes 80 years, okay?”
“Okay,” said God. “You’ve got a deal.”
Thus you have the life of a human:
For the first 20 years, we eat, sleep, play, do nothing and have fun.
For the next 40 years, we slave in the sun to support our family.
For the next 10 years, we do monkey tricks to entertain our grandchildren.
For the last 10 years, we sit in front of the house and bark at everybody who walks by.
The secret story of creation. Obviously untrue, yet it illustrates an important point: the perception of youth in our world is that they are essentially useless, existing only to do nothing and have fun. You are here tonight because your teachers see something different in you. You are here tonight because your teachers see in you young men and women who embody more than the old Epicurean lie “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.” You are here tonight because you have demonstrated the potential to lead, because of the quality of your character, because you have earned the opportunity to be honored through induction to this National Honor Society.
Here’s the reality that you have to come to grips with tonight: people look up to you. People around you think highly of you. Maybe you don’t want to be considered a role model. Too bad. You already are one. Maybe you don’t think you deserve to have people think so highly of you. Oh, well. That’s not yours to decide. You are, in fact, a role model or you wouldn’t be here tonight. It’s something that you will have to deal with for the rest of your time in this school, maybe even for the rest of your life.
And so, recognizing that people are looking up to you, recognizing that people are looking at you as a young leaders, I put before you tonight’s critical question: what will you do with the gift of trust that has been placed in you? How will you respond to this honor? Abraham Lincoln is credited with having said, “Any man can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” You have been entrusted with a small amount of power by being honored in this way. What will your character be as you leave this room tonight no longer just students, but members of the National Honor Society, students who are held up as models of academic commitment, leadership, character, and service? Will you rise to the occasion? Or will you crumble under the weight of expectations? Will your example be one worth emulating, or will you lead others astray?
It’s a heavy burden that is being placed upon you, and so I invite you to wrestle with those questions in light of the school’s theme verse for the year from Psalm 25, which reads in context: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.”
Lead me in your truth and teach me. This is a prayer for God’s guidance. David pleads that the Lord would show him his paths and his ways. The Hebrew word “derek,” which is translated as “ways,” refers to a pattern of behavior. The psalmist is asking is that the Lord would call to mind the pattern of his behavior, the ways he has historically acted. What exactly is that? It’s Law and Gospel. As David says other places in Psalm 25, the Lord’s ways are cursing sinfulness and being merciful to the repentant. It’s humbling the proud and exalting the lowly. It is dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is being no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but being transformed by the renewal of your minds. It is the knowledge that our Lord’s way is the way of the cross. It is the way of death. It is the way of resurrection.
I challenge you, as leaders in this school and community, to model these attributes. As life continues to throw more challenging situations your direction, as your character is tested by adversity and opportunity, I challenge you to live a life of faith, remembering that the continued strength of your character will be found not in the hollow philosophies and empty wisdom of the world, but in the ways of our Lord, in his Law, and in his Gospel.
Because of our sin, the Law of God gets a bit of a bad rap. We are by nature sinful and unclean, and so God’s Law is always accusing us in our sin, holding our sin before our eyes. But the Law is not primarily about punishment. God did not give the Ten Commandments just so that he’d have something to punish us for when we break them. The Law, especially in the Ten Commandments, is a reflection of who he is. They are not primarily things you shouldn’t do; they are God’s gift to you as a description of the life he wants you to have. They are a reflection of who he has created us to be, of how he has created us to live in community. It was not good for Adam to be alone, so God made Eve. Man was not intended to live in isolation, but in community, in relationships with God and with other people. You have in God’s Law the blueprint for lasting healthy relationships with him and with each other. I challenge you tonight to strive to embody these relationship characteristics and model them in front of your peers.
I challenge you to embrace a healthy relationship with God by having no other gods before him. Do not make your studies or your reputation or your popularity or your career or your boyfriend or girlfriend more important to you than our Lord is. Look to him alone as the source of all that is good, as the one who will richly and daily provide all that you need to support this body and life. Fear, love, and trust in him above all things.
