“The Monster Under the Bed” John 6:1-21 7.29.2018
I would like to introduce to you this morning a 5-year-old girl named Megan. Like many kids her age and for generations before her, Megan was terrified of a monster that lived under her bed. What to do?
But unlike any previous generation before her, Megan did something about the monster under her bed. Megan sat down at her computer and used a software package for children to tell her story about how scary the monster was that lived under the bed.
She told about how she wanted it to go away, and about how she solved her problem by putting the monster under her brother’s bed. She included in her story pictures she drew on her computer of herself, her bed, her brother, her brother’s bed and the monster.
When she was done with her little storybook, she decided to share it with some of her friends. You see, Megan has sage friends around the world she communicates with all the time — friends Megan has never met or seen.
So she sent her storybook by computer to an electronic bulletin board, where kids from around the globe could read and hear her tell her story. A computer multimedia magazine picked up her story and published it.
How did Megan do it?
Children (like all young creatures) are naturally fearless, fun-loving and full of curiosity. These traits encourage them to take the computer mouse and start messing with the “Menu” button on the computer.
Many have experienced the results of children, grandchildren, nieces, & nephews exercising these traits in messing around with mom’s or dad’s; grandma’s or grandpa’s; uncle’s or auntie’s computer. Those same traits keep the Megan’s of the world clicking away with the computer mouse, moving from screen to screen, as they “feel” their way through a new computer game or program
Unlike adults, the Megan’s of the world seem to know instinctively how to work the computer; and they often “save the day” for us adults as we try to lumber our way through the world of modern technology.
In today’s story of feeding the 5,000, there is one person whose vision & faith goes unsung by the Gospel of John, and overlooked by the rest of us. As the disciples are worrying about Jesus’ inquiry, “Where are we to buy bread for these people?” one small solution steps forward.
A child, a boy offers as an answer to the food question a new possibility — five barley loaves and two fish. With child-like trust, this boy offers all that he has to Jesus and the disciples.
The disciple Andrew has enough presence of mind (and perhaps a small flicker of hope) to offer these childish gifts to Jesus. But his hard-nosed adult rationality gets in the way, for even as the disciple Andrew offers the loaves and fish with one hand, he pulls them back with a defeatist dismissal when he says, “What are they among so many?”
Jesus likes the child’s solution. He uses the little boy’s gift to feed the people. Now while the text does not say that this child had faith in Jesus’ ability to create a miracle, this child’s heartfelt gift does indicate that his vision and hope were not limited by the accepted norms of the day.
The child saw possibility, not something insignificant, in those five loaves and two fish. The child taught the disciples a lesson which is pertinent to us today: They should have been looking for ways to succeed, not looking for excuses to fail.
Of course, the child himself did not have the power to multiply the loaves and fish. But his gift opened a way for Jesus and the disciples to achieve their goal.
What if Andrew had turned away the boy with the small food offering dismissing his gift as worthless and impossible? Where would Jesus have obtained the raw material for this feeding miracle if both he and the disciples had not opened up to this unlikely, childish source of rescue?
Often Jesus works with something to get his point across by action or story. Something familiar, tangible that people can touch and/or see: jugs of water; sheep; seeds for planting; loaves of bread; a fig tree; the sick, the dying, even people who have died.
Children can “save the day” if we are open to them and treat their presence and input with the dignity, respect and importance they deserve. Jesus angrily denounced anyone who would erect a “stumbling block” before the “little ones” because the future of the world lies in their childish faith.
A woman’s 3-year-old daughter asked several times over a period of weeks if she might be left alone with her new baby brother. Afraid of the possibility of sibling rivalry, the parents of the two children consulted a Child Psychologist. Should they give in to the child’s request?
After being assured that the 3-year-old was a non-aggressive and well-adjusted child, the psychologist indicated that she thought the little girl should be given the chance to be alone with her brother. The therapist did, however, suggest that the parents might want to listen on the portable intercom in the baby’s room, aware that they could go to the baby in a split-second if there were any difficulty.
So the parents left their 3-year-old daughter with the new baby and went to their own bedroom to listen on the speaker. They heard the 3-year-old close the door to the nursery and walk over to the crib. Then, after a moment, they heard her say, “Baby, baby, tell me about God. I think I’m forgetting.”
