My redoubtable friend, the 92-year-old Trixie, persuaded me to assist her at Sunday Club, a class given at our church during the main service for seven to 11 year olds.
Last Sunday was not the first time we were set up to teach. On the last couple of occasions, we were saved, first of all by someone else coming to take over. The second time by an absence of children in that age group. The theme last Sunday was Noah and the Ark. I silently hoped that we might be sent an ark once again to save us from this particular flood. Not to be. We were delivered of six eager, bright-eyed children.
While I appreciate Christian principles, I am no Bible scholar. Nor am I an expert with children. Fortunately, we had a book to illustrate the story with drawings to colour, puzzles to do, questions to discuss, pages to photocopy and hand out. The Old Testament is not shy in talking about people doing evil deeds, the earth being filled with violence and God destroying them all because He could no longer bear to see the corruption and wickedness.
Noah was different. He was a good man. By the way, these patriarchs of the Old Testament knew something about longevity. Noah first appeared on the scene when he was already 500 years old. His grandfather, reportedly the longest lived in the Bible, grew to be 969 years old.
Imagine that. Someone 969 years old today would have been born in 1041 AD. Did they sleep well, eat a sensible diet, take regular exercise? No fast food, TV and social networking in those times, that we know about anyway.
The story goes that God flooded the land. The only escape was in the Ark he had commanded Noah to build for his family, and certain animals and birds. Noah was wise. He had obeyed instructions. He obviously had a relationship with God such that he had faith and trust to prepare in advance for what was to happen.
With any teaching, I am always curious to see how it might apply to present times. We have certainly experienced a number floods in the past few years.
This endearing story from Mozambique highlights one of the lessons of Noah and the Ark. There are times when we need help and must be willing to receive it.
Is there an echo for us now of having "sinned", which as an archery term means "to miss the mark?" That we are being punished for doing wrong? Climatic instability might be attributed to our disregard for the planet; the economic downturn to greed, and fear. Are we being punished by an unseen deity for our foolish ways? In which case, we might suffer even further with guilt, shame, and then blame those other than ourselves whom we hold accountable.
This is not the story I choose to accept for myself. There is a saying that we are more punished by our sins than for our sins. In other words, there is a price to pay for going off track.
However, I prefer to see our errors as opportunities to learn, forgive and make new choices. In Russell Bishop's post this week, What Story Are You Telling Yourself? , he makes the point that negative storytelling does not move us forward.
One of the stories I tell myself is that we are each of us a part of a spiritual field of goodness, vitality and wisdom. While there may or may not be a "God" figure as such (I have not actually met him or her) I am willing to believe that there might be, and that this presence is more loving that I could ever hope to imagine.
Whatever imbalances I may, in my ignorance and even innocence, have brought upon myself or others, there is a loving way forward. More than that, by entering into fellowship with a divine presence and source that connects us all, I access guidance through, and out of, the dilemmas I meet.
What do I mean by "fellowship?" Fellowship implies a closeness, intimacy and trust. I develop that through my daily practice of meditation, reading works that are uplifting and encouraging, being with others who are willing to see, and contribute to, the pleasure and joys that life offers, assisting where I can to bring about hope and greater confidence.
Back to the Sunday Club class. The children were enthusiastic, full of fun and keen to read from the Bible. They engaged in the story and the exercises from the handbook. My experience on Sunday was delightful. The morning went quickly and only one child showed signs of boredom towards the end. By which time, the main service finished and they were free to rejoin their parents.
Perhaps the rescue I was given, the ark I was sent, was that of a divine presence, teaching me that yes, I could entertain and be entertained by a group of seven to 11 year olds as we studied the Bible.
Spirit is not somber and still. It is free and spontaneous. Don't be afraid of the best part of you. Let the you that you like the best shine out in the world. Delight in it. When you are happy, when you are laughing, when you are loving, the radiance of your Soul shines through, and all are lifted by it. John-Roger with Pauli Sanderson
God's response to corruption and violence these days? My experience of the divine presence is of a loving One. It is up to us to make amends, to not judge, to forgive our part in the imbalances, and with help from each other, to find a way forward to a better life that together, we are capable of creating for ourselves.
How do the children of today give you hope? Do you have a spiritual practice that gives you reassurance? How can traditional religions help us to make sense of today's world?