Dear Grace: What God Says Through Children to Today’s Church
by Troy Cady
A good portion of the New Testament consists of letters sent by Christian leaders to congregations in a variety of cities throughout the Roman empire. Paul sent letters to the Christians in Ephesus, Galatia, and Colossae, to name a few. Peter sent letters to Christians in a variety of provinces.
Generally speaking, these letters were filled with admonitions to believers living in a specific context and the admonitions were aimed at helping Christians know how to live in a way that was both a) different from the culture and b) identified with the culture. The church as the Body of Christ is intended to resemble Christ in that Jesus was both fully human (identified with us) and fully divine (different from us).
By the indwelling Spirit of Christ, followers of Jesus are enabled to imitate their Lord. That is, they are able to live in such a way that identifies with society but also stands apart from certain self-destructive tendencies in society. This is how the church is able to be a hopeful, loving presence in places and situations laden with despair and hatred.
It’s hard being a Christian. We tend to lean more towards one aspect of what it means to be a Christian than the other: either we identify too much with the world-system or we hardly ever identify with it. Those who identify too much do well to remember that without difference…we don’t make a difference. Those who identify with the world too little do well to remember that we can only love the world to the extent that we relate to people and engage the real world. If we are too separate, we fail to love; if we are too enmeshed, we hold forth little hope that things can change.
This summer at our church we are carrying on this great tradition of letter writing for the purpose of discerning how we can be both in the world but not of the world. Each week, a different leader at our church reads a letter to the congregation that grapples with how we can live faithfully in the way of Jesus that engages with the world as we experience it in 2017 (since a lot has changed since the first century A.D.!).
Since I have the privilege of working with children, I have engaged them in this exercise, too. Each week I tell a story from the Bible and in our wondering time I ask them: “What does God want the church to know through this story?”
It should come as no surprise to us that the children have some amazing and wonderful things to say. I look forward to sharing with you on occasion what God says to the church in 2017 through them. Here are a couple of examples.
On the first week, we looked at the story of creation and this was the short letter the group created:
God made everything to make a song. God made us because he loves us and God is still creating something new for tomorrow. Remember: even though you can’t see God, he’s still there. Love, Grace Kids.”
Last week we looked at the story of Noah and one boy in preschool offered this bit of wisdom when asked what God was saying to the church through the story. He said:
New life comes after death. Love, R—“
This Sunday we’ll be looking at the story of Abraham and Sarah—and the Great Family they started. I can’t wait to hear what the kids have to say!
I’m sure you’ll agree their words are a much-needed reminder to the church in 2017. My prayer is that the adults will take it to heart, that the adults will learn to receive the kingdom of God like children.
That is why I said to them two weeks ago: “It’s important for the church to hear what you have to say. God has given you a voice and God wants you to use it. I wonder what makes your voice unique. I wonder what others need to hear from you. You have a voice and God wants you to use it. Speak up for what’s true and good, beautiful, right and loving.”
There was a moment of silence as they took in that message. And then the silence was broken as one child asked: “I wonder what your voice is, Mr. Troy.”
I said, “I want to use my voice so that others will hear your voice. It’s important for others to hear your voice.”
I pray it will be so.