This week I lost my lock and my swimsuit at the YMCA. Technically, I did not lose them. I left them behind and they were probably thrown out. In a combination of being hurried and tired from exercising, I was not being mindful. Both were at the end of their useful lives but, it still was frustrating. In this case I was being a fool. Form a secular standpoint a fool is “a silly or stupid person” or “a person who lacks judgment or sense.”However, when we look at how the term fool is used Biblically:
A fool is one who, either by ignorance or by deliberate and calculated pre-determination, follows a lifestyle or commits specific acts that are detrimental for the person or society.”
I think this distinction is important to understand especially in the light of what we are facing in our society today. By relegating the understanding of the fool to perceived or real intelligence levels or competence, we miss the Biblical relationship between the fool and the wise. In fact, the Bible, in many places, shows that the fool has more intelligence than the wise, but the wise ones are living intentionally and also with an understanding of the past, present and future.
It is how I was being foolish last week, thinking through the motions of getting ready, but not thinking about what I was doing, letting the urgency keep me from being mindful and aware of what I really needed to do. It may be a silly example, but it is one that highlights how often we all act foolish in little ways and hopefully helps us see how we maybe foolish in bigger ways as well.
A mentor of mine once told me the difference between the foolish and the wise was simple, “the fool lives in the moment and the wise understand their place in the moment.” This is where being mindful is so important to the growth of becoming wise.
In California we are very aware of mindfulness, we see ads and hear about it in many places. Mindfulness and its practice became part of the culture when “spiritualists” were big in the 60’s and 70’s. As these new traditions were forming, often picking up on themes and practices found in various religious traditions, the leaders often recognized that in both the eastern and western religious traditions, mindfulness was core practice especially in the more mystical traditions.
While different traditions may refer to it in different ways the practice of being mindful is essential for connecting with a spiritual life. Conversely, lack of mindfulness is often problematic to one’s spiritual nature because it removes us from having the intention in our lives and forces us to react to the world. Just like the fool, the one who is not being mindful, often misses out on life because they are unable to see the fullness of what the world offers.
In the Christian tradition, however we recognize that this lack of intention is more insidious than just losing a lock and being inconvenienced. It's what is broken on the inside that makes it difficult to lead our lives, which also, often allows evil to emerge.
One of the great questions of the 20thcentury has been: “how could the most advanced and educated country in the world succumb to the Nazi movement.” So many books written, dissertations, movies, etc. made to try and explain this question though, none really fully answer. The closest is to say that as a society, the Germans were overwhelmed with the situations they were in and the evil of the Nazi party was able to slowly encroach, because instead of thinking, people were willing to accept. Or one could say, instead of being mindful, the were living in the moment. That is how things really become scary.
As Christians we are called to interact wisely with the world. But to do that, we need to think and be mindful of our place within the world and not just go through the motions. If it is easy to lose a lock because of not being aware, we can easily lose our faith and even ourselves if we are not being mindful and wise.
So, by now you may have heard that I took on another position in the community as a commissioner on the Human Relations (Rights) Commission for the County of Santa Clara, and you may be asking yourself, why would he do this? Well, it goes to my deep understanding of how we follow what God is calling us to do.
To be honest, up until a few weeks ago I knew nothing about the Human Relations Commission (HRC), nor did I really have a desire to get involved in politics. But, being called to something is a funny thing. The call is different for everyone. Sometimes it is big and at other times it is small. But when you are called to something it beckons you. Usually it is not something you really WANT to do, rather it is a sense that it is something that would make you less if you did not do.
This is why in our tradition for clergy, we place a big emphasis on the call coming from outside, often those calls confirm the stirrings that are already in your heart, but just as often they are calls that you could not see in yourself, but others bring them to your attention and you just cannot shirk them away. For us, a call is like our understanding of sacraments, as an outward sign of what God is already doing in your heart.
One of the first things I would always tell new interns or candidates for ministry when I was active with that group was that “Ordination is a consequence NOT a goal.” The purpose of the statement was to make it known to the individual that it was not about them getting ordained, what I was really concerned with, was the call and the way in which they were serving God. It proved to be a good model as the interns that followed that lesson were able to listen to the call and become exceptional in their fields. And the ones that didn’t, well didn’t.
