Posted tagged ‘children’s story’

“I Don’t Like Faith!”

July 16, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  July 16, 2019

            “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’…” (Matthew 17:20-21, NIV)

Last Sunday I was speaking at First Baptist Church in Simla, Colorado…or, as I refer to the folks of the small congregation, the Saints of Simla. As is my custom, I also do a children’s story that goes along with the sermon theme of the day.

I asked one of the older kids to define the word faith. He gave a great answer, saying that faith is “believing in someone to the point that you trust him with your life.”

Awesome answer.

I asked a five year old boy if he would help me illustrate what faith looks like. He stood beside me and I explained that I was going to ask him to close his eyes and fall backwards. I assured him that I would catch him as he was falling. All he had to do was have faith that I would be true to my promise.

Instead of closing his eyes he brought his hands up and covered his eyes with them. Once again, I assured him that I would catch him. He seemed to be a little unsure of this.

Maybe someone had told him about my experience in the seminary class called Ministerial Duties where we practiced and performed baptisms on our fellow students. (Yes, we did!) Bonnie Bell was my baptizing partner and when we practiced without the water she had been reluctant to trust that I could catch her as she leaned backwards. I said, “Bonnie, trust me.” And she did…and I dropped her like a lead balloon on to the floor. 

This boy, however, only weighs about 40 pounds, so I said to him, “Trust me.” I counted to three.

“One, two, three.”

On three instead of falling backwards he just sat down on the floor. No fall, no faith, a lack of belief that Pastor Bill could do what he said he would do. 

It was too scary for him, and when I asked him why he didn’t fall backwards he looked me in the eye with concern on his face and replied, “I don’t like faith.”

Classic!

I worked those words into my sermon that morning with the adults, because the words of the five year old echo in our hearts. There are enormous areas and situations in our lives where we don’t like faith. Faith is risky. It demands a plunge into the unseen that, once begun, can’t be halted…so we don’t like to even begin to lean. 

Churches are like that, also. They adopt a budget that gets referred to as their “financial faith vision”, and then a  number begin grousing about how unreasonable it is. 

I recently connected with an old college friend, who had also been one of the groomsmen in my wedding. Randy was diagnosed with a serious illness a number of years ago that weakens the heart muscle. He had to step out of his middle school teaching position because of it. He has doctor visits and checkups, but he credits the progress in his health to the power of prayer and the healing of Jesus. It’s his picture of “falling backwards and leaning into faith.”

“I don’t like faith.”

I said to the little boy, who looked at me with fear in his eyes, “It’s okay. Most of us have a hard time with it, too.”

Funny Church

March 18, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         March 17, 2013

 

I pastor a non-proper church. Non-proper in that we don’t get hung up on the unplanned. We do put an order of worship in the bulletin, but it is not deemed to be as sacred as the Word of God. (Although some Sundays you might get that impression!)

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated communion in the midst of the service. Most Sundays when we have communion it is at the end of the service after the children have departed for children’s church. This time, however, with communion is the smack dab middle the children were still there. Either a few people were double dipping on the communion cups, or the communion preparer hadn’t fixed enough. The servers passed the trays out amongst the congregation, and after assembling for the march back to the front each of them sheepishly looked at me…each holding an empty tray. I’ve never said the words of invitation for the cup…without a cup! It was a moment that might have unglued many pastors and congregations, but we took it all in stride.

I follow a Jesus who I firmly believed laughed a lot. I pastor a church that finds a lot of things funny.

One Sunday a few years ago I was wearing one of those Hawaiian shirts with leaves or palms or something like that on it as a design. One of our senior men, who was sitting by his daughter, leasned over and asked her “Is that marijuana on his shirt?”

During a children’s story a four year old sneezed and suddenly displayed to the congregation a nose with Niagara Falls flowing from it.

 

On an Easter Sunday the wrong video was being shown of a resurrection song danced to by two thousand people, but a heavy metal song had been dubbed into the background.

 

Usually one Sunday every month we have one of the two candles on the communion table go out. It looks like we’re halfway committed to ritual.

