Did you watch President Obama’s address to Congress this week? In listening to the president address Congress and the nation, I heard a challenge that stood out from the rest of his speech. It struck me as a notion that, if implemented on a broad scale, would have more impact on our nation and our world than any other idea or program that President Obama put forth in his speech. The essence of the idea was simply for parents to parent. President Obama expressed it this way:
In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home.
The idea that education begins at home is beyond dispute. What often gets lost in our world to day is that the responsibility for education begins at home as well. The President’s five suggestions to parents were remarkably simple. Parents should attend parent/teacher conferences, help with homework, turn off the TV, put away video games and read to their children. How radical is that?
There I was watching a political speech thinking I was going to hear about ideas and initiatives for how our government was going to move our country forward, but right in the middle of the speech I was taken to a different place. Instead of thinking about current issues and evaluating proposals for dealing with them, I was thinking about being a parent and my effectiveness at nurturing and encouraging my children. The responsibility shifted from Washington to Etheld Reda Drive, from the government to the Sunday-Winters family, from someone else to me.
Like a paragraph in a speech that shifts our focus from one perspective to another, the Christian Calendar moves us to look again at ourselves and our relationship with God. The season of Lent would parent us if we would allow it to do so. It tells us with urgency and resolve what we should be doing in some measure all along. It invites us and urges us to examine our spiritual condition.
As parents, when go to open house at our child’s schools, we a get a picture of what is happening that notes from the teacher and updates told by our children cannot give us. When we sit down for a conference with our child’s teachers, we are face to face with the one doing the teaching. Lent says to us that we need to be present for a different kind of parent teacher conference, one that involves ourselves and the triune God. Gathered in the loving presence of our heavenly Parent, our teacher, the Holy Spirit, describes the ways in which we have learned to live out the sacrifice of our savior, Jesus Christ. Such a conference also reveals for us the ways where we still need to learn and grow and the ways we neglect the lessons of our saviors sacrifice.
Lent tells us that there is homework to be done. The TV needs to be turned off and the video games put away. In short, whatever so fills up our days that we have no time left to be in the loving, teaching, listening presence of God needs to be turned off and put away. Turned off and put away so that we can hear ancient stories of Gods amazing love read to us again by the Holy Spirit who abides with us always.
The Christian Calendar is a gift given to us from the saints who have preceded us in the faith. They are our mothers and fathers in the faith and the calendar is in a sense their way of being spiritual parents to us. The calendar that has taken shape through all these years of church history, tells us it is time to sit down, be still and listen.
As believers in Christ and followers of Jesus, we are always inclined to help one another. Being available to each other is one the important ways that we live out the call of God in our lives. However, in this reflective season of Lent there is a question that each of us has to answer for our own selves. We listen to each other share the wisdom of our shared journey. We worship, study and learn together. But after we have been to church, when Sunday School class is over and our fellowship has finished up for the night, the question remains, how do things stand with you and God?
That is the question that no one else can answer for us. That is the question that the season of Lent asks us. How are things with you and God? Not, how are things with God and the world? Not, how are things with God and your country? Not even, how are things with God and your church? How are things with God and you?