For this student, the most enjoyable and stimulating reading of this week was Luther's "Sermon on Keeping Children in School." Luther addressed this topic in the year 1530 after he had published a document (specifically, "An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility" of 1520) in discussion of the respective merit of various Christian vocations. In his earlier document, he concluded that positions in the church did not credit a worker with superiority above others who served in different vocations outside the church. He insisted that all Christians served in the "spiritual estate" (p. 211) and their positions were equally meritorious, differing only in "office" (p. 211). Since Christians are all part of one baptism, Luther asserted, they are all engaged in spiritual work: that of glorifying God with their gifts and abilities, serving Christ and their neighbors in their individual positions. In response, many parents of this time decided that if positions in the church did not earn their children any higher spiritual authority, children could just as well spend their time pursuing trades and learning skills that would sooner earn money for the family rather than staying in school to pursue work in the church. Luther responded to this steady decrease in sending children to school by arguing that workers in the church were still needed and valuable.
Luther emphasized that the devil's art was exactly the vice to which parents had succumbed: that of discouraging people from work in the church, resulting in lack of intelligence and ignorance of God's truths. Without the tools of a cultivated mind and an educated faith in God, children would grow "naked, bare, defenseless" and vulnerable to the devil's schemes (p. 221). Luther called this increasing mindset of raising children to primarily earn money "a horrible and un-Christian business," causing "great and murderous harm...in so serving the devil" (p. 222). Working to earn money only for the purpose of satisfying earthly needs and desires contradicted the truth that God would provide and that higher importance belonged not to physical but to spiritual well-being. Parents, Luther maintained, were responsible for recognizing the danger in their current practices as well as the merits of sending children to school for church work.
Luther declared that those who served in "the office of preaching and the service of the word and sacraments...which imparts the Spirit and salvation"--such as pastors, teachers, schoolmasters, and so on--had important work to do because Jesus had sacrificed Himself for the forgiveness of all people's sins. God established the office of ministry so that this forgiveness could be imparted through the word and sacraments; for these reasons, Luther argued, high honor must be given to these vocations. They served instrumental roles in not only providing comfort and encouragement in this life but also ensuring hope of eternal life with Christ through ministering of the Gospel by means of teaching, preaching, and offering Word and Sacrament. Luther accused parents of "shamefully [despising]" these offices that were "divinely instituted to [God's] honor...and for our salvation" even to the extent that such offices were fading, dying, "[going] to ruin" and being "destroyed" (p. 223-24). Overall, Luther argued that children should be raised to be good workers in the church for the "care of souls" that God "regards...as precious" so that Christians could be nourished with God's word and assisted in defense of sin, death, and the devil (p. 225).
The significance of this topic can be clearly applied to Christianity today. In terms of education in comparison to earlier work outside school, Christian education at all levels deserves value for its role in equipping students with appropriate awareness of God's truths and foundational faith in Christ. Without receiving teaching of a Christian worldview, children will indeed be weakened when faced with temptations of the devil and the world. In addition, although not everyone must be trained to work in the church, vocations in the church certainly ought to be regarded with high value for their meritorious work in teaching the faith and guiding God's people. Because God has instituted such work, the practices of administrating His word and Sacraments for eternal purposes should be considered with seriousness and respect.
Golly, I need to stop being such a rambling writer or my professor (not to mention most readers) will get tired of wading through this blog. I must have decided the most enjoyable use of two hours would be writing a homework assignment...not that I ever make that decision. What's the point here? Well, the points are simple. I made them at the end of my lengthy interpretation of this section of the week's reading. My point was that I liked this reading's study of education and how it was viewed during Luther's time. First, the concept that stood out to me was that education is necessary and valuable in itself for constructively developing the minds of children so that they are able to think, form beliefs, and resist ideas that are nothing but nonsense (including that of the devil and the world) as they grow older. Second, a clear idea that resonated with me was that if Christians do not attach value to or pursue work in the church, God's purposes will not ultimately be thwarted but services of administering His word and Sacraments can be drastically diminished. God's people in this world would be caused a grave disfavor if such gifts of God were not continuously imparted through various positions of ministry in the church throughout time. Receiving Holy Communion and teachings of God's word are vital; for the strengthening of their faith Christians cannot do without these services. Members of the body of Christ can praise God for ordaining these positions to be used until we have need of them no more: when we meet Him face to face, existing with Him in glory forever and ever.