That is how I began the children's message in church on Sunday. Not your typical "feel good" children's sermon, but at first glance yesterday's gospel reading would not be described as a feel good lesson. Jesus was speaking to people in the temple. He was telling them how the temple would be destroyed. Wars and fighting would come. Hardship would be a reality. But Jesus also gives a word of grace. Amid all that, they would be in God's care. He reassured them, "Not a hair of your head will perish."
At Faith we have committed this year to draw close connections between worship and Sunday School using the assigned Sunday readings. Days like this Sunday make it difficult. How do you relate Jesus' words of impending doom mixed with God's grace to children - especially those who are not yet abstract thinkers? This was my task on Sunday.
"You will have hard days."
As I said these words to the children, I saw in front of me:
~ Children whose parents have gone through divorce
~ A boy grieving the recent death of a beloved grandfather
~ A family who was precariously close to being homeless if they did not have the resources of community agencies and their church
~ Children who are caught up in the busyness of life and aren't listened to enough
So when I said those words, I was speaking to their reality. It is easy (and deceptively comforting as adults) to idealize childhood as carefree. Many of our children do have wonderful carefree moments, but they also experience heartache like the rest of us. Speaking into the reality of that heartache is powerful. But just as
powerful is reminding them that God is with them and accompanies them through their joy and their sadness.
Even as I looked at each one in the naming of sadness, I also made eye-contact with each child reminding them that Jesus brings comfort and is with them. They will have hard days but they will never be alone.
I hope they remember that message. I hope that as they become teens and adults, they find comfort knowing church can be a place where they hear the truth spoken - both the uncomfortable, challenging truth and God's grace-filled truth.
But for right now...their truth has been spoken and they are reassured they are in God's care.
Here are some cards I used to help illustrate our hard days. (They are Soularium Cards I purchased through Vibrant Faith Ministries.)