web analytics

Tag Archive | "Sunday School"

Seeing stars


Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

 

On the wall of my childhood Sunday School class was a giant, gridlined poster board that looked sort of like an Excel spreadsheet. There was a place for each child’s name, and then all of these vacant boxes running to the right, eager to be filled with shining gold stars. Did you bring an offering? Put a gilded check in the box! Are you staying for worship? A trophy is yours. Read your Bible every day this week? Another star blesses you from heaven.

I always had a shining wall full of stars, hungry as I was for that elusive divine and adult approval; and I sometimes led the class. But then there was Philip Johns, my most fierce competitor. He was a religious machine. I could only beat him a few months out of each year, and in my daily prayers I had to often repent for wishing he would get struck with the flu, chickenpox, or leprosy – anything – so that he would be sidelined just long enough for me to squeak out the winning margin.

It was that simple: Complete a religious assignment and get a star. Those with more stars were more dedicated, more spiritual, more committed, and obviously more beloved by God. Those with fewer stars, well, their faithfulness was suspect at best. When we engrain a competitive spirit into faith—a culture of public shame and reward—is it any wonder we end up with some really faith-damaged adults?

There is plenty to compete for and against in this world. But Christianity is not one of those things. Spiritual formation is not a competition. Faith is not – or at least it should not be – an instrument to humiliate those who just “can’t measure up.”

And then there are those of us who “won” the religious game, we who earned our bounteous gold stars with pride. We are committed – let there be no mistake about that – but committed to what, exactly? Obligation? Checklists? To the fawning cheers of the spectators? To seeing our name high and lifted up in heavenly constellations?

Our religious efforts and activities to please, praise, or placate God can become the very things that actually distract us from God. For if Christian faith becomes a work-based, blood-sweat-and-tears, incentive-driven, reward-acquisition staircase that compensates the winners and shames the losers, then the focus is placed on us and our rivals, not upon Christ.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me

 

Posted in Keeping the FaithComments Off

Easter and incomplete answers


 

Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

 

On Easter morning, a Sunday School teacher began to quiz her class of young children about the real meaning of the day. “What is Easter?” she asked, and the students were ready to respond. A little boy said, “Easter is that holiday when we get together with our families, eat turkey, and everyone is thankful.” The teacher answered, “No, not quite. Does anyone else know?” Another child answered, “Easter is the holiday when we grill burgers and hotdogs, shoot off fireworks, and celebrate our country’s birthday.”

Again, the teacher replied, “No, not quite.” She began to wonder if anyone in the room knew what Easter was really about. But then a little girl stood and began speaking, “Easter is a Christian holiday that follows the remembrance of Jesus’ death on Good Friday. Jesus was buried in tomb, and a large rock was rolled over the entrance.”

The teacher nearly squealed in delight. But then the girl continued, “And on Easter morning the stone is rolled away so Jesus can get out. Then, if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.” No, not quite.

While the children in this story gave incomplete answers, the question asked is still a good one: “What is Easter?” Despite a gazillion Easter sermons and Sunday School classes, our answers may still be a little lacking.

Many believers spend Easter morning proclaiming or listening to massive, exhaustive explanations of the resurrection miracle. The gospel accounts are analyzed and reconciled; scientific objections are considered and then dismantled; skeptics are scolded and unbelievers are disregarded. It is apologetic calisthenics, a vigorous workout in defending Jesus’ reputation, and not quite the answer.

Easter is reduced to defending the Christian dogma, but it is so much more than that. It is a revolution of transforming hope for the world. Easter is not just a doctrine; it is a powerful, redemptive way to live today. When God raised Jesus from the dead – and Christians believe Christ is indeed risen – he signaled the beginning of the redemption of all things, and provided the potency to bring this redemption to its fulfillment.

So we must do more than explain Easter. We must live it and “get in” on it today. We must use it to instigate heaven on earth. We must do more than say “He is Risen,” we must become the living proof of Christ’s resurrection power.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

Posted in Keeping the FaithComments Off


advert

LOCAL Advertisers

Kent Theatre
Bryne Electrical
The POST

Get the Cedar Springs Post in your mailbox for only $35.00 a year!