At Halloween when I was a child, one of my brothers and I would trick-or-treat in the apartment complex where we lived. One year, we were both costumed as characters from the television science-fiction program Battlestar Galactica, which was popular at the time. But every year, we made the most efficient use of our time by starting out the moment trick-or-treating hours began, trying to garner as much candy as possible by hitting every apartment with its light on.
In January 1977, newly-elected President Jimmy Carter traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC on his way to the White House. Yet this time, things were different; President Carter, his wife, Rosalynn, and his nine-year-old daughter, Amy, were walking. Carter was the first president to exit the motorcade and walk during the inaugural parade. Previously, newly-elected presidents had ridden coach or driven down the passage, presumably in reaction to the January cold and for the sake of protection from would-be assassins.
It is that time of year in Indiana when the air is not only warm but also annoyingly full of flies and mosquitos. There are measures one can take. Diligently close doors and windows, hang fly paper, spray insecticide, remove standing water, wear insect repellent—the list goes on. There is no perfect solution except for winter. One way or the other, we can’t escape summer without a few mosquito bites and flies in the food.
As part of Confession and Absolution in the Sunday morning liturgy, we acknowledge before God and one another that we have offended the Lord not only in what we have done but also in what we have failed to do. We can, and often do, sin by neglect. The inclusion of this type of confession is so insightful and powerful. It is insightful in the sense that we more often notice and remember our sins of commission—the things we do—rather than things we don’t do.
Have you considered using The Tree of Life: God’s Promise of Salvation for summer Sunday School instead of VBS this year? Yes, I know this might be a surprising question considering I just wrote a post about all the ways to use The Tree of Life for VBS, but hang with me!
The fact of the matter is that one size doesn’t fit all, and no two churches have the same summer needs. The Tree of Life may not be the best fit for VBS, but it could be the perfect match for your summer Sunday School. So, here we go! Here are five reasons you should totally consider using The Tree of Life for Sunday School this summer.
God’s answers are not always discernible.
David’s successful encounter against Goliath has been an inspiration to believers and unbelievers alike since the event took place and was recorded. A small shepherd boy vanquishes the enormous, battle-hardened warrior Goliath, brandishing sword and spear. The victory is an affirmation of God’s power and His love for David.
There are roughly eight billion people on earth, and that number is growing. As a result of improved economies, cleaner water, more productive farming, stabilized governments, and better medicine, the world’s birthrate has increased, and infant mortality has decreased. Not all countries have increased birthrates, however. In the United States, for example, the population is increasing, but ever so slowly. One would think, with the wealth of the United States, the population would be burgeoning. Yet parents have smaller families than in the past, and hundreds of babies are aborted each day.
A book I read recently suggests that, given the increased use of electronic media (television, cell phones, social media, iPad, the internet) our collective attention span has shrunk. Although we might like short commercials, the fifteen-second ads of recent years have decreased our ability to remain focused on a particular point. News briefs move from one to another at lightning speed. The internet moves information across our computer screens as quickly as we can absorb it. This ease of access to information has also affected our capacity to recall information because our brains are in a constant state of saturation.
I am weary, but God never tires.
In March, our congregation reached the one-year anniversary of making ministry changes in light of COVID-19. Recently, we have relaxed some of these changes after more than ten months of online worship, Bible study, and devotions. Our school was online-only for quite a while. All of this has been in addition to social distancing, masks, and damage to the economy. Even as we move close to “normal,” there is palpable, shared exhaustion. It is physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.
Jesus was cast out that sinners would be welcomed in.
After illness and death, perhaps the greatest COVID-related challenge is isolation. People living normally social lives have sequestered themselves in their homes to avoid the illness. Those in hospitals and nursing care facilities have endured months without visits from family and friends. Some have passed away without the comforting presence of loved ones. Beyond COVID, isolation remains troubling. Criminals are housed in prison. Spouses divorce. School children bully and reject each other. Teachers place unruly students in detention. Each of these examples illustrates a disquieting, but ultimately comforting concept in Christianity.