When I take on new things I often ask why I am called to do this and I put a lot of weight on what others think. It was interesting when I was called here because on paper I would not have taken the position, but in studying the church and community I felt as if I needed to be here. That is the reality of calls they ultimately do not belong to the individual, they belong to God. I would also go as far as saying that the call is vital only if it is connected in a way where God is working both inside and outside of us.
For this calling to the HRC, when I was approached my initial reaction was to say no. Heck, I was on vacation, still recovering from the parade and I had never heard of this group before. Moreover, this was yet another civic thing, not parochial. Luckily, I was on vacation and not really going to make any decisions but when I got home I began to ask if this would be a role where I could live out my calling. As I read the description of the commission I was amazed at how closely it aligned with both my personal statement and my statement of faith. While it is not a Christian endeavor, it is a very real calling to help create policies of welcome and tolerance to this community at large and that is ultimately one of our callings as Christians - to create a world that celebrates all of God’s children in the fullness of who they are!
I am sure you will hear more about my time on this commission and maybe even get involved in helping our community be a place of welcome and acceptance, just as we try to do within our congregation.
Walking on the Boardwalk last week we stopped for a second and watched as a caricature artist was doing a very interesting portrait. A good caricature artist accentuates features both pleasant and unpleasant to make a comical work of art. A good artist also, might ask for a sport or activity someone likes, but by design there is a lot about a person that is left out of a caricature drawing. But that is the point! We pay someone to get a good laugh or maybe to get an insight into how others see us. It is easy to compartmentalize the caricature artist and say that is something for the fair! But the reality is that often we are our own caricature artists, especially when it comes to God.
Take the “atheists” as a group. Yes, I know a dangerous thing and a caricature of that group. When listening to them talk about God, often what you hear is a narrow opinion, often highlighting the negative aspects, but forgetting or reasoning away the positives, often leading to the logical assertion that there is no God.
At the same time you could take the religious zealots, again a dangerous thing to take as a group. However, often when you find a meeting between the zealots and the atheists you will see that the zealots have just as much of a caricature of God, having a singular always-positive understanding and image.
As you might see, like with the caricature of a person, not seeing the completeness of God can and does create real problems. Almost always when you see cults develop they do so using a caricaturized version of God. Some people really love this because it often the God they think they need.
In our tradition one of the first things that happens in seminaries is a challenge to everything the incoming student knows or think they know about God. For many first-year students in seminary this is a painful experience, especially those who thought they picked a school that would only affirm what they already knew! But the importance of this cannot be missed, especially as a pastor, because it could be easy to have a singular caricaturized version of God. While that is great for growing congregations, it really does not do much for developing or growing disciples.
Step back for a second and think about that. When you hear people say they believe in a cause, they are often spouting a political agenda or myopic view. I am not saying this is good or bad; in fact, many times it can be very good! Take the Black Lives Matter movement. At the beginning it brought awareness to an issue and helped many in our community who don’t understand the plight of many African Americans to understand and have a way to help. BUT we know that the problems are not just about the respect and dignity of Black Lives, but a need for a deeper, more systematic correction to the relationship between the police and the whole community. The problem is that it is hard to introduce the bigger issues when the cause is so myopically focused.
This is true when we think about God. If our view of God is merely the God we want, or don’t want, we are not really having a full image of God. The God who we are imagining is only the God we want to see. This means that many times people come to our churches with the same mindset, choosing churches that will affirm their beliefs and not challenge their understanding of God. Our challenge is to help them to see that God is much bigger than the caricature they have, and when we see God more fully, then we can have a real relationship with Him and understand a deeper, fuller faith.
This coming Sunday we are going to re-dedicate the windows in the sanctuary. This is going to be a special service as we welcome back families and members that have been away. For some who have been away they will join in as if they never left. For most of the people that have left, coming back is going to be a surreal experience with facilities looking familiar clearly a lot of changes too, which for those who have been around are harder to see. Kind of like a child growing-up, the church is growing and by definition it is changing. That, is a good thing because as we change and grow we practice the resurrection.
One of the reasons why people fear change so much is similar to the reason why they fear death, because in a very real way change is death. It is the end of one way and the beginning of a new way. Another way to think about it is that change is a journey into a new reality where the outcomes while seemingly predictable, are really unknown. Among clergy, this is one of the things that fascinates us a lot in how a people that embrace a resurrection theology can fear change so intensely. Moreover, it is interesting because like death, change is inevitable and change is feared.
