King Solomon was blessed in many ways with the wisdom the Lord had given him. He asked for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9) and he received it. We must hastily add, he didn’t always use that wisdom in ways becoming a servant of the Lord and as king of Israel. Nevertheless, despite his sinfulness, the Holy Spirit-inspired wisdom he has bequeathed to us is of surpassing value. Some of his wisdom, found in the book of Proverbs, is invaluable in helping to guide Christians in their thinking and in their doing. Perhaps many of you remember this from Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (22:6). It’s an important truth to remember in every generation.
A couple of weeks ago I was blessed to spend a few days at Grand View University (GVU) in Des Moines. GVU was hosting its annual NEXUS Institute, a week long program for high school students. Lutheran CORE supports this ministry because we take to heart what Solomon said above in regards to training the up and coming generations. Though these saints aren’t that little, many of them were taller than me (which isn’t difficult to achieve), we still need to train them in the way they should go, the way of wisdom and life (Proverbs 9).
Students began and ended the day with worship. There were plenty of opportunities for them to serve: reading Scripture, leading prayer, communion assistant, and so on. Though things could be awkward at times; what else do you expect from high schoolers? Embrace the youth by embracing their holy awkwardness! “Train up a child in the way he should go…”
Students were daily taught by Dr. Mark Mattes and Dr. Ken Jones. These sessions focused on the Old and New Testaments and how to read and interpret them. Students learned how to distinguish law and gospel, how to read Scripture and view life through the cross, and how to read Scripture with Christ as the center. In other words, they were teaching the students how to read the Bible like the Church has for 2000 years. They were teaching the students how Jesus, Saint Paul, Augustine, and Luther read the Bible.
Throughout the day, the students had time to enjoy Des Moines or relax back at the dorms. They would also meet in small groups to discuss among themselves what they were learning. The mentors at NEXUS, college age students, would help in the processing of the information, facilitating the group’s discussion. Most mentors had been a high school student at NEXUS in previous years. One mentor in particular I had the privilege of talking with is a young man supported by Lutheran CORE’s Pastoral Formation Fund.
If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to encourage others to experience the NEXUS Institute, either as a mentor or as a high school student. After all, “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17). The students, mentors, and other leaders are Lutheran – NALC, LCMC, ELCA, and there was at least one LCMS thrown in for good measure. This is another reason why CORE proudly helps to financially support the NEXUS Institute at GVU. The NEXUS Institute helps connect confessional Lutherans from across America, advocating for Biblical authority and confessional fidelity – the very thing Lutheran CORE strives to do.
In closing, it should be pointed out that the verse from Proverbs 22:6 cuts both ways. If we aren’t diligently passing on the faith we have received so that that our youth “will not depart from it when they are old,” someone or something else will. Two brief examples from the recent past: (1) The ELCA has its agenda which can be seen in its various speakers from previous Youth Gatherings (Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jamie Bruesehoff and her son/transgender daughter). (2) The subtle placement of the “Reconciling in Christ” booth at Detroit’s Youth Gathering in 2015 was not so subtly placed in Houston in 2018. I was at both of these Youth Gatherings while still a part of the ELCA. There was a clear catechization going on here, make no mistake about it. “Train up a child in the way he/she/zhe/zir/they should go…”
If you consider yourself and your congregation confessionally minded, treasuring the Book of Concord and its content as a faithful exposition of the Scriptures, and you are dedicated to the Scriptures themselves and how the Church has always understood them, it’s crucial to know to what you are sending your youth. The NEXUS Institute is a wonderful meeting point for Lutheran youth. There certainly are others (LCMC Youth Gathering, LCMS Youth Gathering, Higher Things Youth Gatherings), but this one truly is a gift in the heartland of the U.S. It is a wise investment, for Lutheran CORE, for you, for the youth of the Church. As Jesus once said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).