 

Countless Sundays the words to a different song than we are singing appear on the screen.

 

Our heater in the baptismal tank has taken a holiday resulting in a few baptisms where the person really…really…really wanted to be baptized.

 

The iron railing by the walk of one of our entrances has the design of two bowling pins and a bowling ball in it.

 

One of our stained glass windows has the clear image of a St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap.

 

We’ve decided that life has enough tragedy in it. Let’s smile as much as we can.

 

For that to happen a church needs something else as a core value also. It needs to believe and practice grace. Grace helps us find humor in what is often too proper. Grace helps us see the reasons to chuckle in an empty communion tray. It frees us to think of possible future solutions to the present problem, instead of beating our chest and crying “Woe is us!”

Perhaps some churches don’t have funny moments because they don’t live by grace. My best friends in ministry are two guys that I can laugh with…and also cry with. I believe Jesus experienced both ends of the emotional spectrum as well. Art Linkletter used to host a program named “Kids Say The Darnedest Things.”

Perhaps for us it might be “Churches Do the Darnedest Things.”

Kids and Jesus

October 17, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    October 17, 2012

 

Most Sundays I have a children’s story as a part of our morning worship service. We try to find a nice balance between children being a part of the worship service and having time together as a “children’s church.” It might be my imagination, but it seems that the kid’s story has more attentive adults than the main message does.

I’ve tried not to analyze it too much. Perhaps it goes back to the days of Art Linkletter and “Kids Say the Darnedest Things.” You were never quite sure what was going to pop out of someone’s mouth. It’s the same with the Sunday children’s story. You never quite know! The congregation has been flashed a few times. I’ve had one cute little girl climb up in my lap as I’m trying to make a serious point about Jesus. I’ve had one preschooler steer my story about prayer in the direction of color of paint in her bedroom. I’ve learned the hard way that any questions have to be carefully worded, and if a hand goes up with an answer it might have something to do with the question, or about what Santa is bringing the kids for Christmas.

In other words, kids are unpredictable.,,which makes them “dialogue dangerous”, but delightful to the core.

I wonder when Jesus’ disciples tried to keep the children from coming to Jesus if they were concerned about the detours that children can take you on. Instead of Son of God rhetoric they like to talk about fruit roll-ups and the sick little boy in their class at school. Instead of repentance and confession they like to giggle and pick their noses.

In fact, the disciples were a little uptight about anyone under five feet tall. Luke 18:15 says “People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.”

Are you serious? Not exactly a “User-Friendly Church! More like “Seeker-Over-Sensitive.”

I guess you could say that the disciples may have over-reacted. Although it doesn’t say it, I can envision Peter being Jesus “muscle” here, guarding the Savior from those dangerous parents of newborns.

Church today still runs the danger of being “a place for grown-ups.” Kids are sometimes seen as a distraction, to be tolerated as long as they are cute.

Jesus rained on the disciples’ power parade by saying that “…anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)

Perhaps some grown-ups need to commence sucking thumbs. Less scowls and more smiles; smaller words, and bigger dreams.

The kingdom of God more resembles a playground than an office building, a super twisty slide more than rushing through traffic.

Have you ever noticed how caring and giving kids are? Oh, there are the selfish moments, but there are other times where they model mercy and compassion. Have a baby bird fall out of it’s nest, and just see who takes the role of caregiver and savior. Adults are sometimes too tall to see the basic misery around them.

Ask a child to help someone who has suffered through an earthquake in a distant country and watch the lemonade stands pop up.

I don’t think Scripture says a bad thing about kids, except maybe in Proverbs, and there it is not explained what age the verse is referring to. (“A fool spurns his father’s discipline…” Proverbs 15:5a)

Maybe that’s why Jesus liked to hang out with youngsters. He knew he would not have to get into a battle about righteousness, fasting, or spiritual authority.

One last thought! Maybe the reason that the grown-ups are so attentive to the kid’s story is that there is a longing within them to be kids again!