On Sunday mornings I get just as much from the Children’s Message as I do with any other part of worship. I guess I’m terribly complex that way.
Recently at Easter we celebrated Pastor Paul’s retirement. A true servant of Christ, Pastor Paul served the people of Easter for 15 years. The end of July, without much fanfare, he gave his final sermon.
He called children forward for the Children’s Message. My youngest hasn’t quite outgrown the carpet in front of the Pastor’s feet. My son knelt down in front of Pastor Paul while other kiddos moved into the space around him. Pastor Paul held a wide straw basket in his hands filled with grain. Much to the kids delight he threw the grain into the air and caught, well-most of it, back into the basket. He explained the process of threshing in which wind would blow away the inedible scaly chaff of the grain when it was tossed in the air. The process left only the best, only the valuable piece of the grain within the basket. It was too heavy for the wind to take it away. He encouraged the children before him to do something good and honorable with their lives, something heavy in value that can’t be easily blown away with the wind.
As he spoke, with my son directly at his feet, I remembered the day Pastor Paul stood at my son’s bedside when he was in intensive care. It struck me that that had just been a single moment in his lifelong service of Christ. He had come to comfort us. He put his hands in ours and prayed quietly over my son. To my husband and I, that simple single moment was one that we cherish. I looked out at the congregation at those who lined the pews and wondered how many others had their own moment.
His sermon, based on the first Psalm, humbly gave no reference to his own life work. He spent the last few moments of his vocation to talk about his beloved Tanzania. He recently returned from his annual trip and he wanted to share the ways in which the people of Tanzania benefited from our congregational support. He talked about some of the beautiful ways in which these people, in spite of significant challenges, put their trust in God. Meditating on His word thus having what they need to be productive and fruitful.
He stood before us and he challenged us to develop a dependency on God, to meditate on what it is that God is calling us to do and be in our lives. It was a beautiful way to end this time as teacher and consoler. Nevertheless, what will stay with me is the image of grain thrown in the air and my memory of his hand in mine.
“Thank you Jesus for the gift of Pastor Paul. He has done many good and honorable things, things that could never be blown away with the wind. May you continue to provide him with rich blessings. Help us Lord to respond to his encouragement. May each of us do something good and honorable. ~ Amen.”