“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, ESV)
I can still remember being a kid sitting in a wooden chair in Sunday school putting together a papercraft with the words, “God is Love” pasted across the bottom. In the midst of the broken crayons and chunks of dried glue, that simple phrase settled in my heart and mind.
When I got older, I would attend the church’s confirmation and youth group. It was through these experiences that I began to learn how much more complex the reality of one living and true God is.
“I believe,” the opening statement of the Apostles’ Creed says, “in God, the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
As I was traveling to St. Louis in February for the United Methodist Church’s called General Conference, I received word that my grandmother, NaNa, had passed away. From my hotel room, I talked with my family and began planning the service that would celebrate her life. I wrote the homily I preached in the same hotel, during the General Conference, and on the way back to Virginia. NaNa’s celebration of life was held at Enon United Methodist Church, her church for all of her 90+ years. I chose Luke 18:1-8 as my preaching text.
I can remember as a child during the stillness of a summer evening hearing the gentle humming or singing from across the creek. In the moments that I would stop to listen, I realized that it was coming from NaNa and PaPa’s back porch. Most often NaNa was sitting on the porch snapping beans and singing a familiar hymn. Now, whatever I was doing, usually didn’t last very long. Inevitably, she would see me outside and holler my name, which was the invitation to join her in snapping beans. And if I didn’t respond the first time, the call would continue until I responded.
Moments like this capture some of the core values of what made NaNa, NaNa. Music was an important part of her life, but not more important than family. Moments like this on the porch were not as much about the beans (or other summer veggies) as they were about spending time with family. There was always a joy when the family gathered at the house. And I imagine as the family grew to include husbands and wives and great-grandchildren, it might have stressed her out a bit to have so many people in the house.
But she still loved it.
Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, Abingdon Press, 2016.
Pete’s Dragon is the newest family film from Disney. It is a brilliant film filled with adventure, laughs, and plenty of tear-jerkers. It is a great film to take a youth group, or other group, to. You can read my ponderings on the film here.
Below are some discussion questions you can use with your group. I’m sharing them here for those who are looking for such a resource. As a Christian educator, I should tell you, if you use these questions, don’t feel like you have to use them all. If anything, let the questions be a guide to having a conversation around the themes presented in the film.