Sometimes the plans that we make need to change for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes we end up with simpler plans. Life- affirming and life-changing plans. On those days or those occasions, you might just feel glad you got out of your own way and let God work.
Last Sunday was a busy one in our congregation. It was Confirmation Sunday, and four young people were going to be claiming their baptismal faith as their own. There would be the “official” rites of Confirmation, (the statements of faith that they would be reading in both worship services, and the anointing and blessing surrounded by family and congregation in the later worship time). And there would also be the “informal” but still important parts of the morning: putting on white robes, taking photos with the pastor and family, and group photos, the special reception put on by the church ladies, and shyly receiving the congratulations and blessings of family and adults in the congregation.
Sunday School was busy, too. We had changed our normal routine so we could strengthen the connection with our student in El Salvador.
After our singing time, we led the kids to the El Salvador display. It is a visible reminder of the partnership our congregation has had for almost 17 years with a congregation in El Salvador. One of the parts of that partnership is sponsoring students by helping them with their school fees and staying in touch with them. Our Sunday School has sponsored one of the students for a long time- in fact, she is now in university. And now our student was the Student of the Month featured in the display, and we had letters from her to share with our kids.
So we led our students to the display, and looked at the various parts of it. We looked especially at the large wooden cross, beautifully painted with scenes from Christ’s passion, and with scenes from life in El Salvador. The children were excited when they recognized some of the pictures from their Sunday School lessons during Lent, and had questions and comments and explanations of what they understood. They noticed a water gourd in one of the everyday life scenes, and then saw that there was a similar dried, painted water gourd there in the display!
And when they looked at the pictures of our student and heard her words to them, they giggled at some parts, clamored to see the photo of her dog, and compared piñata stories after hearing about the piñata at her birthday party. They had made a birthday card and sent it to her in time for her birthday! Now, this far away person seemed closer. They had seen photos of her and her family and her dog! They had heard her words to them, and had a face to connect to the words.
But this was only the first part of the changes for the morning. There were more to come, with potentially longer lasting effects.
Our story for the day was David and Goliath– a Sunday School classic. The plans had called for the students to make simple puppets and then retell the story. But I realized earlier in the week that we wouldn’t have time to both make puppets and tell the story.
So we gathered all the kids together and read the story from the story Bible we use. We used motions for Goliath and for David. We talked about the two armies facing each other from opposite mountains. We talked about the big, bullying fierceness of Goliath, and how no one from King Saul’s army wanted to fight him. We talked about David, and how he was a shepherd, and not yet big enough to be in the army.
And we told the dramatic story of how David believed that God would help him, and how he went out to defeat Goliath with the weapons he had and knew how to use: stones thrown from his sling.
Then came the fun part: we divided the kids into two groups: one was King Saul’s army, with David, and one was the Philistine army with Goliath. Each group went to a separate room to decide who was who and practice their parts of the story. When we came back together after a few minutes to reenact the story, they were ready. The “Philistine” group had chosen the biggest student to play Goliath. And in the “Israelite” group, one of the smallest children had volunteered to be David.
We re-read the story, with the children acting out their various parts. Everybody had a good time, and when we asked them about times when they felt that God had helped them, we heard very specific responses. “When I am playing sports and I’m nervous”, “when people are teasing me”, and even, “when people are pushing me”. The closing prayer time that followed somehow seemed more heartfelt than on some other Sundays, and it was a happy, chattering group that dispersed to wait for their parents.
The frosting on the cake, the part that I am still marveling at, came after Sunday School. It was when the small, bespectacled boy who had volunteered to be David, appeared at my elbow. He came close and said in a confidential voice, “I really liked being David.” “You were an excellent David, and I’m really glad you were him,” I answered. He smiled and skittered away then.
As I watched him, I hoped that “being David” that morning, full of faith in God and confidence in his own skills, would help him face his Goliaths. I didn’t think he would forget the moment or the story.
Janet Blank, Faith Formation Coordinator