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Holiday Club celebration service

All this week I have found myself in a somewhat different guise to usual. (See below) It has been my privilege, once again, to take a leading role in the church’s annual holiday club. During this week we have welcomed over 150 children into the church to hear the stories of Jesus, sing along with the band, enjoy the puppets, and take home craft work which reflects our biblical theme of curiosity and discovery.

When the club first began over 10 years ago, it was themed around the circus, and the Big Top name has been with us ever since, even through the changing themes. Today, I feel rather like the ringmaster of that Big Top, as I step into the ring to conduct the annual celebration service which concludes the holiday club. The children will be excited, their parents will be intrigued, and the rest of the church will be …there.  If preaching always contains an element of juggling, and especially at an all-age service, then today it feels rather like juggling with elephants!

Behind the children gathered at the front will be people with all the kind of needs which usually come into church on a Sunday. Some will be bereaved, some will be worried about friends and relations in the path of America’s hurricane, some will be anxious about their job security, and others will feel in need of spiritual clarity. Occasionally, above the waving arms of the children during their action songs, I will catch their eye and find myself reminded of all this.

On such an occasion, with so many competing needs, the preacher’s greatest resource is the Word of God itself. Dress it up how you will, surround it with crafts and action songs and dancing puppets if you will, but the Word of God retains its own spiritual weight and dignity. The Gospel message, which has underlined all our activities for 3- 11 year olds this week, is not a children’s story. It is God’s story for every man, woman and child. At such a time as this, longing to meet the needs of holiday club children, staff and parents, yet aware of the needs of those whose lives have taken them elsewhere all week, my heart’s desire is to ‘correctly handle the Word of truth’. (2 Timothy 2 v. 15) Correctly handled, the Word will meet each need, and settle at the right level in every heart.

Image: Teddingtonbaptist.org

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When a piccolo just won’t do

Like many preachers, I am a Pastor too,with all that entails. Tomorrow I shall conduct the funeral for an elderly ‘saint’ who has served God and man throughout his long life.  On such an occasion I long for all the depth and dignity of the mighty bassoon  in my preaching, but feel I end up instead sounding like the thin notes of the piccolo. Try as I might, I so often feel that my words, with their attempt to pay tribute, end up detracting from the dignity of the occasion rather than adding to it.

There has been much written already in this Biblefresh year about the beauty, poetry and dignity of the King James’ Bible. Christian theologians and newspaper columnists have waxed lyrical about its texture and the cadences of its poetry and prose.  I believe that we can overstate all this. For some, the King James version is, quite simply, alien. Its language pushes them away rather than drawing them in. When we look for dignity in worship, it is to be found in God’s words per se, rather than in any particular translation of them. Tomorrow I shall use a more modern translation, simply because it is the one most familiar to the congregation.

Modern translation or not, I have little doubt that there will be far more dignity and depth to the words of scripture than there are to any of mine. I am, after all, a servant of the word and not its master. Maybe its ok to be a piccolo to the Bible’s bassoon – simply adding a few accent notes to accentuate the beauty of what is there already. If anyone can find a duet by bassoon and piccolo, I would love to hear it.

In the meantime I  leave you, as I shall leave the congregation tomorrow, with Rutter’s ‘The Lord bless you and keep you’ … because it’s beautiful.

Richard Littledale

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