We packed the cars with eighteen helium balloons and sandwich trays and gift bags and headed for Saint Peter’s this morning. Fortunately others were bringing the tubs of ice cream, the toppings, the drinks.
It was the Opening of Church School and Ice Cream Social and I was looking forward to seeing the children as well as a little hot fudge. (I also love balloons.)
I set out the bags and tied the multi colored balloons along the hallways to mark a path from the narthex to the classrooms where our teachers awaited the children. Soon mothers with babies were chatting with the attendants in the nursery, and the Primary/Juniors were working on cool bookmarks and learning about the creation of the world.
As I watched them, I thought how good God was to give us children to teach, to care for, to love with God’s own love. How good to share the good news of God’s glory, his heaven and his earth. And soon, those approaching ten to twelve years of age will prepare for Confirmation, prepare to receive Christ himself in the Eucharist, the miraculous union of heaven and earth within us.
Baby Natalie, 9 months, especially loved to poke her finger at the balloons and cry, ba….
As the weeks progress, we shall add to and layer our children’s program with songs and rhymes, contests and pageants. We shall live out the Church Year, celebrating the coming of God’s Son at Christmas, his life on earth in the months following, his death and resurrection at Easter. Then we will tell how the Son of God walked the earth for forty days, appearing to many, and his ascension to Heaven. On the Sunday called Pentecost-Whitsunday we will celebrate the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples in Jerusalem, an event marking the Birthday of the Church.
And it is this Holy Spirit that wove through us this morning, as old and young gathered together to tell these stories. Unsentimental stories they are, for they are about life and death, who we are, who we are meant to be, the stories of mankind. And we will live in these stories in the months to come. We will dramatize them, tell them again and again, how God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life…
And as we teach and dance through the seasons of the Church Year with our children, Christ will take root in our hearts in a new and wonderful way, for he sanctifies us as we glorify him. Just as those balloons would soar we will rise to meet Christ in the Eucharist, but with our feet planted firmly on the earth. This is the miracle and joy of being a sacramental Christian, that we weave our senses into God’s glory, for this is what God does with us – he weaves his glory into our senses. Meeting God is not merely “spiritual.” When we meet God we see our world anew for he is its Creator. Light is lighter, shadows deeper, colors more intense, aromas and tastes richer, a friend’s touch more tender. Or as Gerald Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit poet, wrote in 1918,
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness…
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Ah! Bright wings. Gratia Deo for our children who bring us closer to those bright wings.