Today, we enter the last day of Vacation Bible School at the church where I am wrapping up my ministry time with them. (I am, at the same time that I am ending and saying good bye here, getting ready for a move to the upper midwest and a new call.) It has been fascinating and wonderful to watch these boisterous and life-filled children enter into the mysteries of our faith with such trust, enthusiasm and joy.
They began on Monday being unsure, quiet, a bit timid: Is it okay to sing and dance to the music? Is it okay to laugh at the silly outfit of the priest? We could almost see those questions behind their bright eyes. Each day has proven to be another flowering moment for the participants. The songs are more familiar. So is their surroundings. New friends, made fast by the experiences of the days together, greet each other with hugs and squeals of joy. On that first Monday, when their parents arrived to pick them up, they were ready to leave. Yesterday, their parents had to literally drag some of them out, and on to their next adventure.
That trust, that certainty, that joyful exuberance, is an example of what the father of the epileptic child was crying out for when he says to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief." Like so many of us, as we grow older, that quick to trust, that accepting belief exhibited by our VBS students, erodes because of our individual life experiences. I do not believe it is ever completely gone from us. But life's experiences can make that trust and belief much harder to accept, feel, find.
Belief and unbelief is a daily challenge for all of us. Jesus reminds his disciples at the end of today's Gospel passage talking about the spirit he chased from the child, "This kind can come out only through prayer." Perhaps that spirit he chased is a metaphor for our unbelief. We need to remember to pray, and open ourselves to the giddiness of a child's joyful faith: this can imbue us with a life changing way to see the world.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: DC, SW Waterfront Cherry Blossoms, 2011, jfd+