Back to School (Colossians 1:9-11)

By | September 9, 2013



     We all have teachers we remember, teachers and Sunday School teachers who we thought were the best teachers or the ones who influenced us in some manner. Or, like in the case of Mr. Strickland, there are those teachers and administrators we’d like to forget

     So, here we are on our second Sunday of the Back For The Future series. Last week we talked about Back to Basics. Since school has just started I want us to focus on Education, the role of teachers and especially the importance of Christian Education.


     I would not presume to tell teachers how teach. If I did, Mary would flay me. However, I do think teaching is one of the highest callings anyone can ever answer. And I do believe that just like preaching, it’s a calling, not an occupation. I also believe that God uses each of us in whatever field we serve.

     You each received a crayon and a piece of paper when you came in. If you didn’t get one, the ushers have them at the back. So, here’s what I want you to do with the paper and crayon you’ve been given. First, I want you to remember the Sunday School teacher who influenced you the most.

     I didn’t grow up in church but I did attend VBS and occasionally Sunday School with some friends of mine. The church was within walking distance of our house so my parents didn’t mind or didn’t care. The Sunday School teacher I remember is Mr. Paul. He taught the 5th and 6th grade class. What I remember about Mr. Paul was that his children were already grown. And as I look back, by all the things I’ve seen over the years in church, he didn’t need to be there. He’d served his time.

     But I got the sense from Mr. Paul, that this was something special, maybe even life changing. Part of what he brought to the table was his excitement about Scripture and especially the missionary journeys of Paul. He made it exciting and engaging. I realize now how his faithfulness and excitement planted some real seeds of faith in my heart. His name goes on my paper. Write yours down, too.

     Also, I want you to remember a school teacher who influenced you the most. I will always remember Mr. Wilke, my Sophomore English teacher. Mr. Wilke not only taught English and English Lit, but he sponsored the creative writing club and the creation of yearly creative writing magazine which was edited by students. Every year the club had a creative writing contest for both poetry and prose. The winners of each category were chosen as editor and assistant editor.

     I have to confess that I wasn’t a very good student in High School. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work, I could. But High School for me, was like a giant playground. That was my motivation not academics. I just didn’t apply myself. And then I met Mr. Wilke and the creative writing contest. He announced the contest in class and after class I went up to get an entry form. And as I reached for the form Mr. Wilke said, “You needn’t bother, Billy, you can’t write. You don’t have any chance of winning this thing or even having something put in this year’s magazine.”

     It made me mad. So, I took two forms. I submitted a short story and a poem. When Mr. Wilke announced the winners, I’d won both categories. Later he told me that he saw a lot of potential in me. He knew I had the talent but I wasn’t very motivated. He found the right button to push to motivate me to do my very best. And I thank him. His name is second on my list. Add you teacher’s name.

     We’ll get back to the list in just a minute, so hang on to it. But let’s look at the Scripture for today.

Colossians 1:9-11 (NRSV)

[9] For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

[10] so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

[11] May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully

[12] giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

     I love that passage and while not directly about Christian education and learning, I think gives us a foundation upon which to build both our


     A. Paul says they “have not ceased praying for them”

     I think we’re called to pray for our teachers, educators, support staff and administrators. From my point of view, there seems to be an underground movement to dumb down America. Just like people opposed to any form of welfare use the failings of the 1-3% that abuse the system as their reason to shut off all welfare, there are those who use the failings of the 1-3% of school personnel who are going simply through the motions. They aren’t really teachers anymore.

     What they fail to see are 97% of teachers who spend countless hours before and after school preparing for class or supporting students. They don’t see how teachers can agonize over one student like I was who has lots of potential but either no motivation or no support from home. They don’t see the teachers who buy supplies for their classroom never expecting any kind of reimbursement because they know the school and the students can’t afford it. They don’t see how comparing every teacher to that small handful of do-nothings not only demeans the good teachers but slowly strips them of pride and motivation.

     Our Nation’s schools and teachers are beleaguered by this attitude. Dumbing down America isn’t the answer. Education gives kids hope and a future with hope. It not only opens up worlds to them but it opens up opportunities as well.

     We need to pray without ceasing for our schools and out teachers. We need to pray that they “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

     WE need to pray that they “be made strong” and “be prepared to endure everything with patience.”

Why? So that they may continue to bear the fruit in their calling. Pray for our Teachers, Coaches, Administrators and School Personnel. They need it.

     B. And don’t leave out our Sunday School teachers either. Remember the influence they had on you. Lift them up so they can help mold and shape the faith of our children. Pray that they might give our children the foundation and motivation they need to continue their spiritual growth so they will be able walk through the struggles of life with faith.


     A. All of life is an opportunity to be a witness for Christ. We have opportunity in every moment of life to make a difference to those around us. We have the opportunity to live as Jesus taught every single day. A public School Teacher doesn’t have to stand up in class and preach or pray or quote Scripture or evangelize to be a faithful Christian. All they really have to do is live their faith.

     Paul says our prayers are for the purpose of helping them to “lead lives worthy of the Lord, lives fully pleasing to God.” That’s an attitude and a lifestyle that is completely transparent.

    One day out of the blue a physical education teacher received a letter from a former student. This student wanted the teacher to know the impact that he had made on his life. The student told his former teacher about the first day of class. The class had to run a 600 yard race and the student didn’t want to do it. The reason, he always came in last no matter how hard he ran or how hard he tried. This student though, that this class was different, even when he came in dead last once again.

     He wrote, “I remember you running alongside of me that last 100 yards yelling, ‘Good effort, Lou!  Great effort! Absolutely magnificent.'”

     In the letter the student told his teacher. “I felt like I’d won the Olympic Gold Medal for the marathon.” 

     Lou became attached to his teacher because he was the first person who ever encouraged him. The next year Lou went out for soccer. “I would have never had the courage to do it,” he said, “if it had not been for your example.”

     That had been more than ten years before. Lou told of how he went to college and studied journalism, even though one of the instructors told him he had no writing ability. “All through those four years I held your example in my mind,” Lou wrote, “[I] looked for possibilities and wondered often how you always managed to be so positive all the time.” 

     He concluded his letter with this sentence: “Five years ago I met Jesus and figured you out.” (1)

     Teaching the faith is a lifestyle.

     B. It’s a lifestyle we’ve all been called to live. Especially parents. You see, as a parent it really is more about what we do, than what we say. Watch this:

     Our children and sometimes even their friends, imitate us. We are their example.

     Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, United Methodist pastor in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference and Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary was our teaching guest at Annual Conference this past June. She wrote this on her blog site.

     “Our kids know us for who we really are. One glance at our lives tells the truth. The most incontrovertible finding of the National Study of Youth and Religion (2004) is that “we get what we are” with our children, in religion as in most things.

     Faith is a gift from God, not an ideology we can instill; getting kids to believe “in” Jesus is fine, but in the end, it doesn’t change very much. Trusting Jesus, on the other hand—believing Jesus, having confidence in God’s forgiveness and redemption and that Christ has made the future a good and promising place to go—is a different way to live. Trust changes things. Trust quells anxiety. Trust inspires hope. Trust alters how we live, allowing us to live on God’s timeline instead of ours.

     If youth are to discover faith in Jesus Christ through us, they are going to need to see us live out our trust in Him.” (2)

     Parents are the number one influence on the life and faith of their children. Therefore every parent is a teacher and an evangelist. And so we need to Pray for the parents in our church. Help them to be both good students and good teachers of the faith. Pray they may “lead lives worthy of the Lord, lives fully pleasing to God.” And if you’re one of those parents. We are praying for you and your family. Write the word Parents on your list. And then write you own name as well (first names will do.)


     A. Paul also tells us to “joyfully give thanks to God” who has invited us on this adventure and journey of faith. Life is an adventure. Adventures can be fun and exciting but they can also be frightening and terrifying. When you have the right guide, one you can trust, one who has already been through everything you are currently going through; one who has gone before you and prepared the way for you; one who encourages you every step of the way; you know you’re going to make it. Yes, it might be hard, it might be difficult, it might be dangerous but you’re not alone. And as you travel on this adventure, with every step, with every moment of trust, you become stronger. And so do the people on the adventure with you.

