Category Archives: VBS

Raising Faith (part eight): Embracing Your Church

Raising Faith (part eight): Embracing Your Church

“So then men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

It’s official. VBS 2008 has officially reached its end. I, for one, wouldn’t have missed it. I tried to. Tried to find an excuse to limit my participation, but no good one could be found. Thus, I strapped on my “yes” and dug in my heels for the doing. VBS is a doing I’ve been doing for over thirty years. And for the past nineteen years, it is what my children have been doing also.

For all of the reasons that I loved being a part of our church’s VBS this year, none was more special to me than having my entire family alongside.

My teenage sons (19 and 17) have unlimited options for their doing these days. They could have…

Hung with their friends.
Gone to the movies.
Cruised the mall for bargains.
Played the latest in XBOX.
Fed their sports’ addiction via the internet or ESPN.
Found their boring at home and abroad in a variety of ways.

They could have done all of these and more, but they didn’t. Instead, they spent these past five evenings at VBS, entertaining the children and adults through their limited acting abilities. They did it, in part, because they love their momma. Even more so, they did it because they love their God.

They understand that part of “doing” life with Jesus means doing it with others. A relationship with the Creator dictates a measure of relational output. A commitment to Christ is also a commitment…

To walk in community with the body of Christ.
To give back.
To shine forth.
To guard the good and sacred deposit.
To be faithful in the small and in the big.
To honor a parent’s leading.
To honor a Father’s grace.

My sons get it. Their faith journeys are ongoing and growing with an outward focus that exceeds selfish introspection. I don’t tell you this out of a mother’s pride. My flesh could easily make that leap, but in doing so, I would limit God’s hand in the matter, and when it comes to the sacred shaping of a family…his hands are everything! No, I tell you this tonight because I want you to know that raising kids to love Jesus is possible. In fact, it is likely and probable when “raising the faith of family” is priority number one in the hearts and minds of those doing the shaping.

It doesn’t always breathe so easy and right and perfect. Our life as a family certainly hasn’t. But if there is one thing that we have consistently embraced over the years, it is our firm commitment to live in Christian community.

To be church people even when our faith was weak. To stay entrenched in the life of the church even when our hearts were committed to worldly pursuits that didn’t match up. To attend services through the seemingly boring and the mundane, and to believe that, even in the “boring,” kingdom business was on the table.

God didn’t give us the mandate to “train up a child” with the idea that all was for naught. Raising Godly kids isn’t a high stakes game of chance. No, God gave us the responsibility because he knew that our “doing” of faith would be the seeding of theirs. Sacred shaping begins in the womb. It continues over the next ten, twenty…forty years and counting! What started as a hope in my parents’ hearts for my life continues to this day.

I began my life in the church. They made sure of it. It stuck. Jesus stuck. And now, forty-two years down the road, I see the process come full circle in the lives of my sons. I am so thankful for their faith, but even as I write my gratitude, I realize that…

it doesn’t always stick—this life with Jesus and the free will of a heart. I understand that there are many of you who’ve known the pain of a prodigal child. Who’ve lived the life of the prodigal, and even now, your eyes sting with the hurt of confusion over the matter. The wish I’d done it different’s and the what did I do wrong?‘s linger as bitter lament within your souls. You’ve done your best, and now you fear it may be too late.

It is never too late. As long as you have breath and time and a day called today, you have the gift of kingdom influence. You have been given the sacred trust to be the light and life of Jesus Christ to a people who hunger for reconciliation with their Father. They may not yet fully understand the yearning behind their hunger, but never be fooled into thinking that it no longer exists.

It is there. A deep, unsatisfied craving and crying out for relationship. For community. For life within a body that exceeds the flesh. All of us, every last one of us, yearn to belong to something bigger than ourselves. God designed us with a pulse that beats for life together. He intended for us to live as one—one church with One, and only One in charge. And until we get there…until those whom we love get there with us…we must keep to the road of this sacred journey.

We must keep to the church and to our attachment therein. We must love the church through our prayers, our presence, our gifts and our service because, as believers in Jesus Christ, church is what we do. It’s who we are. It’s how we are to live, for we are the church of the first born, and our names are written on the membership rolls of heaven (Hebrews 12:22-24).

And this night, there are thousands upon thousands of angels who congregate in joyful assembly because “church” is what they do. Jesus is why they are doing it, and never is it boring. Never is it pointless, for they, unlike us, always understand that kingdom business is on the table. They know and have seen that with God, all things are possible. In fact, all things work in our high and holy favor when Jesus is added to the mix. And thus I pray…

Keep us to the things of you, Father. To your church and to your people until we all come to your throne as one. Make our commitment to the body of Christ a solid and firm foundation so that the shaking of the world leaves us rooted at your doorstep. Forgive us when we choose our preferences over the preferences of you. Let us not forsake meeting together, encouraging one another, and building up the body of Christ through our gifts and our teaching. Equip us for every good work within the community of faith, and raise our faith, along with the faith of our children, as we continue in our “doing” of church. I love your church, Lord, and I feel so privileged to have taken part in bringing your story to the stage this week. Humbly and in holy fear, I guard the sacred deposit you’ve given to me. Thank you for trusting me with your witness and your grace. Amen.

