God’s Long, Confusing Story

Religion Plays an Important Part in the Lives of Residents ..., 10/1974

It’s always dangerous to ask questions during the children’s sermon.  The kids could say anything.  Or nothing.  Or, they could pull their dresses up over their heads and roll around on the floor.  (Pro Tip: The kid most likely to pull that one is the kid that comes home with me.)

But sometimes, asking questions provokes conversations like this:

Me: So, whatever kind of prayers you put in your prayer basket, God listens to them.  You can pray when you’re happy, or when you’re sad, or when you’re angry or cranky.

Emma: Yeah, or I could just write, “I love you and I miss you.”

Me: Yep! You sure could.

Emma: Because, Jesus dies.  At Easter.

Me: That’s true.  But he comes back, right?

Emma: Yeah, he does!  At Christmas!”

Me: Well . . . yes.  It’s a confusing story.

Emma: And it’s a really long story, too!

Easter garden in church

Of course, this is a cute conversation with one of the cutest kids in Minnesota, so the congregation loves it.  We all laugh in a good-natured way.

But it’s true: Jesus dies at Easter, and he comes back not just when God raises him from the dead, but when we meet him as a baby in the manger every year.  In the course of the church year, Jesus goes from being a baby, to being a grown up healer and teacher, to dying on the cross, to rising from the dead, to being alive again.  He is constantly on the way to the cross or appearing to his disciples after he’s been raised.  It is confusing.

This year, we’re using the Narrative Lectionary at First and Beckville.  We’ll hear only Old Testament stories through the fall.  At Christmas, we’ll hear about the birth of Jesus.  We’ll hear about his life and death until Easter, then spend the spring hearing from the book of Acts and many of the New Testament letters.  One of the goals of this lectionary is to make God’s confusing story a little easier to understand.  To show us how God moves through the stories of the Old Testament, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the witness of the first Christians.

It’s a long story.  We’ll spend nine months telling it.  And then, we’ll tell it again.  Because it’s a confusing story, and there’s lots to wrestle with, wonder about, and absorb.

Religion Plays an Important Part in the Lives of Residents. The Largest Group of Churchgoers Are Roman Catholics...

What stories are you grappling with lately?

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5 Comments

Filed under Preschool Theology

5 responses to “God’s Long, Confusing Story

  1. Jenny Olsztynski

    My granddaughter Addy is preparing for first communion and of course, reconciliation or confession as we old folks know it. Now being raised a Southern Baptist then Presbyterian, then Methodist but attending Catholic school, I have some views on this subject that may not be in agreement with the Catholic Church. Addy is tied up in knots about having to speak face to face with a priest and let’s face it. She is the purest 7 year old you could ever meet. She asked me what I thought so I told her the following: I believe it is good to think about what you did that you are proud of and what you wish you had done differently at the end of every day. I think this is best done in private, but sometimes it is good to talk to someone you trust. This might be a priest or minister or your sister, friend, aunt, parent or grandparent. I told her I do this at night before I go to sleep. Well, this did not help the situation because she still has to speak with the priest and confess her ‘sins’. So, I told her that if she did not want to so this, she should talk to her Mother. She did. So now she is going to tell the priest that she has told at least one lie ( she recently cut her hair and told us she didn’t) and she is on occasion sassy to her Mom. This just seems so fake to me. And not what communion is all about.
    Well, I guess I just don’t like the idea of seven year olds thinking that telling a lie or being sassy are sins. These behaviors are a part of normal human development and should be addressed by parents, but the whole sin thing really bugs me.

    Wayward Grandma

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    • Oh, wow. This brings back memories of my own first communion, when our family still belonged to the Catholic church. I, too, was very stressed out by going to confession with the priest. I didn’t know what to say, either, so I think I made something up! I like what you say about thinking about the things you’ve done and talking about it with someone you trust. Clearly, making up a sin for the priest is not what anybody had in mind!

      Here’s what Dan Erlander says about sin in his little book Let the Children Come, in a list of reasons for baptism: “A child is part of the human race which is ensared within self-justifying impulses, self-love run amuck, trusting what is not worthy of trust–all that the Christian faith calls ‘sin’. Every human needs God’s forgiving and liberating power.” We are all sinners, because we are all human. We all need the forgiveness and new life that God gives in the sacraments, which for Lutherans are baptism and communion.

      Does a seven-year-old need to be told that her perfectly normal seven-year-old behaviors are sins? Maybe not. Does she need to be told that even when she tells a lie or mouths off, or does much worse things than those, God will keep on loving her and forgiving her? Absolutely. That is a big part of what communion is about, and I think with a wayward grandma on her side, that message will come through!

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  2. I’m pretty intrigued with the narrative lectionary idea. Are you finding enough ‘helps’ for it (and by that, of course, I mean exegetical/sermon preparation kind of helps)?

    And, I’m waiting to hear what you have to say to Wayward Grandma up there because she has some great questions. That’s a very blessed granddaughter of hers!

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    • I am finding the narrative lectionary working preacher podcast very helpful. There’s also weekly commentary on that site, and textweek.com has a lot of good stuff in the archives if you search by scripture. I also have four great pastors in my text study group who are doing the NL, so that helps a lot! Once we get into the New Testament, I will be able to use all my Luke books, too! And it’s nice to know what story I’m preaching on (and not pick OT or NT or gospel). I’m a fan!

      And now, on to Wayward Grandma!

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  3. Jenny Olsztynski

    Maggie, you are spot on. God does keep on loving and forgiving us. This is what communion is all about. Thanks for your great advice.

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