Even as we live in the glow of the Easter Season—the Alleuia season in church calendars—many of us are struggling to live faithfully in contexts that try to write God out of the scripts of our lives. Although we may not live with the confusion and despair the first followers of Jesus experienced, we live with plenty of our own. However, as despair and confusion led to praise and confession in the early church, I pray that our own uncertainties may lead to the same. Consider two stories I’ve been pondering lately.
Story one. Mennonite Church Canada is partnering with a talented young Mennonite videographer, Paul Plett, to develop a series of short movies inspired by biblical stories. We hope that Kid Shorts will generate wholesome conversation and reflection in Christian church school programs as well as in public schools and community clubs.
As part of this, I am writing lesson plans to guide that discussion. Two lesson plans will accompany each video. Lesson plan A takes the typical Sunday school lesson format; with a faith challenge, opening activities to build community and introduce the theme, a scripture text, prayer, discussion questions, craft and game suggestions, and a faith-based based sending. Lesson plan B presents the same ideas and activities with God written out of the script so they can be used beyond church settings.
I’ve created lesson plans for three videos now. I am surprised and somewhat disquieted by how easy it is to write God out of the picture. While this is intended to be a missional project that promotes wholesome and God pleasing reflection on topics like bullying and food security, I wonder if it is also a parable of how secularized society writes God out of the script and carries on as if life is all about and up to us.
Story two. I spotted a book of children’s prayers in the home of friends who are unsure about the role of Christianity in their lives. Curious, I flipped through the pages and found lovely words and images encouraging children to reflect on the day, give thanks for God’s creation, and prepare for sleep. But then I took a closer look. The words of address, as well as the words acknowledging God’s role as creator and sustainer, had been pencilled out and changed. There were no references to God in the edited version my friends shared with their children.
I wondered about the reasoning behind this activity. Was it an effort to continue practices of evening prayer with their children as they sorted out their own uncertainty? Was it a demonstration that religious language no longer belonged in their home? I also wondered about the impact of reflecting on the day without explicitly acknowledging that creation, and we, belong to the Lord.
These ponderings directed my attention to the famous old Christ hymn found in Philippians 2:5-11. Written at a time when living without awareness of God, or of other gods, was unimaginable, it responded to a society that tried to violently write Jesus out of its social and religious script by crucifying him. Thankfully, God had the final word on those edits and raised Christ Jesus from the grave.
God will also have the final word on our society’s attempts to write him out of our lives. God’s reign will continue to break in among us despite or even through edits we make to scripts and prayer books. And so I will stop my own writing and leave you with the enduring, and ever inspiring Christ Hymn:
Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honoured him and gave him a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Amen and amen!