Fiddling While Rome Learns
When I volunteered to write an article on this important topic, we were not in COVID quarantine. “The Importance of a Pleasant Atmosphere in the Home” has since taken on a whole new meaning.
With most of us being at home 24/7, taking care of and “homeschooling” our children, this topic is certainly relative to our home environments today. Can we really create a pleasant home environment amid the chaos and new routines?
As we are well-aware, a child’s home environment has a profound impact on learning and behavior in school (see “The Impact of Home Environment” https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/the-impact-of-home-environment/).
Well, school is now at home, so trying to create that pleasant environment may be tougher than we think. We all want the best for our children, and that most definitely includes good behavior. Before this much-despised quarantine and back in the “good old’ days” when your children were at school, you probably asked the question, “How was your day?” or “Were you good in class?” Now you are asking yourselves those same questions! How was your day?
If you did not already have a calm, pleasant environment at home, you may be struggling to find routines that work: balancing schoolwork, parental work-from-home duties, and quality family time. This task has probably seemed overwhelming to many!
This pandemic quarantine is unprecedented, and we have been coping as best we can to make our long “at-home” days work. Gone are the days of 8-plus hours at school, rushing to plan dinner, and making time for homework and downtime (if any is left). As a result of the mandated “stay-at-home”, many of you have become closer as a family and have enjoyed having this added time together. But maybe some of you are thinking, “I can’t wait for everything to get back to normal.”
So, what is “normal”? As of right now, we know that it is not rushing out the door to get to school on time, heading to work, or rushing to after-school activities. “Normal” may be a calmer, more relaxed start to the day where you sit down and have breakfast together before starting the day. You might even have time to sit down for dinner together.
You are probably thinking to yourself, “We are already together all day, every day!” But many of these hours can still feel stressful with the monitoring of Zoom chats, doing math worksheets, or writing reports. So, yes, it is still important to create that special “down time” to relax together.
Parents are the best role models for their children, and the examples set at home will either encourage or discourage them. Our home and family are where we should feel most comfortable. Children learn by imitation, so it is important to set a positive and loving environment, yet still set boundaries and expectations.
Being organized at home can go a long way in creating a pleasant environment. To minimize chaos, try designating personal spaces for everyone. Each family member should have their own special place in which to put things such as backpacks, bags, books, schoolwork and personal items, like tablets and phones. Having that sense of organization will lessen arguments and reduce anxiety about where things are when you need them. Create a simple flow for your days. Print your schedule or routine and post it where everyone can see it. Take a few minutes each day to tidy up the house as a family. Do morning chores before breakfast and evening chores after dinner (see “Create a Pleasant Atmosphere,” https://classicallyhomeschooling.com/pleasant-atmosphere/). Working together can create that sense of responsibility and satisfaction in helping one another.
As a classical school, Memorial Lutheran School teaches the good, true and beautiful. How can we best translate this emphasis into our home environments?
One important way in which to fill your home with goodness, truth and beauty, is to gather as a family in prayer and for family devotions. These are the things your children will remember. They will remember their home as a place of love, kindness and especially, the love of Christ. Your children will likely grow into adults who will want to create this same type of home for their families. Start and end your day with prayer. As Matthew 18:20 tells us, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
This really resonates with me. I fondly remember growing up, attending church every Sunday, getting together with my grandparents, and sitting at the lunch table talking about the importance of keeping Jesus front and center in your daily life. As the Bible tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs 22:6).
Another important way in which to create and maintain a pleasant environment in the home is to eliminate the negative influences that endanger young children and teens. Most of today’s television programs are not family-friendly and can be hazardous to a child’s well-being. Because children learn by imitation, watching shows that are contrary to Christian values can result in behavior that is not God-pleasing. What we as parents exhibit to children, is what they will remember, and how they will pattern their behavior. When a family shares Christian principles and values, they grow together (see “The Importance of Home and Family,” https://www.meaningfullife.com/home-and-family/).
Now that we are experiencing this constant togetherness, take time to play board games, work on puzzles (good for any age level), go outside in the nice weather for walks and bike rides, or draw in the driveway with sidewalk chalk.
Or you can just simply give each other hugs. Yes, you can give those in your household a big hug! Just be sure to use the “virtual hugs" for your neighbors and friends!
