To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:2-7 

Happy New Year! Jill, Alex, Aaron and I thank you very much for your Christmas cards and generous gifts. We are truly blessed and encouraged to serve our Lord here at St. Paul with you, and 2015 will be a year of many great opportunities for our church to expand the kingdom of God. I look forward to working with the elders, president, and vice-president on some important things such as visitations, Christian education, and upgrading/adding-on to the Education Building. I’d like to spend a little time with you though on Christian education before we do anything else.

I’ve been here five and-a-half years now; I’ve read your history books, read your bulletins and newsletters from as far back as the 1930s, seen what you do for the community and jumped in there with you, been to countless meetings, and it seems to me after Sunday worship, educating the young and old in the knowledge of Christ is the next highest priority of our church. I can’t imagine approaching any one of you asking you if you believed Christian education was important and you answering, “No, it’s not.” Since 1878 our church has taught children about Jesus in Sunday school, adults in Bible study, and other venues including a defunct Wednesday evening Christian education hour. I’m very interested to know why that ended years ago; but my guess is sports programs and other family activities choked it to the point of sparse attendance and it was killed off for lack of interest.

The proverb above of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel reminds us however a lack of interest in wisdom and instruction is for fools. My friends, I don’t want to be a fool and I don’t believe you do either. I love and fear the Lord and I’m amazed at everything He’s done for you and me. The way He chose to save us is not boring or dull. The words in the narrative actually give life! Dullness comes from within our own hearts and chokes the gospel to the point of “lack of interest.” There’s so much to learn and discover about Jesus from the Scriptures—not to mention that fact we want our children to be armed and defended with the knowledge and wisdom of God right?

Thankfully, the instruction of the things mentioned in the proverb above continues at St. Paul. We have a family Sunday school. We have a Sunday Bible study. We have Confirmation class. There are groups to get connected with who study the Scriptures at various times and places during the week—check your Sunday bulletin for time and location. While despising and lacking interest in the knowledge and wisdom of God may be different from each other when it comes to matters of the heart, the result is the same: no increase in learning.

Finally, when it comes to educating the young, our day school which was chartered in 1892 continues to be an important component of our ministry. What started out as a school mainly for the children of the congregation has become a prime mission to teach the kids of our town the love of Jesus. In fact, if you read pastor Meissinger’s bulletins from 1941, he was on the congregation all the time to send their kids to the church school. I’m very curious why he felt the need to do that. Was it too expensive for church members? Was the teacher mean? Were the Sherwood public schools so much better? It seems to me, having lived in the Midwest with my own kids in a Lutheran school, that out here in the Northwest LCMS churches have a hard time selling their schools to their own members. It’s like the church members want a school, they want to know their church is doing something evangelistic in the community, but don’t place their own children in them. Fascinating!

I’m very thankful Alex and Aaron got to experience at least two grades here at St. Paul. I cherish the memory of dropping them off as I pulled in for work in the morning, and how they bolted out of the car to their modular classroom with joy and anticipation of what they’d learn that day. I know many of you cherish your memories of the school, and some of you are grieving over the reduction of future class offerings. But don’t let it get you down. Despite what you may have heard in the parking lot, the school is not closing. You’ve weathered other storms in the past because our Lord is gracious and means to continue the increase of wisdom and knowledge of Him in this place. Our Lord wants all of us to be involved, encourage, pray for and support the teaching of his Word to all ages in our church and town.

So while I look forward with you to a blessed 2015 and beyond, I’d also like to look back just a little to what our first preschool director, Christine Cullen said as the 1993-’94 school year opened: Thanks also to members of St. Paul congregation for your interest and support of the preschool. It’s a great mission opportunity in our own backyard. 

 Amen to that! And may you have God’s peace, joy, and increase in knowledge and wisdom of Him, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Pastor Don