Recently I was asked about one of our worship traditions regarding reading Scripture and how it relates to expressing our faith in God. Often when we read Scripture, we will follow the text with some form of the liturgical call and response: “The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.”
Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggemann brought up that a reason we say this after the Scripture is to affirm that the Scripture is our story, our text. It is the text which helps define and identify us as a community and a people. This is the Word above all other authoritative words in our world and is formational to our lives as Christians.
We have a tradition to present our children and youth with age-appropriate Bibles at least three times during their formational years: in third grade, as a part of confirmation in their sixth grade year and during their senior year as they graduate from high school. These Bibles are a gift and a statement of their growing faith development and as a recognition of their abilities to read and study Scripture on their own and in community with peers and their church family.
This Sunday at the 8:30 traditional and 11:00 contemporary service, we will once again invite our third graders to come and stand in front of the congregation to present them a Bible and then they will read together from this Word of Life. It is our prayer that this gift will be a starting point for a deeper relationship with God through Christ, enhanced through the study of God’s word. We United Methodists put the Bible to work. In congregational worship we read from the Bible. Through preaching, we interpret its message for our lives. It forms the background of most of our hymns and liturgy. It's the foundation of our faith.
Sunday will be a wonderful celebration, but also just another launching off point for our children and it is our job to make sure the day is not just another childhood memory. We must find ways to teach, live and experience the Biblical stories and truth with our children in order for it to be a part of their life experiences. The importance of making the Bible exciting and real to a child cannot be overemphasized. Unless the Bible is relevant to the everyday life of a child and unless the child develops a meaningful relationship with God, the Bible stories he or she has been taught may eventually be equated with fables and childhood stories.
Stacey Lewis, our children’s ministry director, in conjunction with our children’s ministry leaders do such an amazing job finding ways to integrate Scripture into the lives of our children and help them to explore and discover the many gifts that God has given them. Please be in prayer for their leadership in these areas as well as for the children who will come forward on Sunday, receive their new Bibles and recite these words:
“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.
May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.”
Psalm 119:73-74 (NIV)
The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!