I urge you to call upon his name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. Do not assume that your struggles are a burden to God or that he does not want to hear from you about your problems. Do not assume that you can solve your life’s problems by yourself. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do not ignore or shrug off his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. For through that Word, through regular prayer, your relationship with God will be strengthened. And when your relationship with God is right, you will start to see it in your relationship with others.
In your relationship with others, I challenge you to respect those who are in authority over you, and not abuse any authority that you have been given. Respect your teachers, your parents, your coaches, even if you disagree with them. When you are given authority over another person – and you will be given authority as team captains and club presidents – when you find yourself in a position of authority, don’t use it in an abusive manner, but fulfill your vocation finding joy in service.
Look upon others with love, not hate, and do them no bodily harm. They are not obstacles on your road to success, they are people created and redeemed by our Lord, people for whom Jesus shed his precious blood. Treat them as such.
Do not treat others as objects to be used for the fulfillment of your own lustful desires, but love sacrificially. Do not buy into the lie of our culture that sexual pleasure is the highest form of pleasure. Rather, find the pleasure that can only be experienced by using the gift of your sexuality according to our Lord’s design.
Be generous with what you have and do not take what is not yours, for all things ultimately come from the hand of God, we are but stewards of his gifts.
Speak kindly of other people. Avoid gossip and slander at all costs, for few things will hurt as deeply or divide as quickly as wicked words.
Be joyful for the gifts God has given you rather than obsessing over what other people have, for as the Apostle Paul says, the secret to enduring poverty or wealth, freedom or captivity, is Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This is the way of the Lord. This is who he has created you to be, and when you live in this way, your relationships will be blessed. I challenge you to set this example for your peers.
It will not be easy. For when you live in this way, you are swimming upstream. In striving to set this example for your peers, you will be walking directly into the sand storm. You face will be pelted with grains of sand as the world continues to move in the opposite direction. People will mock you for your integrity. Peers will make fun of you for doing the right thing. More than that, Satan will tempt you and attack you at every turn. There will be days where you are disrespectful to your teachers. There will be days where you abuse the authority God has entrusted to you. There will be days where you hate, where you lust, where you covet and steal. In those times, do not fall into the trap of self-justification. Do not dive into the abyss of excuses, for there is no end to that plummet. You will simply find yourself flailing and grasping for a rope that is not there.
No, when you fail to live up to the expectations of our Lord, when you fail to serve as a righteous example to those around you, take your stand confidently on the rock of our Salvation. Let the Lord teach you his way of repentance. Set for your peers an example of repentance. The world laughs at repentance and says it is for the weak. Well, you are weak. We are all of us weak. Worse than that, we are dead in our sin, unable to free ourselves. Embrace that weakness, humble yourself before the Lord and he will raise you up to a life of service in his kingdom. Then turn right around and begin loving those around you once again. Jump back into the loving relationship with God and with your neighbors.
There is my challenge to you as the newest members of the National Honor Society, as young men and women who are being held up as examples for those around you. I challenge you to see past the smoke screens of this present darkness and recognize that true character, true scholarship, true leadership, true service is found in being who our Lord has created you to be, living in faith toward him and in love toward one another. He has given you the gift of renewed and healthy relationships through his gifts of Law and Gospel. Let the world see relationships the way they were designed to be. Let others see such relationships in you.
Heavenly Father, it is indeed humbling that you would use us sinful people to proclaim the good news of salvation through word and deed. We pray that you would help us to do this faithfully each day of our lives. Tonight, Lord, we pray for these young men and women. We praise you for the gifts, talents, and abilities with which you have blessed them, and we pray that you would graciously send your Spirit upon them to guide them as they continue to grow as leaders and examples in your Church. Let all who see these young men and women recognize in them a fervent faith in you and a sacrificial love for their neighbor, that the world may see a glimpse of life as you intended it to be. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit one God now and forever.