By Pastor Tim
- that is my message this weekend as we study together the life of Elijah. We are excited about God’s word here at Washington Cathedral. And it has been a great summer of hearing stories every week which are changing our lives. The great scholar Alister McGrath wrote the book “Christianity's Most Dangerous Idea.” This great Cambridge philosopher and theologian, who Dr. Vath compared to a modern day C.S. Lewis, points out one of the principle points of the reformation … is that the Bible is for Children. Young, would-be scholars would often want to say you have to be an expert to interpret the Bible. That it is so complex that you should not try and read it alone. And by any means, don’t let children read it. But I have learned, even after two doctorates and years of being a professor at a number of institutions, that kids are often the best Bible scholars. That is why Jesus said, Suffer the little children to come to me and forbid them not for such is the kingdom of heaven.
Our church has always believed that the Bible is for children. And it amazes me to see the incredible scholars who grow up in this church who go on to lead in their fields when they get their degrees. I can’t see why any parent would not do everything in their power to keep their children in a great caring network where they are helping the poorest of the poor and feeling such joy and humility in doing so.
Elijah was one of the greatest prophets in history. He was brave, and he also had moments of depression and fear. And God refreshes him. In fact, this story lays out God’s plan to refresh his servants. So many have heard this message throughout their life, but they have such attention deficit disorder that they can’t learn the lesson. But kids get it. That is why Judaism makes their young people Biblically literate. They learn Hebrew, they memorize Psalms 119. They are steeped in the complexities of the Bible. And then they have a celebration as a 13-year-old to declare that they are a man or a woman. And did you know that the religion with the top genius ranking is Judaism?
Maybe the fact that we have held tenaciously to a belief that the Bible is for kids is the reason so many of our kids grow up to be top scholars. Every time I teach the kids - they teach me. Malachi used to spend long periods checking in with me at the door. Now it is Fernando, and he too is a deep thinker and encourages me with his kindness and willingness to learn. And his feedback teaches me.
Yes, the Bible is a book for children. That is one of the most important stories I have learned in 44 years of ordained ministry. Our world today is cursed with shallow Christianity whose main source is pop culture. And if we are ever going to be rescued from that we are going to have to raise up a generation of young people who can handle the truth told with gentle, humble faith. Authentic faith breeds authentic faith and that is what keeps us strong and continues to renew us.
Elijah could teach a seminar on listening to God. He wrestled with bold faith and overwhelming fear in the pit of swirling depression. And God renewed him with a simple, still small voice. Won’t you join me this weekend and put your child-like self on, so that we can learn together some of the most complex truths by following Christianity’s most dangerous idea. We don’t need a pretentious scholar to interpret this for us, we need to hear, as a child, and let God do the work to form our character as he renews our hearts.
Your friend for the rest of my life,
Pastor Tim White