Emma died last spring at age 106. Like Moses at his death, she was still bright of eye and sound of mind. She was also deep of faith and greatly loved. She occupied a special place in her entourage of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She had sung generations to sleep, all with the same hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing.
The creak of Emma’s rocker and her soft hum comforted tiny hearts before they knew any words. “Bye oh, bye oh, bye oh, bye oh.” When they learned the verses, her faith continued to resound in their souls as she lulled the next generation of little ones.
A cold April rain kept her two aging children away from the burial. The pastor was brief, and the undertaker eager to move the grandchildren and their families toward the cars. But they were not finished. Circling the casket like a cradle, they held hands and rocked. The elders hummed the tune, “bye oh, bye oh, bye oh, bye oh,” and the great grandchildren sang the verses of Emma’s lullaby.
Come, thou Fount of ev’ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise. While the hope of endless glory Fills my heart with joy and love, Teach me ever to adore thee; May I still thy goodness prove.
The fourth commandment to “honor your father and your mother” is accompanied by the promise, “so that your days may be long in theland the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther also saw that this commandment requires adults to “devote serious attention to the young.” Moses, Martin, and Emma had this straight. Listen to Martin:
“If we want capable and qualified people for both the civil and the spiritual realms, we must really spare no effort, time, and expense in teaching and educating our children to serve God and the world.We must not think only of amassing money and property for them. God can provide for them and make them rich without our help, as indeed he does daily. But he has given us children and entrusted them to us precisely so that we may raise and govern them according to his will; otherwise, God would have no need of fathers and mothers.”
The honor due to fathers and mothers belongs to their callings, or, as Luther said God’s “need of fathers and mothers.” Luther’s challenge to “spare no effort, time and expense in teaching and educating our children to serve God and the world” also prompts us to hear what God needs from Luther Seminary and from our graduates who are pastors, teachers, and youth leaders. The fourth commandment leads us to honor our children and their callings. It is a sacred trust, with God leading us beyond duty to joy.
Our children are entrusted to us from God, the “Fount of every blessing,” because God’s “streams of mercy” flow through us and them to the world God loves. From the time we rock our babies until we are laid to rest, may our lives give voice to Emma’s song: “Teach me ever to adore thee; May I still thy goodness prove.”