Year B, Fourth after Pentecost, Lectionary Reading for June 20 2021, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
I can’t do it, folks. I can’t believe that Christianity is a get-to-heaven system of checklists. I can’t believe that we have a whole beautiful book of scriptures and a 2000 year history of tradition and liturgy all for what happens when we die. Is Christianity a faith, or an insurance policy? Do we sing praises, pray regularly, and give to the poor just to bribe God into letting us into God’s kingdom?
I really hope there’s a heaven where angels strum harps on clouds, where we get to see our long-departed friends and family, all in perfect health and happiness, and where we will effortlessly live in the presence of God for eternity. That would be amazing! But do we really have to wait until we die? And is that the whole point? This passage from second Corinthians is one of many scriptures that refutes the idea that salvation is only for later. Here are 2 of my favourites:
Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is right here, right now, not just in the future. I love the way this video from the Bible project illustrates how Jesus’ ministry opened pockets of heaven here on earth wherever he went:
This brings me to today’s storybook. People tend to think of happiness as a goal to achieve, just like heaven. But we can choose happiness by choosing to live in God’s presence. God is always “at hand,” always available, always ready to be grasped. Even in moments of suffering, we can reach for God and find a little piece of heaven within our pain.
Julie Berry’s book Happy Right Now explores this idea from a child’s perspective. Sometimes it will rain, sometimes we have to say goodbye to a treasured friend, and we don’t always get the puppy (or friendly dragon) we want, but even in these difficult circumstances, we can choose how we react.
This book offers readers a list of helpful ways to cope with sadness, anger, and other overwhelming emotions. One page in particular shows the main character sitting quietly, taking deep breaths, and letting herself relax. Christianity has a long history of contemplative prayer as a way of listening to and connecting with God. Let’s celebrate that tradition with our children!
Contemplative prayer can be as simple as quieting your body, sitting silently, and letting go of surrounding distractions with a special word or phrase. I like to use “peace of Christ” when I get distracted, but you can help the children in your ministry choose a word of phrase that works for them. Sometimes children feel like they don’t know what to “say” to God in prayer; this is a great way to demonstrate that listening to God is equally important.
Questions to ask before you read:
- Where is heaven? How do you get there?
- Is God far way when you pray, or right there with you?
- What could make you happy forever?
Questions to ask after you read:
- Which of the strategies in the book have you already used to feel better?
- Does following Jesus mean you will always be happy?
- Do you have to be happy all the time?
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