From Message

A Word on Seeing Jesus

Once, during a church worship experience, my daughter turned to me and whispered, “I want to see Jesus.” Her eyes wandered about the sanctuary, and she asked, “Where is Jesus?”

            Her inquiry cut me to the theological quick. When I found no easy words with which to respond, she repeated her statement and her question. She was persistent; I was perplexed. How do you explain to a two-year-old, in the middle of a worship service, about seeing Jesus? She certainly was not interested in some quaint platitude or traditional rhetoric. She wanted to see Jesus. After all, that’s what we had come to church to do that day, wasn’t it?

            “So, Dad, where’s Jesus?” I looked around the sanctuary, searching for some help in responding to her earnestness. She looked for the concrete, the sensory. I found the symbolic—a cross, a table, candles, a Bible, a banner featuring the victorious lamb, a people joining in song and reading, stories and prayers.

            In a sense, everything we did in the worship experience pointed to Jesus. Yet how does a two-year-old understand that? Then again, how do any of us understand it? Amidst the routines and rituals of the Christian worship endeavor, how easy it is to lose sight of what we are doing, who we are, and whom we worship. How difficult it may be to see Jesus, truly see Jesus. We may ask, with my daughter, “Where is Jesus?” And perhaps, we may even ask ourselves, “Where are the vision and vitality that make Christian worship true worship?”

            That question is perhaps at the heart of the quest for church renewal in our time. Without a confession and worship centered on Christ, how can we be renewed? How can the church be drawn away from its conformity to human culture and be transformed by God’s Spirit? How can we be faithful to our calling as Christians?

            We recall that Jesus declared, “God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Perhaps it is this affirmation that best underscores for us the essence of our participation in worship and our quest for renewal. For in both a theological and a spiritual sense, are we not like two-year-olds seeking after the experience of Christ?

            Yet the experience of Christ cannot remain at infant stages. We know that we must grow. There must be progression in our discipleship—in our worship and work. We are to become mature, not conformed to the world but transformed (metamorphosed) by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Such Christian maturity is rooted in Christian service, understood as both worship and mission. We are called to liturgy and labor in this life, in the name and power of Christ. It would seem, then, that the more we come to understand and embrace the essentials of such worship and work, the more we may come to experience that maturity, and thus realize a greater fulfillment of our quest to see Jesus, and to help others do so as well.

            That is the premise of this book. The intention is to provide a resource to assist God’s children, young and old alike, in better understanding and experiencing the gospel of Christ—the Good News of God’s love. This written resource is offered as a guide, according to the church year and its narrative, for bringing concrete illustration to the spirit and symbol that so much comprise the tradition of Christian worship and inform Christian mission.

 

From Menu

GOD’S TOOLBOX

 
Scripture:            1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Lectionary Day: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year C
Topic:                 Church; Mission; Peacemaking; Sharing Talents
Illustration:         Carpenter’s toolbox as an object lesson, with some opportunity for children to identify and comment on various tools and their functions, as time permits
Overview:                 

Affirming the equal value of people and their gifts is at the heart of this lesson, which draws from the apostle Paul’s image of the church as the body of Christ. Helping children see that everyone has a contribution to make to God’s family, and that God loves and blesses all people equally, is central to this understanding.

            The lesson begins by surveying the diversity of tools in the toolbox. Since time is always of the essence, it is important to balance a healthy inquiry by the children into the kinds and functions of the tools with a focus on the larger message concerning gifts people have. That is, keep the discussion moving, so that it doesn’t become bogged down in a preoccupation with the tools themselves.

            Children certainly can understand how a carpenter’s tools are used. The intent of the lesson is to build on this understanding by helping them to see that all God’s people, even children, are like tools, gifted by God, to contribute special talents to God’s people. These contributions as briefly illustrated in the life of the congregation can help reinforce the point.

Narrative:

What do I have today? Yes, a toolbox. What’s in it? Tools, of course. Tools such as a carpenter might use to build special things. Are all the tools the same? No. Let’s look at some. There’s a hammer, a saw, a tape measure, a square, a wrench, a screwdriver, a putty knife, a chisel, and so on. (As time allows, some discussion of the function of each tool may be engaged and illustrated.)

            We have many tools, but one toolbox. That’s a lot like God’s family, the church. We’re one people all together. But we’re all different. We all have different gifts and talents and skills. We can do different things. Just like the tools. But we’re all part of God’s family. Just like all the tools are parts of the one toolbox. And we all have one purpose, just like the tools. The tools work together to build something useful—maybe a desk, or chair, or bookshelf. God wants us to work together to build a world of love and peace. That’s why God gives every one of us special gifts and talents.

            God gives each of us special abilities. Some people are gifted in singing. Some in teaching. Some in building or organizing things. Some in helping people. Some in serving in various ways. God gives us different talents, and God wants us all to work together. Like one family—God’s family. Like the way all the tools in the toolbox work together to build something special. God wants us to be building, too.

            God wants us to build a world of love and peace. That’s why God has called us all together to be part of God’s team—a team of builders, a team of peacemakers, a team of people who work for peace. Each of us has an important job to do, for God has given all of us special talents to share with each other. And God wants us to work together to share God’s love and peace with others. Now that’s an exciting project for us to do this week, isn’t it? Let’s ask God to help us with the coming week.



From Movement

Undertaking the Unfolding Journey

The gospel of Christ is not just a message. It is a movement. In the Good News, there is a possibility of new life. The new is good; the goodness is new. The Good News is rooted in relationship to God’s love and is experienced through relationship with God’s people. This is the movement. The message is but a means. New life through relationship is the goal.

            Christian proclamation, then, is not a destination, but rather, a pilgrimage. At the heart of the Good News is an ever-new relationship. The relationship is the reality of faith and love that we embrace in response to the forgiveness and love offered by God. This relationship is always a journey and never a stagnant pool. This is equally true in our undertakings with children through the weekly worship and meditation. The message we share does not begin or end with words. It is rooted and realized in a relationship that is ongoing and unfolding. In making and renewing this affirmation, we become prepared for undertaking the journey.

            At the heart of our undertaking is the nurture of a reality and experience of faith and love expressed in relationship to God and one another. Faith and love are nurtured in the community of faith where the love of Christ reigns. This, then, is both the context and content for children’s messages. Hopefully, this has been evident in our menu of meditations. In concluding, perhaps I can reiterate a few points to ponder as a means of reflection for the continuing journey.

            Through the message and method we seek a movement. We endeavor to be nourished in God’s love, so that we may grow in God’s love. This nourishment is a kind of “solid food” (Hebrews 5:14) by which we feed together on God’s grace and are strengthened in our life in the community of faith. There is a structure and substance to this nourishment that I have sought to underscore and unfold in our menu of meditations, and which must ever be sought in sharing them with the children in our communities of faith.

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