Yet, we are also called to overcome fears and live in to a resurrection life. This means that we not only accept a resurrection life, but we embrace that God has been active in past, our current and our future realities. This presence of God should bring a calm, to the ways in which we engage life because no matter where we find ourselves, we know that we are with God.
Yes, this is counter to our human instincts. For good reason, we fear what we do not know. That is how we have survived, but as resurrection people, death is no longer a great unknown. We know that there is a beyond, though what that actually looks like is hard to really understand. But today, we have a fairly good understanding of how the world works and often the fears we have, no longer really seem rational. This means that if we are faithful, the end is something that is not to be feared, rather, it is something that we should embrace and celebrate.
When I first came to this congregation we were in a funk. The prior ten years, though some may argue longer, were a rollercoaster of emotions. While the church hit some real highs, it also became a victim of the natural life cycle of a congregation, getting to the point where it was fixated on what it was rather then what it could be. In many ways we feared that if we changed anymore, the only thing that would surely come was more pain. But in a very real way, our past blinded us to the future and made us question the undergirding of our faith.
The Window project was the beginning of a new time in church when we made the deliberate choice to embrace the changes that were right in front of us. It was about the same time when we started on the windows that we started on the revitalization of the church. In both cases we worked on what was seen first, but the windows and the church both held their secrets. But that is to be expected and as we began to embrace the unknowns we also began to grow. In the case of the windows, funds that by all accounts should not have been there arrived. In the case of the church, we learned to reach out to the community and embrace them in new and powerful ways, helping them to see what Christian hospitality is and what a non-judgmental faith is all about.
Fundamentally, we took on the power dynamics that the church had developed and chose to trust in the Lord. This happened about four years ago during a session meeting where they collectively said “enough!” it was time to put the past where it belonged and let go of what was and embrace what will be. The power dynamics changed as we learned to trust each other and realize that while we did not always agree, it did not mean that we had to fight to win, rather we needed to listen and trust that God would show us the way. In a very real way, we learned more deeply than ever to trust in the Lord, for what happens here is not our doing alone and only by letting the spirit in, will we be able to do the ministry God calls us to do.
I hope that you can make it this Sunday to celebrate the windows and this new chapter of our congregations life trusting that God will guide us through all things, even the changes that are still before us!
Can you believe that many of our children and youth will be starting school this week! The summer has gone by so fast. Thinking about education this week’s letter looks at the role of education a core aspect to being Presbyterian. Much of this document, is based on excerpts from the Presbyterian Church Mission Agency and “A Call to Church Involvement in the Renewal of Public Education,” The Education and Congregational Nurture Ministry Unit, Presbyterian Church (USA.), 1987.
It is no surprise, that education has been central to the life of Presbyterians. While we are not the wealthiest denomination, we are the most educated. This started at the very roots of our tradition where clergy were seen to have roles of Rabbi’s (teacher) and mediators of the divine. This comes from a theological and Biblical understanding of the office of a Pastor. In fact, the historical title of a Pastor is Teaching Elder.
In fact as John Calvin was teaching and preaching he was also advocating support of free schools in Geneva where he was the city planner. John Knox, who brought Calvin’s reformed tradition to Scotland, also brought the concern that schools be provided for all children in Scotland. This was not unique to the Calvinists but, like today, not all of the church supported education in fact some preached against it. As a marker of this new tradition, education was woven into every level of the church.
In colonial times, Presbyterians joined with other churches in providing schools for children in whatever community Presbyterian churches were to be found. Academies and colleges were established to continue the tradition of learned clergy and to encourage the general development of all youth. A comparable commitment has characterized Presbyterian mission outreach in the United States among the non-European communities including notable historic Black colleges.
But often, as the Public School system in the United States took over, the Presbyterian Church relinquished their parochial schools to become public, believing in the need for a good education for faithfulness and understanding.
As Presbyterians, we believe that “an education of high quality for all children is an obligation of society and indispensable to the political and economic health of our democracy,” and that “we are called to respond in every possible way, with measures that seek to evidence love and justice in the education of children and youth.” --A Call to Church Involvement in the Renewal of Public Education (199th General Assembly, 1987)
However, to understand public education today, it is important to explore how it evolved and why. Understanding the roots of our public education system can help us understand the problems we face today.
As more immigrants arrived toward the end of the 19th century, education was primarily perceived as a social mechanism to change children into productive workers. Law and order, righteousness, and civil duty were stressed. The familiar descriptive metaphor of the melting pot is grounded in this influx of immigrants.
