Grace’s kids program grew for a couple years in numbers and has plateaued numerically. But, this year there’s been a different type of growth–a growth in depth. It’s as obvious as what I call “the baby-ducks phenomenon.” More than once I’ve watched adult leaders get up to walk somewhere within the church. Without a word, a few kids closely tied to that leader invariable notice and get up to follow, even if it ends up being a trip to the coat rack because the adult leader only needed something from a pocket. In other words, trust has deepened. Relationship has grown. I see the same with some of the kids seeking out people that are becoming their favorites within the congregation just to say, “hi” on Sunday morning. In the grocery store, kids from church will spot me from a distance, before I spot them, race over to say, “hello.” It’s a little harder to gauge people’s relationships with God. But, I see some signs those are growing as well.
This Sunday the Children’s Ministry is leading worship–and focusing on Following Jesus. “Let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). I will be curious to hear what the kids have to share. It also brings up important questions in all our lives: “how are we doing at following Jesus?” Do we notice where Jesus leads? Are there places in our lives where Jesus calls us one direction but we find ourselves wanting to go the opposite direction? I invite you to take a few moments before Sunday to read Mark 8:31-38 and listen to what Jesus says. Pray over it. Perhaps click on the link that follows as you pray and let a piano arrangement of “Where He Leads Me I Will Follow” be part of your reflection.
Yesterday when I first heard the news of the latest school shooting in Broward, Co., it saddened me deeply. Unfortunately, I don’t have the emotional resources to be saddened deeply by each one anymore. Depend upon the definition of school shooting there have been between 12 and 18 of them since January 1, 2018. I don’t think any of us do and that in itself is reason for grief. I referenced the events near Miami last night in the Ash Wednesday message–careful not to mention the word shooter, deaths or schools because we had a lot of little kids at worship and it wasn’t the time or place to say more than it is a sign of deep, tragic brokenness in nation.
This particular shooting is perhaps unique in that all the signs were there. The school knew the shooter had mental issues. The police department knew. The students expected he might come back to shoot up their school. His Facebook posts sent clear signals. However, our current legal system, mental health delivery system, laws regarding committing a person who seems a danger to society, and the current limits of background checks before a person can buy a weapon, all left no one with authority or capacity to prevent the tragedy. That said, I heard some interesting suggestions I’ve not heard before–creation of a category of restraining orders specifically designed to deal with people who indicate they may be a threat to an entire organization. So, if someone makes a verbal threat about their school, workplace, or a community-space there would be a legal means to restrict that person’s access to weaponry and geographical vicinity. It would be a way to hold people accountable for threatening words. The first question would be how that relates to free speech, I imagine. Yet, I believe freedom can co-exist with accountability.
This upcoming Sunday we’ll hear Jesus’ words, “Here comes God’s good news.” We do need good news–because every time a tragedy happens it wounds us all; we are all part of the human family. We do need good news–even in Lent. If you take the time to count the 40 days of Lent, you’ll find it’s more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. That’s because Sunday’s are not counted as part of the season of Lent. Sundays are always meant to whisper Easter’s promise and to revive us. After Jesus says, “Here comes the good news,” he goes on to say, “Change your hearts and lives, and trust God’s good news.” This week is a strong reminder life is not perfect. Our nation is not perfect. Times change. I don’t pretend to know the solutions–but I know solutions can’t happen without a willingness to change. It is a time for a change of heart. Please pray for new wisdom and new ideas (not just in Washington) but in our own lives, so that we can be part of bringing God’s healing for a hurting world. Pray for signs of God’s kingdom for our own healing, and for a world in need. Pray for those hurting the most today. Also, Pray God will make you part of the solutions to life’s problems–near and far–everyday, as you seek to follow Jesus.