Today was my day to run children’s church. The children are all between five and eight years old, and most are pretty well-versed in the child-friendly bible stories. I usually start the lesson by recalling a particular bible story, or talking about why we celebrate a certain holiday. Then we color and make crafts based on the story.
The topic for the day often comes as an insight gained from prayer. As an overworked and underslept college student (now grad student and teacher), I have little time to plan well for children’s church, though I do try to give it some thought at least 24 or 48 hours ahead of Sunday. Today though, as often happens, I did not come prepared with a lesson at all. Today, I did not even come prepared with construction paper for coloring and crafts. Again, as I often do, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me to a topic or activity.
As I sat in the pew this morning, while the pastor made her opening announcements, I received the answer: add-a-line poem. I have done these before in poetry workshops. They are fun to do, and usually turn out surprisingly interesting. The method is that one person starts by writing a line, then passes the paper to the next person, who writes a line, and so on.
But they are little children, I thought. Can they write poetry?
I was guided to the presence of a notepad and pen in my purse. I clearly heard the words repeated in my head: add-a-line poem. The Holy Spirit was firm on the matter. God wanted me to try something new.
I led seven children downstairs, and we all gathered around our big table. After everyone had settled down, I told them how King David had been a great poet and songwriter, and that he had written almost all of the psalms. We recited part of the 23rd Psalm to get an idea of what a psalm was all about, and then I had them complete their own add-a-line psalm. One of the children didn’t know how to write yet, and three of them were a bit more prolific than the others, so the effort was not evenly spaced, but five of the seven children eagerly added lines to the work. Here is their psalm:
I am happy because God gave me the stars.
God is amazing – he made all the planets, even mars.
God is cool because he made trees and grass.
I thank God for creating the Earth.
I thank God for making everyone.
Jesus is the Alpha, the Son, and the stars.
I love Jesus because he made me and he gave me the things for me to survive.
He also made beehives.
He is so creative.
I was grateful to the Holy Spirit for guiding me to such a fun and productive activity. But just now, as I write this post, I can see the deeper significance of what happened today. I entitled the post “Out of the minds of babes,” which is a play on the familiar idiom “out of the mouths of babes.” As I reflected on that idiom, I thought I recalled it originating in the New Testament. Indeed, I looked it up and found it in Matthew 21:16, where Jesus has just overturned the tables of the moneylenders in the temple.
In the passage, Matthew tells us that, upon hearing the children in the temple courts shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the “chief priests and teachers of the law… were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?””
Jesus often quoted scripture from the Hebrew Bible as he spoke to people. A footnote in the text of Matthew informs me that Jesus is quoting here from Psalm 8. After looking up the psalm, I am astounded again at the nature of our loving, dependable, nurturing God.
I will reproduce the entire psalm here, because it so elegantly ties the circle of my story together in the resemblance that the innocent work of the children in church today has shown to the words of King David.
I believe that God revealed His presence today, as He often does, in a beautiful tapestry woven of human need, the endless faithfulness of God toward those who trust His will, and the mind and hands of human deeds.
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
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