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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Patrimonies and Pokémon

by Rev. Ross Engel

The property upon which my congregation is situated has become a Poke-stop and Poke-gym. And while I've finally downloaded the Pokémon Go app, I still have no clue what I'm doing. What I do know is that we have a constant flow of traffic in and out of our parking lot. My secretary, who was blissfully unaware of this new game, was concerned that people might be "casing" the church, looking for a chance to rob us. She was relieved as I explained Pokemon to her.

As I was leaving the office the other day, I had the opportunity to converse with a man and his young son. They were doing a Pokemon battle at the church. They were laughing and enjoying a good father-son bonding moment as they sent a Bulbasaur and a Squirtle to battle. The father commented to me how fun it was to pass along something he enjoyed in his youth and to be able to experience this iconic piece of his life with his own son.

As I bid the pair a cheerful farewell as they hopped in their car to drive to the church next door, my mind was filled with all the important things that my dad had passed down to me in my life. These included rooting for the Packers (even though we lived in Chicago), cheering on the Cubs (even though we lived on the South side), which Big Ten schools I could cheer for, and which I must forever boo, the importance of loving and sacrificing for family, a good work ethic, love for Sci-Fi movies, homemade ice cream, Superman and Batman comics, Star Wars, and most importantly, making faith and being gathered each week to receive our Lord's gifts in the Divine Service a number one priority in life. As I considered the things my Dad passed along to me (the previous list certainly is not exhaustive), many of them were passed on to him by my grandfather and great-grandfather (this is multi-generational stuff here!), I considered all the things I hope to pass along to my own children one day, things I would add to what has been passed on to me from generation to generation.

The technical term for such a thing is Patrimony, the inheritance passed along to children from their father. The things that are deemed worthy of passing along from generation to generation are a heritage.

In the Lutheran Service Book (LSB), there is a remarkably simple hymn that I enjoy singing. "God's Word Is Our Great Heritage" (LSB 582). In this simple one-verse hymn, the hymn writer speaks not only of how God's Word belongs to us forever, but also how our chief endeavor must be to pass this heritage along from generation to generation.

We pass along so many things to our children and to other people. We joyously share so many things that have no eternal significance. Our children can spout off why they root for one team over another, but they can't explain why they go to church. They can proclaim pithy motivational statements, but don't know the comforting truths of God's Word.

It saddens me every time I hear a child comment about how their parents never pray with them, or when I watch a parent teach their children (by way of the decisions they make) that the eternal things of the faith are not as significant as the passing things of this earthly life. We have this great heritage of God's Word. We have the forgiveness of sins. Life. Salvation. We have Jesus! And yet, more often than not, this great heritage that we have received, a heritage that has been handed down to us by the prophets and the apostles, a heritage that is stained even with the blood of the martyrs, is something we neglect to treasure and hand down. We take this joyous responsibility that has been entrusted to us, to teach our children and those that God has placed under our care, and instead of doing it, we so quickly pass it off to someone else, hoping that they'll do what we aren't willing to do.

We would never place the responsibility of teaching our kids what sports team to root for into the hands of someone else. They could end up rooting for the wrong team. Nor would we entrust someone else with teaching our children the secret treasures of our family. They might mess them up. So why would we duck out on our duties of modeling the faith and teaching the faith to our children? If it's because we don't know the stuff well enough ourselves, dust off the ole catechism, get thy butt to Bible study, and if all else fails, ask the pastor!

Let the head of the household bring out the treasure of both the old and the new and pass along this treasure to those entrusted to him!

God's Word is our great heritage. It is something worth treasuring. It is something worth carefully and lovingly handing down to the generations after us. It is a task that we must take seriously and that parents have to be attentive to! Might we all find the same kind of joy and excitement in handing down this treasure as we find in passing along the joy and fun in a game from our childhood. For this treasure has far more significance in this world and the life of the world to come than the answer to the question "Jigglypuff or Pikachu?"

Rev. Ross Engel is pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Middleburg, FL and is a regular writer for the Jagged Word.

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