The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Q & A

As my son begins middle school this month I’m keenly aware of the new academic year. Responses to his question “Why do I have to go to school?” race through my mind. I dislike when I hear myself resort to telling him, “It’s the law.” I prefer to point out in kid-speak the potential to broaden and refine his God-given assets.

Disney channel shows, Pokemon, Lego bricks and Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” series have let my son reset from the grind of fifth grade. I, however, agree with the words of Pope Francis in a July interview with the Argentine publication Viva: “Stagnant water becomes putrid.” The world would not be a better place if my son continued to major solely in his summer interests. Instead, he will benefit from the challenge of the new academic year. Exposure to more than the areas of his current interests will help him become well-rounded and prepared for future opportunities.

Paul’s request in this Sunday’s second reading similarly challenges us to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds …” (Romans 12:2). All of us can benefit from ongoing personal growth. Jesus’ disciples faced one of those growth moments in this week’s Gospel reading from Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” Then he makes it more personal, asking, “Who do you say that I am?” Speaking his own belief, Peter responds, “You are the Messiah, Son of the living God.”

Have you practiced your answer lately? Who do you say that Jesus is? What informs this belief?

Other people will choose my son’s academic coursework this year. Sometimes the personal growth work people do is dictated by responsiveness to the externals. Shiphrah and Puah, the heroines of Exodus 1:15-22, courageously retort to the Egyptian Pharaoh’s summons. Other times the personal growth work comes from pausing long enough to do inner reflective work. Are there any feelings you need to tend to? Do you have reoccuring negative thoughts? Are there any goals worth setting or adjusting? What, if anything, have you been avoiding? Why?

When the questions before us feel daunting, let us remember that we can turn to the One who dealt well with the Hebrew midwives. When we want to dodge the personal growth work ahead of us, I hope we choose to call upon the One who gave Peter the keys to heaven. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).


Mel Musser

Mel Musser

Posted at 4:13 pm (U.S. Eastern) 8/19/2014

When our daughter and son asked why they had to go to school and an even more basic question, why should I try to get As?  We were living in San Antonio at the time and the shooting/murder rate was about one per day.  There also was a huge homeless population at the time.  Of all the places we lived (we moved a lot as an Air Force family) San Antonio was the only place we lived where there were ads on the radio for Keflar siding to your house.  That's how many drive by shootings were happening.  Anyway, we decided to show our children, who were first and third graders at the time, why they should try hard and challenge themselves.  We packed them into our van and drove around the south-side of San Antonio where most of the shootings occurred and where the largest population of homeless people were located.  As we drove around, you could hear gunshots and we saw numerous people living on the streets.  The fortunate ones had cardboard boxes to protect them from the elements.  Our children soon got the message that they needed to try their best and work hard to avoid that lifestyle.  I'm not judging the homeless or trying to say that they are homeless because they didn't try hard or work hard.  I realize there might be mental illness and a host of other factors involved in why people become homeless. I'm just saying this served as an object lesson for our children...

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