This morning’s texts call us to tiptoe back into the nursery, and ask the children to “tell us about God”; to remind us about what is truly important for life and faith in our world today and for their world tomorrow. God says in the O.T. book of Amos, “I raised up some of your children to be prophets” (Amos 2:11).I believe there are three areas where it’s easiest to see how much we have to learn from the children of the world. In each of these areas, we have the tools and the talents to begin transforming our world but need to open our minds and hearts and spirits to the fresh insights our children have to offer.
- Technology — We adults stand amazed at how easy it is for our children to use and understand all the electronic wizardry and razzmatazz gadgetry now commonly found in our homes.
Probably the biggest difference between the way we approach our new microchip housemates and the way the children deal with them is based on the “awe factor.” We might stand in awe of all the modern technology; the children do not. All these computers; all the Internet-networking, live streaming, and virtual-reality gaming is new and alien territory to many of us. Sure, we can navigate though some of it: emails, on-line ordering of stuff; but do we really know what all of our gadgets are capable of doing?
Remember, many of us claim the television as our old familiar buddy “back in the day”; usually only 4-5 channels – black & white and then along came something that made the screen almost look like it was in color. Remember the NBC Peacock & Dad or Mom trying to get the color to look like some type of real color? How about the first remote controls? You first use the control to click off the TV, and then you had to also use the off button on the TV to turn it totally off.
And for many of our parents & the previous generation it was the radio. But for young school-age children, sitting down at a computer is like sitting down at the dinner table. It’s just something you do in the course of your day.
Because they interact with computers and learn to think the way computer programs think, today’s kids really do have their brains “wired” differently than their parents or grandparents.
The children of today are learning to think on many different levels all at once, to see multiple tasks and interrelated processes, and to visualize solutions that yet lay many steps down the path they are treading.
This is the technologically inspired vision we must sit at our children’s feet to learn.
Our old “one-step-at-a-time,” “one-problem-at-a-time” way of dealing with the world simply won’t cut it anymore.
**It’s time to sit at the feet of children.
- Environment – My children, while growing up, loved going to “the dump,” not just because it was such a wonderful place, but because they got to fling the green, brown and clear glass containers into their appropriate recycling dumpsters.
What child could resist a legitimate reason to break glass with such panache and abandon? For that matter, what adult child could resist such an opportunity?
Many adults have to remind themselves at times to put bottles and cans and paper into the proper recycling container instead of in the trash. Most children would never even think of doing such a thing; they just know to do it that way. Their sensibilities have been tuned in a different direction.
Most children today, including my children & grandchildren, as well as most of their friends are trying to live what is properly known as “green.” They are more sensitive and concerned with what is going on in the environment.
The “use-it-once-then-throw-it-away” mentality that has now saturated our mindset is no longer an option for that generation. When solutions or sacrifices are raised, we tend to wring our hands and moan like the disciple Andrew from today’s story, “How far will they go among so many?”
Our children choose to see what they can do instead of seeing the overwhelming nature of what yet must be done. They carry a sense of the world’s vulnerability and their own responsibility for its well-being deep in their souls.
**It’s time to sit at the feet of children.
- Peacemaking — The sensibility and connectedness our children feel toward the natural world is carried over into a realization of the connectedness & interdependence all people share with one another. Our children’s technological savvy has also served to shrink the diameter of the globe and erase the boundary lines between nations, races, countries and continents.
This unified vision of the world makes our children prime peacemakers. The children don’t yet see generations of hatred and animosity between children. They see common needs, common desires, & common hungers. The children have friends & colleagues from different races, nations, countries, & continents.
**It is time to sit at the feet of children.
And as we sit at the feet of our children, however, our generation (the adults of all ages) must resist the urge to stop being the adult; stop being the grown-up. We must continue to be the adult, the grown-up.
We must not use the “Megans of the world” unique abilities as an excuse for us to abdicate our ultimate accountability. While we may have to rely on an 8-year-old child or grandchild to get the clock set on the VCR (if you still have a VCR), or problem-solve anything on the computer, our children are relying on us for a lot more.
There are millions of children in the world floundering helplessly in their childhoods because no one in their household has committed to being the grown-up.
- Just as we need the freshness of their insights, all of the children need to hear the wisdom of our experience.
- Just as we need to learn new ways to process information, the children need to be protected from too much, too soon.
- Just as we need to hear the children voice the plight of the earth, we need to help them learn to listen for the voice of their soul.
- Just as we need the children to help us see our similarities, we need to help them discern between good and evil.
- Let’s not give the monsters under our beds to our children. Let’s sit at their feet as they teach us how to get rid of those monsters that are threatening this world God created and the world that God continues to love.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, July, 2018
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 7-29-18” name of the sermon.