for want of a comma, seriously

I could tell you how my brain got from one thing to the next, but that would take a lot of words, plus make you dizzy. Let’s just start by assuming there was a reason I was sitting in church on Easter morning thinking of violence and death. It didn’t help that there was this note in the list of Easter lily acknowledgements:

“Easter flowers placed in the sanctuary in loving memory of… the victims of Newtown, CT, Standard Gravure, and all other gun massacres by Jim and Jen Smith.”

I was immediately cast into wondering what other gun massacres the Smiths had committed, and whether they had been apprehended. Then I began to ponder the power of a comma. (This being a UCC congregation, the comma has taken on larger theological meaning, and could have been employed to great effect this morning.)

Massacres in my head, we then moved to the children’s sermon. At the risk of ex-communication by my friends and family, I confess that I am not a fan of children’s sermons. Generally, it is a time when some well-meaning member of the congregation or ministry staff tries to foist some analogy on little folks developmentally unprepared to digest such a thing. And thus, children depart from worship believing nothing more than God is a flashlight that never needs a new battery, or turning 100 gallons of water into wine is a cool thing. Ok, that last part is true, but the battery thing isn’t really helpful.

As I listened to the children’s sermon, there was a lot of talk about a dead guy not staying dead no matter how hard people tried to kill him, and a tomb that wasn’t very effective, and that people who are dead come back to life, so we don’t ever have to be sad. That’s when my mind wandered to video games, and I began to ponder who does the most damage to children’s minds – the video game industry or the church.

At some point, we began to pray, but I really don’t remember what about.

The primary problem with children’s sermons, however, isn’t that we cannot adapt theology for children; it is that we rarely bother to adapt it back to adults. Thus, we end up with adults who can’t imagine how to read scripture except literally, and who think the most important thing they can do to live their faith is to be nice. Which has very little to do with Jesus and why he was murdered by the state on behalf of the religious traditionalists.

Church exists for this: to be God’s partner in mending this broken world. Perhaps we could start by teaching grown-up theology to grown-ups, and expecting revolutionary things to start to happen.

So here’s my recommendation for congregations who want to be “relevant”: Find a sitter for the kids (perhaps someone who will tell bible stories without feeling a need to make analogies); and then start having some well-punctuated adult conversations. And if there happen to be 40 or 50 jugs of wine nearby, so much the better.

About Deb Conrad
I’m Deb Conrad, pastor, teacher, photographer, writer, antique-lover, cat-mom, wine-drinker and old-house-seeker. I have a bike by Burley and knees by Stryker. I play guitar marginally, bowl when I can. I live in Flint, Michigan, with previous lives in SC, NJ, PA, MD, Washington DC, TX, CA and KY. I founded and still help run UrbanSpirit, a poverty education center in Louisville (link below), where I meet interesting people and try to do what I can to change the world. I'm pastor of Woodside Church in Flint, a groovy place if ever there was one.

2 Responses to for want of a comma, seriously

  1. oh my. after I finished laughing my head off – i realized that perhaps, after all these years, you and I have arrived at the same place. 😉
    I hope that you have an opportunity to share your thoughts (and wine) with people who can hear you.
    have a wonderful day.

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