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Archive for June, 2017

Blessing the Children

Let the children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs . . .  And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”  Mark 10:13, 15 (NRSV)

This Sunday is Children’s Day in both of the church I serve.  As a former teacher and as a pastor, I have always felt that children needed to have opportunities to learn and grow.  In the church, we offer them Sunday school, music, leadership in worship, and recognition for accomplishments.

So many people say that they are our future, but even though that is true, they are also a vital part of the present.  Children bring a richness to our church communities that invites us to see Jesus through their eyes.  They trust us to lead them, and they trust God far more than we adults do.

Whenever I offer a children’s message, it involves asking questions that invite them to think and respond.  Sometimes the answers are far deeper than expected.  There is innocence in their faith.  Verse 14 of the above passage says:  “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Children teach us about how to receive the kingdom of God, and it is our job to learn from them, even as we teach them about God.  I have watched our children grow up over the past ten years I have been serving these churches.  Some of them have never known another pastor, so my retirement brings concerns that they might feel abandoned or confused when I’m gone.

Hopefully, the teachers and parents have talked with them about the changes.  In one church, where the age of the Sunday school is much younger, I went to the classroom after finishing the sermon.  The lay leader took over so I could spend some time with the kids in case they had questions.  This Sunday school has a pattern of focusing on a theme for a whole month and doing activities around it, so the month of May was not only review of what they had learned, but also about how to say “good-bye.”

I think the children “got it,” but I have encouraged the parents to be aware that Fall may bring more questions about why there is a new pastor there.  We have compared it to having a new teacher in the fall, and that seems to help many of them understand it.

The children have been important to me because I believe they were important to Jesus, and I believe they are important to the life of the church.  They bring balance, learning opportunities, creativity, insights, and a richness that could be missing without them.  What a gift we have been given!  Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them.  Let us do likewise.

How are the children received in your church?

What have you learned from them?

Growing up with Tornadoes

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.”  (Acts 2:2 NRSV)

Whenever I read this verse, I’m reminded that it doesn’t say “gentle wind” but “violent wind.”  That makes me think about growing up in Northwest Iowa where we were always vigilant about watching the sky on a hot and humid day (which was many of those summer days).  Tornadoes were always a threat, and they could come up unexpectedly without much warning.

Everyone knew where their cellar was or where the safety plan was if they heard tornado sirens.  The interesting thing about tornadoes is that they whip up violent winds to the point of mass destruction.  A tornado can touch down and destroy one house, jump over the next house and hit the following one.  No one can predict the path, but everyone knows to get to safety (except maybe the storm chasers).

I would guess that the “rush of a violent wind” would have surprised the disciples who were assembled together waiting to hear from God.  Jesus had promised to send the Holy Spirit, and they were praying, praising, and waiting as he instructed them.  They probably didn’t have a clue about how this would be accomplished, and it’s doubtful that they expected a violent wind and tongue of fire along with all the other things that happened on that Pentecost day.

But maybe that’s how God gets our attention some times:  doing the unexpected in BIG ways.  Usually, I focus on how touches our lives in small ways through others and through events that help us to grow in faith gradually.  However, Pentecost is a different story.

Not only did the violent wind get the disciples’ attention; they were emboldened, given a courage they previously had been lacking.  Suddenly, they were no longer afraid but excited, empowered, and able to share the message of God’s love in Christ regardless of criticism, threat of arrest, or whatever the case may be.

In one of the church’s I served, there was a couple who saw all the cars in our parking lot and lining the streets on Sundays, so they were intrigued.  One morning they stopped to see me, and their comment was, “Something big must be happening here.  We always see so many cars!”  The witness of the cars made a statement that something BIG was happening!

However, a truer witness would be when people want to become part of the church because they see the church at work in the world.  The people come to church to be renewed, remember the story, and then to be sent into the world to BE the church in the world.

They witness through words and actions whether it’s at home, work, with friends, at an organization to which they belong, in the market place, or wherever they encounter someone else.  People CAN tell when someone follows the ways of Christ, even though they may not be able to name it.

Tornadoes are rather unpredictable, but the wind of the Spirit is steady and sure.  The idea of the violent wind is more about living in the power of the Spirit and allowing the Spirit to work through us as the Church.

How do you see the Spirit at work through your church?

In what ways have you all made a statement that something BIG has happened?

How will you open even more to the Spirit’s work in you?

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