Commitment and Conviction: Instructing Children

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Deuteronomy 6:1-9.

In 2009 I nearly walked away from the ministry.

(I know…it is hard to say! It is still hard for me to believe, even to this day!)

I was serving as a children’s ministry staff member at a large United Methodist Church in Atlanta. The church recently hired a new director of the ministry and our relationship was not going well. We bumped heads (locked horns) frequently. One day while expressing concern that the children – and their families – were not being as supported in their faith development at home as what I thought possible for the children’s ministry staff to provide I was told these words by the director,

“You are not here to worry about the spiritual health and development of the children and families in this program. You are here to sort curriculum, cut shapes out of construction paper, and sharpen pencils.”

I did not agree. And my resignation was on her desk two days later.

I cannot not be who I am – and I am a disciple of Jesus deeply committed to supporting, nurturing, and equipping families – especially children – in their faith development. I am certain that if there ever comes a day where this commitment wanes, then the time has come for me to retire.

I want faith to be accessible. I want to make faith accessible. I want to ask questions, listen to questions, and join people of every age in seeking answers to those questions. I want to stand on chairs alongside others a la Dead Poets Society and holler “I don’t know!” when it comes to a question of faith…and then climb off the chairs and pull them up to a table with others as the first steps in the adventure of finding the answer(s). This is one of my greatest passions…and to live into this passion with others is without age restriction or requirement.

Children are capable of incredibly faithful and faith-filled conversations. Their innocence and wonder makes them so wise. Their ability to imagine reintroduces adults to a world that they (we) see all the time but rarely notice.

I am grateful for South Shore’s welcome and addition of the Children’s Moment in our Sunday services. I boldly confess…it is my favorite time of the whole service! I look forward to supporting, nurturing, and equipping the faiths of these young ones. I am also looking forward to ROAR-ing with them at Vacation Bible School next week!

I am eager to see and celebrate how God will lead me in supporting, nurturing, and equipping the faith of the children at South Shore. And, I am equallyeager to see and celebrate how God will lead our children in supporting, nurturing, and equipping the faith of the adults – including me! – at our church.

Prayer: “Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest; now thee alone I seek, give what is best. This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee; more love to thee, more love to thee!”* Amen.

*”More Love to Thee, O Christ,” The United Methodist Hymnal 453.

Jesus Said What!? ~ You Must Hate Your Parents, Spouse, Siblings and Children

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 10:32-39.

Some Bible verses are hard to stomach and this week’s passage is among them. This text is troublesome. In truth it causes me to cringe. Much like Jacob wrestled with a man in the night and limped away forever marked in the morning, folks have wrestled and continue to wrestle with this text – biblical scholars, pastors, disciples, and seekers. We thought Jesus’ intent was to draw all people together and to draw all people together to himself. And yet this passage seems to tell a different story…

When we read passages like this one it is important to remember our tools for exegesis – meaning our tools for studying Scripture:

  1. Read and study Scripture in context meaning in relationship to the passages immediately before it and after it. This also means reading the given passage alongside other passages of the same topic in order to gain deeper understanding of the concept. Resources like a Bible Dictionary and Concordance are helpful in this sort of study. Hardcopies of these resources are available in the Church Library and electronic versions are available for free online.
  2. Beware “sound bite theology.” Have you ever been in a conversation with someone that has said, “Well the Bible says…” and then that person zeros in on one verse to make a (his or her) point and in order to shut down any further conversation? (I admit – I have done this!) More often than not when someone deploys this strategy that person takes a scripture verse out of context or that person “reads into the text” – known as eisegesis – in order for Scripture to say what he or she wants rather than what the text says. In these instances I encourage you
    1. To honor your conversation partner,
    2. To respect their opinion even if you disagree with it, and then
    3. To attend to your own study of the text to further develop your personal interpretation and application of it.
  3. Do not hesitate to use one of the most theologically sound statements available to you – “I don’t know!” There are passages of Scripture that are difficult and in our attempts to make them less difficult we sometimes dig ourselves into even deeper holes…and then backfill dirt on top of ourselves. (I have also done this one more than one occasion!) Sometimes we question the value of Scripture – or our desire to know more of it or about it – when we come across passages like this one that make our hearts ache. Saying “I don’t know” to a Scripture like this does not defeat it…but it may relieve our anxiety to explain it. And hopefully we will be encouraged to learn more about it through personal study and conversation with friends. “I don’t know…but let’s find out together.”

Reading the whole of Scripture paints us the fullest picture of our God and of his Christ. In some moments our hearts will be sweetly touched and in others they will feel achingly raw. We are better and our faith is deeper by having the presence of both kinds of Scriptures and the experiences they bring. In this way Scripture remains relevant in our lives. Scripture speaks to life. Scripture speaks life. And I am so grateful.

Prayer: “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul), it is well, it is well with my soul.”* Amen.

*“It Is Well with My Soul,” The United Methodist Hymnal 377.