“Giving” Our Children

Our church, like many, hosts Trunk-n-Treat as All Hallows Eve (Halloween) draws near.  We share a meal and then hand out treats to church and neighborhood children.  In fun, my wife and I gave children a choice this year — candy or carrot sticks?

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(Yes, the halo and horns are store bought.)

What IS the best we can hand on to our children?  What do we want to give our children, grandchildren, the upcoming generation?

Soon comes Christmas and for more privileged families the question of what to give focuses on presents and shiny packages.  As Christmas approaches, many of us also will give thought to deprived children and their families.  We look for ways to “assure Christmas” for a child in need.  These efforts involve secret Santas and gift stockings and angel trees and extra offerings.

Do our children connect these gifts with God’s gift?

In every season, people of good will, acting on their faith and values look for ways to give the best to all the children entrusted to us.

As he teaches us about trusting God always, to pray constantly, Jesus asks, Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? (Luke 11:11-12)

Our faith community partners with orphanages in Haiti and the Urkraine, sending education and health supplies, builders, medical caregivers, recreation leaders, children’s Bible story books, our love and prayers.

We want to give our children near and far an abundance of joy and hope.  We pray that they can have what they need to live well.

To that end, the family of Christian disciples set sacred times when we dedicate, consecrate, present, baptize, confirm, teach and establish programs to “raise and nurture children in the admonition of the Lord Jesus.”

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(Our Christian font of “new birth”)

It is no small thing to “give” our children to God.  To entrust our lives and those of our children to the Way of Jesus Christ is to declare what we believe is best.

How may our children receive and relish the God-enriched life?  How will all children trust that God calls them blessed and beloved?  How can all children become themselves holy vessels for God’s treasure?

With God’s help and commitment to a community of trusting faith, we can help them to trust the One who entrusted them to us:

If you then, who are not righteous, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? (Luke 11:13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guarding the Good Treasure Entrusted to Us

Do you automatically break out in car Karaoke the minute you get behind the wheel?  Do you sing in the shower to start or end your day?

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What moves you to sing?  What so captures your heart and mind that you burst out in song?

Judging from country music, we are moved to song by trucks, heartbreak, beer, boots, men, women, children, and, of course, dogs.  There are just not any country songs about cats, however.  Bluegrass music, a personal favorite, adds trains and mountains to the mix of inspiration.

What is worth singing about?  Popular music today fixates on love or the lack thereof, dreams, and ideals, but also lust, money, partying, drinking, one’s looks, another’s body parts, men, women, and cars.

An anthem can stir pride in national values or spark protests of injustice.

Why do disciples of Jesus sing?  What moves us to burst out in song?

How about the a gift “far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20)? How about treasure lavished on us extravagantly and graciously?  Now such treasure is worth singing, even if we are not in the shower.

In his second letter to young church servant Timothy, an apostle and mentor opens with a reminder and recitation of God’s gifts, the “good treasure entrusted” to Tim and his church family.  What God gives us through sheer grace and abundant love is worthy of songs, melodies, harmonies, praise, crooning, croaking, and all the joyful noise we can offer:

Testimony… the power of God… a holy calling… God’s own purpose and grace… grace given in Christ Jesus… the appearing of our Savior… life and immortality brought to light… sound teaching… guard the good treasure entrusted to us… (from II Timothy 1:8-14).

So how about this for a counter-intuitive Christian belief?    Our joyful noise and heartfelt praise protects, preserves, and implants true treasure in us and others “with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.”

This past Sunday, October 9, as our local church family sang God’s praises, Haitian communities coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew sang and sang with thanksgiving, too.  Christian brothers and sisters in the poorest nation in our hemisphere, devastated by storm, are guarding the good treasure entrusted to us.

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ONE WAY WE GUARD THE GOOD TREASURE ENTRUSTED TO US — THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS FOR EVERYONE — IS BY SINGING.

So, are you standing guard and raising your voice?

 

The Dining Hall Mural

Our newly built high school building opened into a commons area that served as cafeteria.  Shortly after the first day of that school’s very first year, art teachers and students proposed a grand plan — filling one entire wall of the large common space with a mural fitting for our new school.

Scaffolding in place, painting began and proceeded slowly — very slowly — until the grand plan for our school’s lunch room mural was abandoned for a much simpler artistic vision.

One very old dining hall features along one wall the most famous mural ever painted.  Stretching about 30 feet long and nearly 15 feet high, a portion of this painting was removed long ago to create a door to the kitchen.

This mural, painted 520 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci, graces a monastery dining hall in Milan, Italy.  This mural is an acclaimed masterpiece, revolutionary in technique, loaded with Trinitarian and Scriptural symbolism, and brilliant in artistic balance, visible and moving even in its faded and frequently restored state.

This mural is a masterpiece, depicting Jesus at table with his disciples just as he reveals that one of them will betray him.

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A masterpiece.  A shame that this mural’s familiar title is SO unfitting — “The Last Supper.”  Perhaps we can see why some might consider “The Last Supper” a fitting title.  After all, the crucifixion and death of Jesus occur merely hours after the scene Leonardo depicted.  This is a last significant moment before our world is changed forever by Jesus.

However, a few days after this meal, the risen Jesus breaks bread and stuns disciples along the road to Emmaus.  Shortly afterward, Jesus serves and shares breakfast with Peter and others on the beach.  His communion with his disciples goes on and on.

Actually, the meal Leonardo portrayed is when Jesus institutes a new communion with him, a meal the living Lord Jesus has hosted and shared with his disciples from that time until now.

You will not find any reference to a “last supper” in the New Testament. Jesus’ communion meal is not the last anything.  What Jesus serves and shares with us is the LASTING Supper.

Jesus provides the divine meal deal Isaiah prophesied long ago in a time of spiritual drought and famine:

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and expend your efforts for that which does not fill or fulfill?  Instead of empty calories, eat what is truly nutritious… so that you may abide with me in everlasting covenant.  (paraphrase of Isaiah 55:1-9).

This is THE Psalm refrain:  The steadfast, sure love [hesed] of God is from everlasting to everlasting.

When we partake and draw in our living Lord’s gifts, we are united with him and one another in new and renewing ways.  In John 15:16, Jesus promises that when we abide in him, we will bear fruit that lasts. Jesus urges us to draw from his loving Spirit so that we will no longer hunger or thirst.

Julian of Norwich wrote:  “I witness no kind of vindictiveness in  God, not for a short time, nor for long. For, as I see it, if God were vengeful, even for a brief moment, we would never have life, place, or being. In God are endless friendship, space, life, and being.” [emphasis added]

With all appreciation for Leonardo’s artistic genius, for disciples of Jesus Christ, there is no last Supper but the endless giving of God for the people of God.  In Jesus Christ, God pours out everlasting love and thereby sustains for the long haul, strengthens us in hard time, and shows us the way to life everlasting.

Not last, but LASTING, thank God.