From these roots, our system of public education has branched out in an attempt to accommodate an increasingly diverse and varied population. Each branch, from secondary education to vocational education, through segregation to desegregation to bilingual education and so on, has emerged in response to the needs perceived by those in power. Our problems today and the challenges we recognize for tomorrow, must be evaluated in that light.
An overture to the 216th General Assembly in 2004, "On Improved Education for African American and Other Students placed at risk for an Excellent Education," called for action to address the concern that some children, particularly poor children, children of color and others on the margins continue to be left behind. Among its recommendations:
That Presbyterians be called upon to confront the stubborn continuance of racial prejudice, particularly the persistence of societal attitudes that discourage academic achievement among economically disadvantaged and children of color students and others at risk.
As we continue to think about spirituality and faithfulness, I think it is important to talk about spiritual practice. As I have written many times before, for me, I like an active spiritual practice. Preaching or hiking, but I need to be doing something in order to connect with God. To sit in quiet is something that I realized was not my thing. Knowing this about myself helps me to know why sometimes I will feel incredibly close to God and why at times I feel removed. I say this as a preamble of sorts to the letter this week, because it is about spiritual practices and the development of individual faith.
A few years back I was offered a class called 'Writing' as Spiritual Practice. Since a noted author and theologian taught the class, I took it, even though I was not sure that I could make writing a spiritual endeavor. While I do love to write, my learning disabilities constantly make me very self-conscious of my work and the sometimes-painstaking process of writing always seemed to be more about form and development, than God.
So when I saw the syllabus and recognized “The Elements of Style,” by Strunk and White, I almost withdrew from the class. Fortunately, that term there was not a better option and I continued with the class. What happened in that class was one of the most remarkable moments of my life. At that point, I had been ordained 9 years and much of my personal spiritual life was going through a survival period. I did what I needed to do to keep connected with God, but it seemed that my faith life was a struggle: no matter what I did I could not feel connected.
On the first day of class, we began by writing, not journaling; just writing whatever came to our heads. From there we wrote, read, rewrote and so on for two weeks. Sometimes we had starters (a sentence or two to give direction) and sometimes we did not. On one hand, I struggled every moment of the class, but on the other hand, I felt by the end of the class that I had been freed from a prison that kept me from connecting to God. As I wrote more and more, my friends would read and reflect back where they saw God in my writing and helped me identify the issues that were ultimately keeping me from connecting with God.
This class marked a turning point in my ministry because it witnessed to me through the structure within the class the importance of writing and listening to the faith of others and hearing the ways in which they could witness back to me about my faith. Interestingly, in almost every instance, those who I shared my writing with would highlight a struggle or moment of grace that I had not seen, even though I had written about it. This witness came to make me stronger in what I believed and would serve to be an incredible tool over the times that I have struggled with my faith.
It is interesting that this worked so well for me, but then again, writing, reading, and talking are all very active modes of spirituality and in the strongest of ways, the practice I learned in that class allowed me to connect in on a much deeper level. However, saying that, I know that not all spiritual practices work for me. I have, for instance, tried over the years to do contemplative spiritual practices and I can never connect to God through those. It does not make them bad or to be avoided because they do not work for me, I just know that is not my thing, where writing, sports, exercise, talking, preaching, etc. are ways in which I connect the strongest to God. I say this because even though I feel very connected to God when I write, or do any of the other things I do for spiritual focus, it is not always easy. In fact, it is usually quite difficult. However, when I finish I know where I am in my faith.
One of my views on how to live a life of faith is the example of what I would call a granny knot. A granny knot is a poorly tied knot usually done in haste that ends up being very difficult to untie.
Now, there are three truths to untie the Granny knot:
This is like faith and life. First, you’re not going to go anywhere in your faith if you do not start with a basic belief in God. It may take time to get there, but without that starting point nothing else will fully make sense and you will get frustrated and quit. This belief surpasses every issue that could arise and in the end you will experience God’s Grace.
Secondly, you need to live your life; don’t get too far ahead, don’t dwell in the past, but live. At times, you get to places that are harder than others and you have to be more vigilant and sometimes you can fly through because everything is working “as it should.”
