Our Sunday School lesson was from John 3, the story about Nicodemus trying to understand Jesus' assertion that he must be born again of the Spirit. This was a hard teaching for an adult to grasp with Jesus as the teacher, yet it is a pivotal Christian doctrine. My mind travelled back to our trip to Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles where I noticed John 3:16 signs held above the crowds gathering to watch the enormous annual Halloween parade. People pushed past, ignoring offered literature, their attention focused on the present buzz.
The group of elementary aged children in my class are equally focused on their "now". They chat about Justin Bieber's new movie, take pictures under the table with their iPod cameras, giggling and wiggling as I set up.
I talked about our body, soul and spirit. The body was easy for the children to identify, that physical form they bathe, dress, feed, exercise and rest each day. And the concept about soul and humanity, our thoughts, emotions and actions, was grasped quickly. When does a child learn that a heart represents love, not the organ moving blood within their chest?
We moved on to define spirit, spiritus or breath. How can one identify something often hidden by our focus on the physical and emotional aspects of life? Even some religious institutions have squelched the inner spirit with an over-emphasis on rules, physical appearance and the playing of emotions, namely fear and guilt, in an effort to control people. Prayers come easy when we have a physical need but what happened to our awareness of the breath of God which brought life and a day by day spiritual relationship with mankind in the Garden of Eden?
Spirit...the God-sized hole in our being, the part of us that longs to connect to God whether we recognize it or not. To whom do we give control of our conscience and intuition? What speaks to us and with whom do we commune when all is silent, or when we observe the vastness and beauty of the earth and the heavens? What sustains us when body and soul are assaulted by the inevitable decline brought by age and illness?
We made valentines and put heart cookies with God-sized holes in them together with jam. Jesus taught with simple illustrations and the children grasped the lesson at the child level where faith is found. I pray it sticks, like the jam on fingers and table, and sustains them as they grow.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect...