Fourth grade is usually when students stop learning to read and start reading to learn. Usually, a person is 8 or 9 or maybe, depending on their birthday, they might be 10 years old. Still a child by anyone’s standards. We have all heard that we need to come to God like a child. And it seems to be true that Jesus had a special affinity for children. There is the story in the book of Mark, Chapter 10: 13-16, for example:
“People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15 I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.”
It would be easy to surmise that being the child of God means that we should not pursue maturity, that we should not make efforts to understand God in new and different ways, that the Catechism or Sunday Schools lessons of our youth are sufficient for our lives of faith for the rest of our lives. That once we have learned to read, we no longer need to keep reading to learn, as it were.
Have you ever met someone who seems to be stuck at that level in their faith? They can quote for you the chapter and verse, can remember the prayers of their youth, but cannot seem to be able to apply their faith to the world in which we live? Their understanding of what it is to be a person of faith, to be a follower of Jesus has gotten bogged down in their list of rights and wrongs. They have forgotten, or maybe they never learned that God is still speaking. That the Bible is, not a dusty old history book or list of rules, but rather, a living document meant to bring life into our current daily lives.
Some of us were talking Tuesday evening about an evangelist from the mid twentieth century. The discussion began about the prayer of Salvation that some believe is a “one and done…” Do you know what I mean? Say that prayer and no matter what you do for the rest of your life, you have been “saved.” This person did not believe that and always left the areas of his revivals and meetings staffed by folks who helped people find peers and Bible Studies and other ways of connecting to their new found or newly recommitted faith. It’s something that I admired about this person’s work.
What I found less admirable was his apparent inability to examine his faith in a way that allowed for new interpretation, for a new way to look at the old texts, a new way to hear the story of God. For example, he refused to accept that women could be called to ministry or that people of faith can also be same-sex loving folks. Someone suggested that maybe, like many of us, that great man of God was simply unable to grow anymore. That he stopped learning. That at some point he stopped listening for the call of the Holy Spirit. That he lost sight of the fact that God is still speaking and that Jesus’ message is one of love and inclusion and acceptance of us all…
My prayer for this month is that we would all continue to listen for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit as she speaks in our lives. That we would come with the heart and imagination of a child, that we would keep reading to learn, that we remain open and willing to accept that God is always creating, that God is always making the old things new. And that we would be willing to change and grow into the person that God is calling us to be. Amen.
I'd love to meet with you!
I am setting aside time each week, during the day or in the evenings via zoom, to meet with you one on one as you are able. The goal is to learn a little about each other and to find out about your hopes and dreams for United. If you would like to get together, please let Karen in the office know, by either emailing to: firstname.lastname@example.org., or feel free to leave a message on the office voicemail at: 508-752-3785, and we will return your call to set up a time.
Also, please feel free to email me anytime at email@example.com or call (585) 662-3785. Please note: My Sabbath is Fridays so I will be unable to answer and non-emergency calls or emails on that day.
~ Rev. S. Brae Adams