In closing, remember that it is important to treat your children and others with kindness and Christian love. Tell your family and loved ones often that you love them. Create that warmth and love that results in the pleasant home environment that is so vitally important in today’s world. The surety of Jesus’ love will provide comfort in these troubled times.
Rev. R. Gaub
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
This is truly the cry of total loneliness. You and I have felt like we’re all alone at times in our lives. Today we feel alone and we are told to call it – social distancing or self-isolation. We are told to stay home-work safe. Call it what you want, but many of us feel all alone even though it is masked with the N95 Mask with the hash tag: #alonetogether.
Loneliness: from the smallest infant all alone in a crib, in a dark room, the cry is unmistakable; from the teenager who feels alone and that no one understands; from the husband or wife whose spouse has left; from the worker who has lost his job; from the one who was just diagnosed with an incurable illness; to the elderly person who lies in the hospital or nursing home – waiting to die, alone. The feeling is unmistakable.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
But it is more than that, isn’t it. The loneliness epidemic has been with us since the fall in the Garden of Eden; yes, long before COVID-19. Our first parents were the first to practice social distancing when God came looking for them in the Garden and they hid themselves. They were self-isolating because of the shame and separation of sin. We all put on masks and disguise who we are and how we are doing. We ask each other, “how are you?” - we all lie and say, ‘fine!’, even though we are not. Sin causes separation between us and God and between us and each other.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Our sin was placed upon our Lord. He suffered the punishment for our sin. The innocent one becomes the guilty one. The sinless one becomes the sinner.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
This is the cry of our Lord Jesus Christ: God in the flesh, the one born to the Virgin Mary, the one of whom the angels announced, the one of whom the Father declared, "this is my Son in whom I am well pleased." This does not seem right. It just does not make any sense. Jesus had been deserted by His disciples. Judas had betrayed Him. Peter had denied Him. Pilate passes the sentence that He should be crucified and, after the soldiers had mocked Him, they lead the Lord through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha, outside the city. There, they nail Him to the cross. Two robbers are crucified there: one on His left, one on His right.
Nevertheless, Jesus is still alone. The criminals are dying for their sins. They are receiving the just punishment for the crimes which they had committed. But Jesus dies not for His sins, rather, for the sin of the whole world. Before He dies one of the criminals will become Jesus' companion in death, as he repents of his sin and confesses, saying, "Lord, remember me when You come into your kingdom." But for the moment Jesus is alone.
Jesus is further isolated by those who come to mock Him. These are the people who taunt Him as He hangs on the cross, saying: "Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself and come down from the cross."
Even more cruel are the words of the chief priests. In the face of death, they show no reverence. There are no words of consolation or comfort from their lips that might give comfort to this dying victim. They have nothing but taunts and mockery to offer this man whom they have already judged to be a blasphemer. They talk about Jesus, saying to each other: "He saved others. Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe."
These are the same taunts that Christians hear to this day. How can you believe this? Where is the proof? Show me that I too may believe! But Jesus will not save Himself. He will not come down from the cross. He embraces the suffering that is His alone. It is for this purpose that He came to dwell among us. Rejected by men, Jesus hangs alone on the cross.
St. Mark also tells us that darkness covered the face of the whole earth from the sixth to the ninth hour, from noon until three o'clock. In the Old Testament the Lord spoke through the Prophet Amos concerning His divine judgment, saying: "And it shall come to pass in that day...That I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight" (Amos 8:9).
That judgment had now arrived. The One who came to bring light to the Gentiles is now shrouded in darkness. He alone bears our sins and is judged in our place. Jesus cries out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?' This is truly the cry of total loneliness.
Not only is Jesus the one from whom men hid their faces, He is left alone by the Father. The Father looks on the cross and what does He see? He sees our sin. And seeing our sin, He turns the light of His face away. He turns His face, His light, away from His Son and His Son dies the death of a sinner.
This is the death that we deserve. The sinless Lamb of God becomes sin for us, suffers for us, and dies for us.
The Son of God dies alone.
While He was alive the Lord was rejected and despised by men. Even the disciples had fled. As his beaten, bloody body is hanging on the cross, even His Heavenly Father turns away. And so, the centurion, as he stands before the lifeless corpse nailed to the cross, confesses, "Truly this Man was the Son of God." The centurion confesses that the man whom He had helped to crucify is truly the Son of God. In the centurion's confession we see and hear of the power of our Lord’s passion. God's Son dies alone with our sin and, through His death, we are reconciled to God. And so, we too will have the confidence to face our own death, not alone, but in companionship with Jesus.
