Last Sunday when we gave Bibles to our children in our worship service, one of the three-year-olds squirmed in his mother’s arms. “I don’t want that book,” the child said Those within hearing distance laughed a bit.
Of course, this child was being very specific about the very specific book being offered. Standing in front of the whole congregation can be intimidating in itself. His older sibling had just gotten a Bible too, but that child got the “older kid’s” Bible and it looked different. And now someone was handing him this book. He wasn’t sure what to do and so he said, “No.”
For this preacher, who is always looking for metaphors, it was a profound moment of reflecting on my own faith. Yes, the Bible can be a tough book. There is stuff in there that is hard to read. Not only are there appalling stories of violence, the book itself has been used through the centuries to perpetuate violence.
But even setting aside that reality, I know that what the Bible asks of me in the positive, “love your neighbor,“ sense can also be intimidating. There are times when I too have wanted to squirm away and say, “No.”
I deeply appreciate worshipping with children. Their immediate reactions remind us of things we adults often miss. In that same “Bible gifting” service, my colleague Pastor Amy did a trust fall. (More information about how we are using a trust fall in our worship right now is in my blog from two weeks ago.) One of the children sitting in the front pew saw her fall, cried “Owie! Owie!” and had to leave the worship service, inconsolable. Again, the child gets what the adults might miss.
We know there was someone to catch Pastor Amy. In these trust falls we work hard to assure no one actually gets hurt. But that assurance might tempt us to miss the point that there are times when our faith calls us to a level of risk that involves pain. Sometimes we fail one another. Sometimes we fall and it is only God who catches us. Living out our faith can be painful and risky. That’s what our worship series, called “Brave!“ is about. And clearly, the “owie, owie” child got it.
Which leads me to one more time this month that a child in the worship service reminded me of the realities of my faith. Our call to worship at the beginning of our service is always led by a child. During our current series, the child leads us in a prayer: “Make us people of courage and faith.”
Except that two weeks ago, instead of “courage,“ the child kept saying “comfort.” Three times as the congregation said its part of the liturgy the child repeated: “Make us people of comfort and faith.” We could see the word in the bulletin was “courage, but we continued to hear a child’s sweet voice say “comfort.”
I kept wondering if the child would catch and correct the mistake. But it never happened. That day, as we prepared to talk about courage, we asked God for comfort too.
And doesn’t that fit as well? In my places of courage, I want to know comfort. In my moments of comfort I want to be led to courageous faith in action.
So my thanks today is for the way children lead us all, and both intentionally, and sometimes accidentally, keep reminding us what this sacred journey is all about.