Thirdly, you need to let things “play out.” When we try to force situations, bad things can and often do happen. I remember many years ago when I taught beginners swimming how many kids were terrified of the water because of the way they were forced to learn how to swim. Many times, with those who were timid, letting them move closer on their own, taking the time on land made them more comfortable in the water. In life and our struggles with faith, giving ourselves the grace that we need to work through a difficult time, not forcing things to be good right now but letting them “play out” can help us to see things much clearer and end up working out much better. Especially since a bad time may give a glimpse into something much deeper.
In my life, this has played out through various struggles in my life. Through the medical anxieties of my youth to the many struggles of life, the times where I give myself the grace and patience I have often seen things workout, as they ought. This is not about being passive; it is about being in the moment and working through the series, like the knot where you may have to work the strings back and forth to loosen the string, in life you may need to experiment to find what works. However, in time, if you have faith, patience and continue to move forward, eventually you get through it.
Maybe the best way to sum all of this up is “have faith in God, have faith in yourself, because God has faith in you.”
Regardless of an individual’s background, the word “Bible” invokes deep emotions and understandings to almost everyone who hears it. Unfortunately, most of the time they are more negative than positive. The feeling that many have towards the Bible starts when people define what the Bible is. There is an old joke among mainline clergy of the pastor who got up in front of his congregation and said “If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus Christ, it is good enough for me!” He said this with the connotation that, the King James Version dated back to Jesus Christ. To him, this meant that everything in it was the way God wanted and there were no mistakes.
The truth of that version is that a King with a questionable lifestyle wrote it in the 1500’s. He used the writing of that version to further his political standing. While he did not change the overarching understandings or themes in the Bible, the translators made some translation choices that many scholars, today look back on and question. On one hand, it brought many “R” rated parts down to “PG” and introduced concepts, that we still debate today. One being, the sections having to do with homosexuality. Here, you can see the problem, many people read the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, but the Bible was written and translated by people, so while it may have begun pure, the versions we have today have lost a bit of that through the translations. This is why we encourage people to use multiple versions of the bible in bible studies.
Another issue is something that most 9 year-olds pick up on pretty quickly when they read the Adam and Eve story. Some will ask, “If everything was created, why would it be created again a different way?” But my favorite question is “If Adam and Eve were the first people, how come they found other people when they were kicked out of the garden?” Good questions!
The first, is a sign of the multiple writers of the Pentateuch and rest of the Old Testament. Tradition stated that the Old Testament was written all by Moses and another, that God wrote it himself; however, this is most likely not the case. As scholars have worked through the original texts, some that were merely fragments, they have seen distinct writing styles for different parts, suggesting that there were multiple people who were writing these witnesses. As we move to the New Testament, we know for sure that God did not write it, since the witness of each book is ascribed to a particular writer.
There is an underlying inconsistency in the Bible. The first and most obvious one is the question of Adam and Eve finding other people when they leave the garden. The Bible was NOT written to be a user's manual for life, nor was it written to be an accurate account of history. The Bible WAS written to be a faithful accounting of God. Therefore, all of the stories, poems, songs, laments, wisdom, and revelation all point to an inscrutable but loving God.
The problem is that when people make these blanket statements about inerrancy and infallibility in the Bible, they tend to miss the point that the Bible as a whole is a witness. Now as we know with witnessing anything, there are many limitations. Just think of my sermons each week and the discussions we have. Everyone interprets what I say a little differently based on his or her perspectives and understandings. Does it make their perspective any less valid? No! In fact, it makes it even more valid.
The Bible is a powerful witness that shows us over and over again the relationship that God longs to have with us. It speaks of God’s desire that we know love. While it is a witness, it is special because its inspiration and guidance come from God.
One of my favorite times of the year is Vacation Bible School. For one full week of the year, the church is bustling with activity. Moreover, it is a time when we tend to set aside everything that might get in the way and truly celebrate God. This year, with Chris’ leadership, we were able to see the joy and fun that goes with learning about God.
Learning about God and sharing faith is one of the most important parts about church. It is, in fact, one of the main reasons the church was established. Think back to the days of the early church. Worship, as we know, was mainly around a meal. The recognition that eating brought strength was not lost, especially in the struggles of that early church. The early Christians recognized that they could not be faithful if left to their own devices. Even if they could “get it right,” they needed the community for strength, since to believe was to literally put your life on the line, as we know from the stories of the martyrs.
