Monday, June 12, 2017

100+ Little Souls Created by God

Trinity Sunday 2017/Genesis 1 Creation
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield UMC

So this week while the UK found itself in crisis, we had VBS.
This week while trials and hearings were held in the nation’s capital, we hosted over 100 children in VBS at the Lutheran church and here..Facebook Page for VBS
This week while I struggled with back pain and others struggled with their own trials, I taught 4, 5, 6th grade VBS classes
This year I had the pleasure and challenge of teaching the 4, 5, 6th grade cl

asses in VBS. Usually I teach the elementary age. It was of God that this was assigned this way because no way could I have gotten up and down from the floor to teach the youngers students.

It was also a challenge because making bible stories meaningful to kids who just beyond needed to hear ‘just the facts’ or just the stories without getting too complicated stretched me and my teaching style.

And I got to reconnect on a different level with my Project Go kids.

So all around it was a great week for me. While the world descended into chaos, once again; it was a great week here in Chatfield.

And, of course, I am always in awe of everyone who helps out. Jennifer for her passion in wanted the children to hear the bible stories and making VBS an unforgettable experience. Joyce, Sandy and Kathy and this year Bev, who helped the children create crafts that reinforced the bible stories AND taught important skills. Marlene, who makes the bible stories come alive for our preschoolers. Just going into her room teaches you about the bible and love and what it means to care about teaching preschoolers the stories of God. Ruth and her granddaughter Clara who managed the kitchen here at our church, Kathy K and Sara Ellis who were some of the adults who helped out all week as group leaders. and Sara Ellis who was one of the group leaders.  
And our youth, Jack, Maddie, BrookLynn, Sydney, Peyton, Ellie, Anna, Olivia, Abbi, Lexi, and Ruby, who guided the children from class to class, kept order, disciplined when needed, and were role models for the younger kids.
We are doing what we promised when we baptize these our children. Walking with them, training them in discipleship and teaching them the stories of God.

And I have to say how wonderful it is today to baptize a baby of a child of this church. A child who came to Sunday school, vbs, and who had grandparents and parents who helped her learn the stories of the bible.
The circle of life here in this church, the connection from one generation to another, is such an important piece of what it means to be a part of a faith community. 

And part of the entire circle of life that is God’s creation.

Now here is the best thing about my back pain and VBS this year, other than the not having the get up and down off the floor…
The way we do VBS is that one person teaches all the lessons for all the preschool classes, one person teaches all the lessaons for the elementary age classes and one person teaches all the lessons for the upper elementary age classes.
So three people teach all the lessons. And they teach their age group lessons for at least three different groups.
So, for example, I taught a 4th grade class, then a sixth grade class, then a 5th grade class. And the other teachers did the same thing. Each one the same lesson. But when I’m teaching the elementary age classes I usually have to spend the scant 5 minutes in between class groups getting my room back to where it started from so that I can teach the lesson from the beginning to the end again.
If there was a campfire involved in the lesson, for example, I have to put out the campfire and rearrange the logs so that the next class can build a new campfire…that sort of thing.

Well, this year, I didn’t have to do that. My greatest challenge was to make sure the videos I had on you tube played and the ppts got queued to the beginning. And the youth leaders did such an excellent joy of transitioning the classes in and out of my room, I mostly sat in my chair and waited as one class came and went and the next one came and went…
So, I got the rare advantage of being able to listen carefully as students came and went. I got to observe more carefully what was going on around me and outside the classroom. Plus, I was often pushed in the wheel chair in between churches…

Ok, so you get the idea. I had a lot more time for listening and observing.

While I was teaching the students about the love and forgiveness and strength giving God that we serve I was hearing of the scaubbles about who pushed the food cart from the Lutheran church to the Methodist church and how it had gotten out of hand and punches were thrown.
I heard the taunts that kids spoke to each other. I saw the burpees one student had to do because his language was a little raw. I saw the chair legs that were being deliberately moved to trip someone or the chair that was rearranged so that friends could sit by each other.

In other words, I saw the day to day life of a Chatfield young person.

But before we start shaking our heads and proclaiming, kids wouldn’t have gotten away with that in my day and age. In Our VBS. Let me assure you, our kids didn’t get away with it either.
But because I was listening hard and observing more I also saw, kids being concerned because the kid lost it and we were able to talk about how that particular kid had a good heart and we all knew that. How that kid is usually kind and good and how all of us lose it once in awhile. How all of us have good hearts that turn away from doing wha we know if right, once in a while.

And becaue I was observing I was able to ask the 6th grade boys about the tshirt they were wearing that said: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And these boys gathered around my wheelchair anxious, anxious, to tell me the story about reading a book by Tebow after their friends Hunter and Caleb died. How reading that book together helped them and motivated them to make tshirts and sell them to help Hunter and Caleb’s families cope with their loss.

And because I was listening and observing more quietly, I got to hear students ask to push me in the wheel chair and ask for help when they didn’t think they could keep me from running down into the street at the bottom of our steep driveway. I got to see students making sure others were careful and being supported.
And how one very young boy determinedly pushed me all the way from the Lutheran church to here up the very steep driveway.

Because I was listening and observing this year I was able to say with sure and certain convictions, with stories of their own lives to back me up, that God sees their hearts, the hearts of these 4, 5, 6th graders and just as God said at the beginning; it is good, so God says now, it is good. Your heart is good.
You don’t always do good, but God knows, your heart is good.

And because you can know that God knows your heart is good, you can live the truth of that.
You can forgive yourself and your friends when your good heart or their good heart isn’t the first thing that you see.
Just like Jesus does, just like God does, because the power of the Holy Spirit in us makes us able to be like God.

Because you know that God knows your heart is good, you can love others who are strangers to you, who say things that aren’t kind to you, that don’t always show love to you. Because you know that God knows that their heart is good, too.

And because you know that God knows that your heart, your friend’s heart and even your enemy’s heart is good, you can teach others through your actions of forgiveness and goodness and love that their hearts are good.
You can be the one who tells them that God know that their heart is good.

We heard this week about Noah and Jonah, who were not perfectly good people, but who listened to their good hearts and heard the word of God. We learned about Peter who denied Jesus and didn’t trust Jesus, who was impulsive, just like some of the kids in our classes, who said things without thinking, who challenged God without realizing what he was doing. We spoke about Paul who was a murderer but also a spokesperson, a passionate spokesperson about the love of Jesus for the world. He wouldn’t let anyone stand in the way of the message of God’s love through Jesus and even said to those who said they hated Jesus that their sins, their sin of hatred, was forgiven.

We heard about people and we experienced each other as whole human beings, who have good hearts and, yet, do stupid, impulsive, murderous, and sinful things.
And we had a choice, surrounded by 100+ little and big souls. We could have focused on the good hearts or the stupid, impulsive, murderous and sinful things.

Hmm…So while I was teaching VBS this week, my gardens sat there. Because VBS was about all I could do.
The flowers bloomed, the birds sang. A cardinal is sitting on eggs, a bluebird is building a nest, a wren is feeding the young birds. The peonies popped open, the yellow rose started blooming. And grandma’s primroses started opening up.
It is glorious.
But do you know what I saw every time I walked from the parsonage to the church? Do you know what I saw unless I was very, very careful? All of the weeds I cannot pull, all of thistles that those birds seeded in amongst my flowers, all of the grass that is growing out of my yarrow…

Hmmm…so what do we do, hear what God says: And it is good. Or focus on the weeds?

100+ little souls need us to hear God.