Salvation is Right Now

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:

Nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.

Luke 17:21

And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:15

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?

Thanks for stopping by! Please share this post with your friends so we can make children’s ministry easier for leaders and more engaging for kids.

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Pride Sunday!

Acts 15:5-13 Reading for June 6th, 2021

The trouble with following the Revised Common Lectionary is that sometimes, great events get left out! There’s nothing special for Mother’s or Father’s day, and nothing for Pride Sunday! I’m publishing this post only a few days before Pride Sunday, but hopefully you will still have time to track down a copy of this great book. I got mine at an Indigo bookstore, and I would guess most bookstores have a copy. Check your library too!

This affirming passage from Acts gives me goosebumps every time I read it. Much like earlier passages from Acts, like the story of Peter’s vision and Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, the message is clear: the Gospel is for everyone. Salvation is for everyone. There is nothing about your appearance, your past, your behaviour, your thoughts, your nationality, or your family background that you can hide from God, and still God welcomes you into the family.

In fact, you are saved even if you don’t live up to religious rules! Some people insisted that all the men of Judea had to be circumcised if they wanted to be saved, but Peter and Barnabas “were up on their feet in fierce protest” (Acts 15:1-2) defending that salvation is for everyone, no matter what you (or your genitals) look like.

What I love most about It Feels Good to be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, is its simplicity. We sometimes overthink concepts like gender identity or sexual orientation and decide they are too complicated to explain to children, but they really aren’t. It boils down to what the title says: it feels good to be yourself.

Teresa Thorn’s book explains that doctors and parents make an educated guess about each baby’s gender identity, but as that baby grows up and can communicate, they might tell the world that they got it wrong… and that’s ok! The book also reassures readers (kids AND parents) that there are too many ways to be a boy or a girl or non-binary to fit in a book. God’s world is full of glorious diversity, because that’s the way God made it!

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Are you a boy or a girl or something else?
  • How do you know?
  • Can you hide anything about yourself from God?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Is there only one way to dress/act if you are a girl?
  • Is there only one way to dress/act if you are a boy?
  • Does God love girls more than boys?

NEW! Storybook Ministry is reader supported, and to keep it ad-free, I’ve started a Patreon page. Check out the exclusive patron perks at https://www.patreon.com/storybookministry

Thorn, Theresa. It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity. Henry Holt and Co., 2019.