Children’s Day Message
by Chris Johnson
Congratulations to those of you who received your first Bible on Children’s Day.
Before I began leading our services in the Malott Chapel, I was a third grade Sunday School teacher when my son and his classmates learned the same prayer, verses and song that our third graders recited on Children’s Day. A lot goes in to learning and understanding those words and I’m proud of this year’s class.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” So Jesus was there with us on Children’s Day, smiling along with the kid’s parents, family and friends.
All year long, we talked to the third graders about many of the stories that are found in the Bible. All of the memory work comes straight from Bible; from the Ten Commandments, written on stone tablets by God’s own hand, to the story of the lawyer who tries to test Jesus and learns what we now call the Greatest Commandment. These are the lessons of our faith, passed down from generation to generation. And we continue that tradition on every Children’s Day. Ten years ago, my son was reciting those same words. Years before that, my wife did so on those steps when she was a child.
I love being with our students during Sunday School, but when I can be in worship I also like to hear what the other ministers of our church have to say. On the Sunday prior to Children’s Day, Dr. Evertsberg began his sermon by asking the congregation to try and think of one word that would best describe the Bible. What do you think? I thought of the word “love” and I said it softly to myself as he was speaking. I must have said it louder than I thought though because the woman sitting in the pew in front of me turned to me and nodded her head in agreement. Dr. Evertsberg mentioned “love” too, along with the words “grace”, “God”, “Jesus” and “chosen” before asking us to consider the word “remember”.
I’ve always considered the Bible a book about love, the radical, revolutionary, unending love that God gives to us every minute of every day. But now I like the word “remember” too. Because this is the book that helps us to remember where we come from and that we are God’s people. When we read the words of this book, we remember that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives because God is with us. This is the book that tells us that if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, God’s love will satisfy you. This is the book that tells us that nothing, not even death, can keep us from God’s love.
On Children’s Day, I asked our third graders to open their new Bibles up and read its stories in the days, months and years to come. There, they will find the stories of ordinary men and women. Shepherds and slaves, kings and revolutionaries. All of them human, all of them sinners like us. But all of them loved by the God who created them. All of them forgiven by God’s own son, who came here to earth to look us in the eye and tell us face to face – God loves YOU!
I received my first copy of the Bible from the minister of my church when I was just 7 years old. It is my great hope that 40-some years from now, all of those shiny new Bibles that our third graders received will look like mine, well worn after years of reading and re-reading.
It is a book that is filled with love. And now, it’s their book too.