Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saying Sorry - A formative experience

Our church has two really great traditions.
1. Family Worship: Every week the entire family sits together for the Divine service after participating in aged-based Bible study classes.
2. Children's Story: Almost every week we have a story for the children before the sermon.

When I preach, I use the children's story time to prepare the kids (and the big kids) for the topic of the sermon. I often give the key point of the sermon away in the kids story. But I never tell them I've just set them up to think more deeply about the sermon.

For the children's story before the sermon "When the Lost are Found" I told a story which happened the day before in my work as a chaplain.

I told the children the following story:

On my way out of the school for a meeting with a local pastor, I encountered a grade five girl crying uncontrollably in the school foyer. The receptionist said, "She was very rude to her mother and ran away when I told her not to speak to her mother like that! Could you talk to her?"

I invited the girl to my office and texted the pastor as I walked, "See you in a bit. Caught up in something!"

When we got to my office we played UNO until the silent sobs stopped. Then I asked, "What happened?"

"I just wanted to say bye to my Mum." She started to sob again.

"But she was gone when you got back?" I asked.

She nodded as she cried.

We played another hand of UNO.

Her composure regained, I asked, "When will you see your mum again?"

"After school. She picks me up." Choking back a sob, she added, "I just wanted to say sorry!"

"What will you do when you see her after school?" I asked.

"Hug her," she said. "And say I'm sorry."

"I bet she will hug you back," I said. "And she will tell you she loves you. You know she loves you, right?"

She nodded and sucked in a ragged breath.

We played another hand of UNO.

"You know," I said, "this is a good thing - that you have to wait all day to say sorry."


"Because, you will think about it all day. And you will play out the upcoming conversation with your mum a thousand times. Do you know why this is a good thing?”

She shook her head, “No.”

Do you think today is going to be an easy day for you?”

“No,” She said, “My class is gone on an excursion. We were late and I missed the bus. That’s why I was mad.”

“Wow, that’s even more time to think things through,” I said.

She nodded.

“That’s why it’s a good thing.” I said, “You will be practising saying sorry all day long! That is a very good thing!”

She looked at me like I was a bit odd. I get that look often from kids.

“Next time you get mad at your Mum, do you think you will say something mean and run off?”

Her eyes widened in understanding, “No way!”

We played another hand of UNO.

"I know something pretty amazing about you," I said.

She looked up startled. "WHAT?!"

"I've been here at this school for three years and this is the first time I've had one of these chats with you. This means you are a pretty amazing kid and have your stuff together. You’re a good kid!”

She nodded. It was obvious this fall out with Mum was a rare and very difficult thing for her.

“And I know, after today, you will be an even more amazing kid!"

She didn’t look convinced. “Why?”

“Because you want to say sorry! That means you are already awesome.” I smiled. “It’s a lot harder to say sorry than it is to be nice in the first place.”

I paused in my storytelling to the littles at the front of church and scanned the audience. Looking back at the kids, I asked, “It’s not easy to say sorry because we have to admit we did a bad thing. When I do something that hurts someone else, I have to say to myself, “You did a bad thing, Dave.” Then I need to tell the other person I am sorry. It’s not easy.

When we say sorry, it shows that we have love in our hearts. Listen carefully to the stories I tell in the sermon and see what else you learn about saying sorry!”

After the Sermon:

A man who has two kids in our church said to me afterwards, “I think I learned more from the children’s story than any of the kids.” He laughed. “I find it really hard to say sorry. Thanks for today. I was very challenged.”

After watching the video of the Sermon:

I received a facebook comment from a friend who watched the sermon "When the Lost are Found." Mike Freisen asked: "How do you approach desire as a formative experience?" The children's story wasn't on the video, so I wrote this blog to explain how I introduced the sermon with this children's story. Thanks for the question, Mike! I hope the children's story is a fitting answer to your question.

The process of confession involves a time of sorrow for your sin. This is the 'walk home' the Prodigal son embarked on in which he practiced his speech of repentance. The forgiveness of the Father is much more deeply reformative when we have spent time in prayerful confession and passionate repentance.

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