Copyright © August 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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"Who Touched Me?": a bleeding issue

"Who Touched Me?": a bleeding issue

“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out of me.’” (Luke 8:42-46).

She had an “issue.

I have mine. You have yours.

Hers was blood. Ours are other things—blacks and blues and hues of all manner of issues. Regardless of their color, they still bleed red. And if not tended to by the Healer, they will continue their hemorrhage toward eventual destruction.

I know. I suffer with an “issue” right now. And in the midst of my flowing pain, I walked a story tonight that spoke a tender portion of healing truth over my wounds.

The stage?

None other than the Vacation Bible School drama room.

The story?

The woman with the “issue” of blood.

The actors?

Me and Jesus, where the only “issue” that mattered was the one going on within my heart.

In all my decades of doing VBS, no other night has been more profound than this one. Somewhere in the middle of narrating the drama and acting as the lead participant, God dealt with my heart in pure measure. I told the children about my issue of bleeding. About my unclean status and poverty of soul. About my shame and embarrassment over a wound that refused to find its healing. About the man named Jesus who was rumored to be a healer…a water walker…a feeder of 5000.

About how I wished for his notice. His touch. His time and his healing. About the crowds and about a man named Jairus whose needs rated higher than mine. About my diminishing expectations for a miracle as I watched this Jesus pass me by.

He did pass me by, and then I did something I thought I would never have the courage to do.

I reached. I took hold of the hem of his garment. Some call this “him” Preacher Billy. But in that moment, the robe that I held in my hands belonged to Jesus. I gripped tightly, even as the word in the original Greek, haptomai, indicates (“to fasten oneself to; adhere to, cling to.”).

This was no casual hold. This was a grasping of the divine, believing that with the hold comes healing.

Tears poured down my cheeks as I clung to the hem of my husband’s dressing. Children were stunned. Some chuckled, perhaps thinking I had played my part to the tee. The older children—those adults who have come to VBS this week to offer their willing participation as chaperones—well, they knew better. They know me better. Kingdom work was at hand. If not in the hearts of the children, then certainly in the heart of this grown woman.

And for a few brief moments, I caught a glimpse of an eternal teaching that is meant for each one of us tonight. It comes in the form of question. A divine invitation for all of God’s children to join him in sacred dialogue.

Who touched me?

These three simple words hold the answer for our healing. Jesus’ question embodies his theology of faith…of believing that what is required for our wholeness resides at the end of our arms.

Our grasp.

Our healing from Jesus comes with initiative. With our asking. With our faith-filled approach to the Son of God, even when the current chaos competes for his attention. With our crawling, if need be, to get to his feet. With the thrust of a hand through the tangle of robes, believing that a garment’s edge is more than enough to garner the favor and blessing of God.

Who touched me?

The who in Jesus’ question is each one of us. The me in the question is him. And the word in between—touched­—is the bridge that connects all things temporal to the eternal healing of heaven.

We must be willing to reach in order to receive. As Oswald Chamber so eloquently states, “Our reach must exceed our grasp.” We’ve got to move beyond our tight-fisted clenching and our childish thinking that keeps us on the sidelines self medicating our wounds because the reach seems too risky. Too vulnerable. Too trusting for an “issue” that has become our constant shadow. Maybe for years. Maybe even for twelve. Perhaps, even for more than we care to number.

We’ve grown accustomed to our constant until we no longer believe in the prospect of change. Our faith is buried deeply beneath our wounds so that when Jesus passes by for the grasping, he rarely garners our notice.

Let it not be so, my friends. Let us never get so caught up in our pain that we fail to see our Jesus when he walks our way. Let’s not wait for our faith to be big before we reach. Let’s reach now…even in our little. Let’s strip away the intrigue and the mystery of our need, and let’s take hold of his hem while we can. Even when bloody and barren and broken, let us boldly stretch these arms through the pressing of the crowds so that we, too, can know the power of a Father’s healing touch.

Who touched me?

How would you answer? How long has it been since you activated your faith by stretching forth your hand and taking hold of Him…even when it was hard and heavy and seemingly hopeless? Your answer to Christ’s question embodies your theology of faith.

You will never be able to respond to his inquiry until you have actually touched him, tasted him, and held the power of his resurrecting grace as your own.

Being able to answer the question requires a previous action on your part. And with that action, dear ones, you hold the keys to the kingdom. You hold the living Christ as your own.

I’ve held Him tonight. I want the same for you, and so I pray…

Give us the strength, Father, for the reach. We struggle with our many issues, and our faith seems small and unwilling to move past our wounding. Come to us Jesus. Bring your hem close enough for our touch. Tend to our wounds and speak healing to our hurts. And when it feels too hard and the heaviness threatens to keep us in a corner, give us the boldness of our sister from so long ago who had faith enough to believe and who had courage enough to grasp. I long for a grasping faith, Lord. Grow me toward this sacred end. Amen.

Copyright © August 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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