The problem we often see in the modern church is that there is less openness to learning and a diminished sense of the need to learn. While I do not necessarily see this in any particular congregation I have served, over my 17 years of ordained ministry (my ordination date was July 15, 2001), there seems to be less and less of a desire to learn and be challenged, and more and more of a desire to hear things that support a specific point of view. When I say this, I am not just calling out one side of the church. Actually, it has been my experience, especially in light of our current political climate, that there is a need for openness to multiple points of view. Moreover, there is a need to get back to the place where we can openly share our struggles and witness to the power and strength of God.
This is why I love Vacation Bible School so much. For the kids, it is a great experience. The joy and smiles when they leave warm even the toughest parts of one’s soul. But for most of the adults, it is difficult. From maintaining the high energy to keep up with the kids to always being alert, it takes a lot! Whenever I struggle with anything to do with children’s ministry, the image that first comes to my mind is Matthew 19:14 (NRSV): but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
This is an important image for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the passage recognizes a special grounding that children have. In their ignorance of the world, they can more clearly see and witness to who Christ really is, more so than even the disciples, who try to shoo them away. It also reflects a need that the children sense to be close to Christ. In a way, it is a subtle fight that goes back and forth between Jesus and the disciples: Jesus desires people to come closer, while the disciples are trying to protect Him from harm, especially from the children, who might be seen to taint Christ (this is another letter, but trust me on that).
What children do, in their excitement and sometimes even insights, is help us to see a better picture of who Christ is. They also help us to grow into an openness for what God is calling us to today. Through their gifts, they remind us of the importance of this calling to be Christian. Most significantly, we are all energized by the faith they show. Even if some of our leaders are physically tired after VBS, spiritually most of us are left at a high above all others.
I am really thankful for everyone who helped—those who were up front, those who were not, even those who only did one or two things. It was you who made this example a true blessing and witness of Jesus Christ.
This week in VBS we are talking about heroes. Now, I love a good superhero movie or series on TV. It is the ultimate in escapism. Like fairy tales, they pit good vs. evil. Even when they try to throw in a twist, that only goes so far and you catch on, but that is why we like them so much! Their predictability brings comfort, and knowing that eventually good will triumph brings us hope.
However, the heroes of superhero movies and shows are somewhat problematic. First of all, there is the violence. In most superhero movies, there is an underlying militancy. The lesson is that through force and fighting, one can save all. The second problem with superhero movies is that they suggest that only certain people can be heroes. Most of our favorite heroes have some kind of gift, whether genetic, alien, intellectual, financial or some combination thereof.
So, while we have deemed them “superheroes,” I am not sure that they are really are that super—they are just using their gifts to make a difference. But that should not make them super, other than the fantastical powers they have, which, when diving into the stories, are as much a burden as anything else.
To me, a real hero is someone with the courage to be who God created them to be and to use the gifts they have to make a difference in this world. In fact, I believe that we all are heroes when we are authentic to our calling and work for the best community possible.
One of the heroes in my life is a man named Jim McKay. Jim was an adolescent trapped in the body of a middle-aged man when he came to my church as our youth director. The very first time we met, I had no clue who he was. Like most of the boys do here during VBS, my friends and I were running around the church, playing tag or something like that. Jim had just been hired, so we had no clue who he was. When we ran into the sanctuary, there was this big man doing something; now that I look back, I think he was praying.
He looked at us and said the obligatory adult thing, "Are you guys supposed to be in here?" We looked at each other and readied ourselves for the wrath to come. Then Jim did something unexpected. He looked around a little bit and said, "Have you guys ever done pew races?"
Now we were really confused. Our sanctuary was large and flat, with carpet down the center aisle and a tile floor underneath the pews. He noticed our stares and said, "Pew races go like this: you lie on your backs underneath the pews and slide from the front of the sanctuary to the back." It sounded fun, so we started to have pew races, a new tradition for our group.
Our first introduction to Jim was acceptance and love (and FUN!). He knew that the program had not started; he knew that our parents were all preparing things throughout the church; and most of all, he knew that if we were comfortable in church, we would be far more comfortable learning about God.
I could not help but think about that when I watched the blur of all the kids running through the church playing tag. Though they are young and well on their way to developing their faith, I could not help but think of how important it is that we maintain a fellowship that is welcoming and safe for everybody. In doing that, we may become real heroes to these kids.
I think that this is one of the reasons that I love Vacation Bible School so much! For me, it is the most intensive way that the church can exemplify Christian living and love. It teaches the children and helps the adults to relearn what it means to be in community. In the case of our church, it is not just welcoming our community but opening up to a larger community.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen