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Having fun raising children in a community of faith

March 28, 2013

Verse for reflection: “God is actually not far from any one of us; as someone has said, ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ It is as some of your poets have said, ‘We too are God’s children.’ “Acts 17:27b-28

It was Easter. Our minister, Ann Held, gathered the children for the children’s sermon. Sometimes grown ups—even those of us who should know better, ask some awfully dumb questions of children in such settings.

And then sometimes the children surprise you, even children you taught in Sunday school who had to be put in the hall because they didn’t want to cooperate.

The minister asked, “What is a symbol of being a Christian?”

Steve, one of my former hall-sitters, had a good answer. “The cross.”

The minister went on, “And why is the cross a symbol of being a Christian?”

Steve came right back. “Jesus died on it.”

“That’s right, to show us God’s love, Steve,” the minister added.

“And now he lives in our hearts,” Steve added brightly.

The minister was clearly taken back. “Well, there’s the sermon,” she said smiling. “That’s very good. We can all go home.”

I felt myself tear up. After all of the times I had sat with Steve out in the hall when he was not behaving “appropriately,” somehow Steve had learned—from his mother or father probably, but also from us at the church, the heart of the Bible teachings.

My husband and I taught a Sunday school class of 10 third through fifth graders one year. We studied some of the stories Jesus told as recorded in the book of Luke. They may be stories or parables, but they are not necessarily easy to understand. In this story (Luke 20:9-19) a landowner planted a vineyard, rented it out, and then went away for a long time. The owner first sent a servant to the vineyard to get some of the fruit; he got beat up. The owner sent another servant, who was beaten, and another, and finally the owner sends his son. The tenants kill the son. I asked the children, “So what do you think this story means?”

To which wise William quipped, “Don’t rent out your vineyard.”

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Children in one of my church school classes act out a scene from the Bible.

The answer I was probing for was of course the Easter story. The landowner represents God and the servants represent the prophets through the Old Testament period, and the son is Jesus. It was a story or parable told by Jesus which enraged the leaders of the day and they began to look for a reason to arrest him. This directly led to his death which we commemorate on Good Friday. The moral of the story is that even though Jesus was sent to a specific land and people, his message is for everyone who will believe.

Sadly, too many of us today hardly know these stories or their meaning. Our children are shockingly illiterate when it comes to the Bible (and I’m sorry to say I have to include my own. We didn’t do as good of job teaching them the Bible stories as we could have).

But in spite of us, or maybe because of our church’s efforts, and the teachers and youth group leaders and choir directors and grandparents who sacrificed their precious time to be there for them, or the grace of God, their faith survived intact.

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Scenes from our church’s ministry with children: youth choir/youth Sunday, house church meeting , the annual Easter egg hunt at church

I will call or text them on Sunday morning, “Christ is Risen!”  And they’ll say/text back, “He is risen indeed!” Thanks be to God.

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(Yes, I have too many saved messages on my phone. Only the special ones.)

***

Adapted from the Another Way newspaper column, a ministry of MennoMedia, which also produces awesome children’s curricular materials, used by Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, United Church of Christ Canada, Cumberland Presbyterian (denomination), Episcopalian, Lutherans.

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