     And that’s what the church is all about. We are that group of people living the adventure of faith with one another. We are the community of faith which encourages and tries to strengthen when the journey gets dangerous or frightening. We are the community of faith which helps in time of need. But we are also here to celebrate and rejoice in times joy and thanksgiving.


     Years ago I was at a nursery looking for a specific kind of tree, to replace one that had died in the backyard. While there I ran across a sign that impressed me. It read: “The best time to plant a tree was 15 years ago.” The next line stated, “The second best time is today.”

     That’s true of Sunday School and Christian Education and being the support system our public schools and school teachers need. “The best time to start was 15 years ago.  The second best time is today.”

     In other words, it’s never too early or too late to start. If you are not presently active in Sunday School or in a Bible Study, then the best time to start is today.

     The best time to support a teacher is today. And today we want to do that in two different ways. First rather than me closing with prayer, I’d like each of you to take your crayon and on the piece of paper which has your name and the names of the teachers who influenced you, write a brief prayer for the teachers, the students, their parents, your family as your kids go off to school or for the district as a whole. But write a brief prayer.

     Write. When you’re finished fold it in half and then fold it in half again.

     Now, I’d like you to bring them to the altar rail and offer them up to God. Then return to your seats.

     Now, please join me in a Liturgy To Honor Teachers, School Employees, Parents and Children.

Liturgy to Honor Teachers, School Employees, Parents and Children

Today we gather to honor our teachers and school employees, our parents and their children as they return to school.

Responsive Prayer       
There is always something wonderful about returning to school, O God.
We are grateful to see old friends again, to meet new friends, to be challenged and inspired by good teachers, to go to ball games, and to explore new subjects and catch a glimpse of a larger world.

We thank you for the opportunity of pursuing our education and passing on what we have learned to our children. Learning is one of the great privileges of life.

We are grateful for chances to grow all of our lives, and to develop constantly into wiser and better persons. Let your Holy Spirit challenge us in our spiritual lives, so that we may continue to become the persons you have intended us to be.

We thank you for the dedication of our teachers and school employees, those who give of their time, talents and training to help shape our children’s development into maturity.

As students, may we be respectful. As parents, may we be supportive. As colleagues and peers, may we be encouraging.

We thank you for these young lives, our children, who are so full of potential and promise.

Help us to guide them in navigating life’s journey. Help us to honor them as persons of worth and value because they are made in your image. Help us to love them in every sticky mess and rejoice with them in every achievement.

We thank you for the parents of these children who are doing their best to raise them in faith, love and grace.

Unite us, Lord, in our commitment to these families. May we laugh with them, cry with them, learn with them, and show your love in all we do.

May our crayons remind us of your love and of our promises to one another.
May RED remind us of danger.

We pray for a safe environment, protection from bullies and the strength to stand up against peer pressure.

May ORANGE remind us of intellectual and emotional stability.

Help us to focus on our work, knowing that God loves us, no matter what.

May YELLOW remind us of friendliness.

Help us keep a cheerful disposition and a good attitude.

May GREEN remind us of growth.

Challenge us to keep growing all year long.

May BLUE remind us of peace.

Let us feel your peace so that we can share your peace with others.

May PURPLE remind us of imagination.

Give our teachers creative ideas to discover and draw out the strengths and passions of our children.

May BROWN reminds us of the Earth.

We pray for a solid work ethic, that we may be people of good character.

May BLACK remind us of darkness.

Keep our children from insecurity and confusion. Help them make wise choices.

     Eternal God, your wisdom is beyond our understanding. Yet it is revealed to us in the life and love of Jesus, your Son. Bless these daughters and sons of yours who have answered your call to grow in faith and in teaching. Enlighten them with your Word and fill them with your Spirit that they may follow the path that leads to your wisdom.

     Open their eyes that they may see your presence each day, open their ears that they may hear your voice in unexpected places, open their minds that they may understand the mystery of your love, and open their hearts that they may be joyful companions with us as we continue to grow in likeness to the mind of Christ. Lord, grant this through the grace and love of Christ our Lord. AMEN.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.



1. Tim Hansel. YOU GOTTA’ KEEP DANCIN’. (Carmel, NY: Guideposts, 1985), p. 135.