It is finished, He cried. Take Him at His word. Believe it.
Martin Luther wrote, "He has shown us great kindness and we should never forget it, but always thank Him and find comfort for ourselves, confessing, His pain is my comfort; His wounds, my healing; His punishment, my redemption; His death, my life."
No one can preach it sufficiently; no one can be sufficiently amazed that so great a person came from heaven, stepped into our place, and suffered death for us. We have been visited graciously and redeemed with a great price. Therefore we should hold firmly to our Saviour and sacred Head, Jesus Christ, who for our sins was crucified and died.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Paradox: a statement that is seemingly contradictory...and yet is perhaps true” (Merriam-Webster).
At least, according to the dictionary, Holy Week is filled with paradoxes. What we normally think is true is turned on its head. What we believe (both about God and about ourselves) comes crumbling down in the face of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The order, or better yet, the disorder of this age is upended and ultimately undone.
Still, paradoxes lead us to confess the truth of the Holy Scriptures. The whole of salvation history, as encompassed by the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, is replete with such paradoxes that leave the wise confounded in their wisdom and the simple enlightened by Divine revelation.
It began with the promise that the God whom the heavens and the earth cannot contain (1 Kings 8:27) was found to dwell bodily in the flesh of Jesus (Colossians 1:19). The Babe of Bethlehem manifests the Holy One of Israel in the very human body of the son of Mary. And thus, the great paradox of Christmas is that Mary is the mother of Her Creator; a seeming contradiction that the Scriptures declare to be true. So true, in fact, that the salvation of all depends on this.
His mission, as He stated, was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). Or, as St. Paul says, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Those whom the world celebrates as the “good” the “righteous” and the “deserving” are the very ones whom Jesus disdains. There are no miracles for Jesus’ hometown doubters nor for mighty Herod. There is nothing for the religious elite of Israel, those who “sat on Moses’ seat”.
And so, the Messiah goes to the political and religious heart of Israel, Jerusalem. There, the church and state of His time, Pilate the Governor and the Sanhedrin, both judge Him to be worthy of death. Then the miracle of miracles occurs, as the prophet Isaiah foresaw some eight centuries earlier, “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). St. Paul later explained it like this, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (1 Corinthians 5:21).
The Holy One of Israel bears the sins of all people so that we might possess Jesus’ eternal righteousness. He is soiled with our filth that we might be cleansed. He dies the death of every man so that every man might live eternally. “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,” sings the Church in confessing the name of the Holy Trinity. Here too, the church must gasp and stagger again at the depths and lengths of God’s love and commitment to a fallen humanity that he would trade places with us, and in so doing, give us His Name, His Glory and His Kingdom. “As it was in the beginning (at Creation, perfection) is now (forgiven, reconciled) and will be forever (reigning in life everlasting with all His saints). Amen.”
“NO, a million times NO!” human reason and sinful hearts proclaim! It cannot be! Only those who make themselves good enough, worthy enough can ever gain that wondrous gift. This is a paradox that has gone too far. And yet, so is the Savior and Creator of this universe. He goes too far; too far in forgiving, too far in bridging the gap, too far, right into suffering and death, into condemnation and hell, to conquer the unconquerable. Here, He restores His hopelessly lost creatures as ONLY He can do.
Until the last day, when Jesus ushers in the Kingdom visibly, the Church with one voice through the ages cries out that the soul-sick are healed, those blind to God now see, the deaf hear the Gospel of salvation, those dead in sins are made eternally alive, because at His death, Jesus reconciled the Father to the world by trading places with us, becoming sin for us while making us sinners righteous.
The Church and her Faith are all built on a paradox. What seems to be so, isn’t. Our wisdom will always fall short. Eyes (and hearts) clouded by sin and decay insist that this cannot be the way things are with God. But it IS! A paradox! A God of paradoxes!
So, this Good Friday, weep with joy. Celebrate solemnly! Gather with all the Church in heaven and on earth even though we be few or alone in our homes! Lovingly lay aside hate! Forgive the unforgiveable! And ponder anew God’s unimaginable Paradox.
Mr. Brda, 5th Grade