Children’s Sermons after a tragedy

Because so many of those who show up at my site come looking for children’s sermons, and because the recent Newtown shootings are likely to send more than one pastor scrambling for resources to help the children in their churches cope, I would like to direct you to this excellent piece by Rev. Jeremy Smith, who offers not just one, but FOUR possible children’s sermons in response to the recent massacre of young children in Newtown, CT.

Click here for Rev. Smith’s article on his blog, Hacking Christianity.

I will add that, because many parents (especially those who do not live in Connecticut, and do not have friends who do…) will have chosen not to tell their children about the shooting, and because it is especially these younger, more sheltered children who make up the average children’s sermon audience, attend to the way that Rev. Smith allows the children themselves the space in which to bring up this particular incident.  The message of the children’s sermons are valuable enough on their own without reference to the incident, but if the children are to hear about it from one of their peers, best for it to happen with their preacher on hand.

With that in mind, as a reminder of how pastors can be helpful or unhelpful in a crisis, I am also sharing this article about 5 things to say and 5 things not to say in a crisis.  Hint: Don’t pretend you know what God is up to.

The Rev. Emily C. Heath on Dealing with Grief, in yesterday’s Huffington Post.

And finally, a friend of mine who is a seminary professor found singing the Coventry Carol to be therapeutic for her yesterday.

May the Peace of Christ be with you all.

God delights in you!

Sarah and Clair at the White House, Spring 1975

Sarah and Clair at the White House, Spring 1975
Photo by Rev. J. Mason Cosby

Not long ago, my Mom found this photograph and gave it to me to take home.  The picture was taken in the Spring of 1975 – I was so far an only child, not quite one and a half, and mom was pregnant with my sister Sallie.

Judging from my facial expression, my first tour of the White House was not a rousing success.  Now having known a fair number of toddlers, there could be any number of reasons for my scowl.  Maybe it was naptime, or I was hungry, or the sun was in my eyes, or I was grumpy that no one was carrying me, or that my Dad was walking too fast, or that he could not stop snapping my picture.  Whatever the underlying causes, it appears that I am minutes from sharing my displeasure with all the wide world, and not least my parents!

Which is part of what makes it one of my new favorite photos.  As I follow my Dad away from the White House, as I do my best impression of a long suffering Dust Bowl farmer for his lens when he turns around to take a photograph, my Mom is there standing behind me, smiling — smiling not at the camera, but down at me!  She is smiling at grumpy, needy, hungry, tired 17 month old me.  She is smiling the genuine easy smile that I have seen light up her face all of my life – the smile of simply taking delight in the goodness of something – and the smile is all for me, even in that moment before I turn into a little whirlwind of recompense for the many injustices visited upon me.

Now being a mother myself, I understand that smile a little better than I once might have – my mother is smiling at my very existence, at the miracle of my being somehow part of her and somehow separate – increasingly separate.  It is a smile of one who knows that even as I continue to walk away from her, she will continue to stand behind me, watching me in wonder.

God’s love is like that.  Even as we walk away scowling and complaining, God stands behind us smiling.  For the many who for whatever reason cannot look over their shoulders, they miss that smile – just as I would never have seen that smile of my mother’s on that day (though I have seen it on other days) if it had not been for my father’s fortuitous turning and snapping the photo – seeing the smile for me and preserving it for another day.

Do you know what it is to see God smile in delight at you like that?  If not, I hope that you have someone in your life who reflects that delight back to you – some person whose delight in you is undeniable, inescapable!

And if you do know God’s delight in you and in all creation, might God be calling you to be a “photographer”?  How might you show a scowling and beloved creature the loving gaze of the creator just out of their view – a loving mother whose delight in them they themselves cannot yet see?

I love my job!

All three humans in the McGiverin household are sick at the moment, each with a different bug of the respiratory variety.  I had envisioned a very different week for myself than sick at home with a sick kindergartener!  But it has been a wonderful time, in many ways.  As I was snuggling my daughter on the sofa, watching Dinosaur Train while collaborating with a friend in England via text message on his plans for that evening’s Advent study, I was filled with gratitude that I was doing what I was made to do.  I texted my husband later in the day, “I love my job!”

How many of my hours each day are spent “doing what I was made to do?”  And how many are spent in willful or inadvertent turning away from doing what I was made to do?

To clarify, as per the Westminster Shorter Catechism, where is the balance of my money, time and effort found, in relation to the goal of glorifying and enjoying God?

When we remember that we are, each and every one of us, God’s own beloved children, then we are empowered to be who we were made to be, and do what we were made to do.  We are empowered to love and serve the Lord – and all creation.

For the flip side – for my thoughts on what happens when we forget we are loved, and fear that we are unlovable – see my most recent Advent reflection at the Art of Living Your Faith blog of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, NC.