A small glow broke through the darkness. The surrounding pines were towering in the background as the night sky lay covered by a blanket of clouds hiding the majesty of the stars. The crackle of the fire was subtle, yet soothing creating an ambiance that was conducive for conversation. The muttering of conversations went uninterrupted except for the snapping of beer cans popping open, the shuffling of little feet exploring the vast Minnesota wilderness. I sat there this last week, around a fire at a family reunion. The smell of cigars was in the air, and the little voices of children asking for a s’more. My eyes scanned the circle, and what they saw was nothing out of the ordinary, a family gathering together to celebrate what they had built. Of course, I am not talking about their cabins in northern Minnesota, or the success of those seated around the fire, but what they had established, generations. My eyes went around the circle and I saw generations. I saw babies as young as 5 years old, children from ages six to twelve, their parents were there as well as their parents, and of course, grandma. Four generations were represented around that fire, yet that wasn’t the amazing thing. The amazing thing was that most of them remained in the Faith.
This is an accomplishment to behold, and it isn’t something that is built overnight. This is the result of dedicated parents who prioritize teaching the Faith in the home, keeping things like sports, school, and other extracurriculars in their proper place. Laying foundations on stone rather than sand to build upon. The Faith is something that is passed from generation to generation. Churches experience this, once the pillars of the church pass away, yet the church will go on, and it must. The preaching of God’s Word and the administration of the sacraments transcend generations and it sustains them as they grow and pass this Faith along to the next generations, and those who will come after. Yet, there will be generational gaps that are tough to overcome. Parents will lose sight of what God has called them to do. Raising children in the Faith at some point will take a back seat to things like homework, friends, practices, and performances. Then, in the blink of an eye, one generation will slowly fall away from the Faith. Then the next, until the following never hears the name of Jesus uttered at all.
There is so much generational divide both in the world and the church. The attitude of them versus us, my church verse their church, and “that generation” isn’t helpful nor is it right. The promises of God belong to all people, of all nations, of every generation. It falls to the church to ensure no child gets left behind, and that no child is kept from the promises of God, for we know what Jesus has to say about that (think millstone, neck, water). The promises of God do not belong to the Greatest Generation, or the Boomers, the Silent Generation, Gen X, Millennials, or Z. It is simply something that continues to be passed on, taught, and confessed. This is the beauty of the family, and this is the beauty of the church. For the church operates as a family. Although you might not like them, they belong to you, they belong to us and it is up to us to continue to raise the coming generations in the Faith.
Next time you sit in the pew, look around you. What do you see? Do you see a generation? Or generations? Now, there is not book or solution that fits every congregation, but something is certain. The first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one. We have the most beautiful gift, promise, and news the world has ever heard and God calls us to pass it on, from generation to generation. It is not only our privilege but our duty to proclaim God’s truth to all people, from all nations to each generation. So may this be a reminder, the Gospel is not only for you, but for your children, and theirs. It is for every generation, and by the Holy Spirit, it continues through you. From the stubborn, “closed-minded” ninety-five-year-old man, to the babbling infant who knows more about their faith than you do. This promise, the promise of Christ’s death and resurrection and the forgiveness of sins is for you.
For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, for everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself. (Acts 2:39)