by Jessica Torgerson
I met with Hannah earlier this spring to talk about Children’s Sunday and to plan out how, exactly, we were going to do this. To be honest, March and April were a blur of anxiety and stress and uncertainty for me and it was hard to wrap my head around planning a brand new medium for Children’s Sunday. I felt pretty lost at times, without a map, but doing my best to navigate this new normal. So this is my headspace when Hannah suggests adapting pretty much the entire book of Exodus into a drama for Children’s Sunday, but focusing mainly on the Israelites in the wilderness – wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Can you imagine the fear, the uncertainty, the frustration the Israelites must have felt? Well, yeah. Yeah I kind of can, and our children can, and I bet you can too. This pandemic uprooted our lives just about as fast as the Israelites were uprooted when they fled Egypt. In the span of four days in March we went from pretty much business as usual to shut down, shuttered at home. No map. We were all wandering in fear, uncertainty and frustration.
Once freed from slavery, the Israelites were not too happy about their new nomad lifestyle. “When are we gonna be there? There’s nothing to eat! Do you even have a plan?” These were complaints that Moses and Aaron and Miriam had to address with God’s help. I’ve heard those same type of questions in my house recently. When are we going back to school? When can I see my friends? Do we have to wear these masks everywhere? When will this be over and we can go back to normal? Why is there no flour at the grocery store?! It is hard to wander without a map, without many answers. God heard the complaints of hunger from the Israelites and answered with a shower of sweet, flaky starch every morning. God heard the frustration and anger and confusion and gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments – a roadmap of how to live together as a community. And God heard the desperation and fear of the wandering mass and promised to lead them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, never leaving them.
When we talked about this story in Sunday school, we noticed the similarities between the wandering Israelites and all the uncertainty in our own lives right now. But is God helping us and leading us right now, just as in the Exodus story? We compared God to a lighthouse, leading boats through a storm, providing comfort and safety, like a beacon home to those who may be lost. I asked the children, “What is your lighthouse right now? Who is helping you to find comfort and safety?”
My lighthouse is my teacher sending me school work to do every day because I really like school and I was really sad when I couldn’t go anymore
My lighthouse is doing a Zoom with my friends
I do crafts with my neighborhood and we share the crafts. We all do a different one and we share it on the computer.
I can FaceTime my friends and that makes me happy
We do more movie nights with my family and I like that. It’s fun.
And all the children mentioned some combination of hikes, walks, bike rides, and being out in the sun. Sunshine seems to help everything.
This is a scary and uncertain time for all of us, but particularly so for our children. Schools (and churches) are closed, routines have been upended, nothing fun is open, they are forbidden from being together with friends or even grandparents, and the grown-ups don’t have many answers. They are wandering – sometimes literally – in a very new wilderness. But children are resilient, and they are excellent at looking for that pillar of cloud or fire, for that lighthouse in the distance. I wonder, what is your lighthouse right now? Who or what helps you find comfort and safety and protection as you wander in this wilderness? Do you see God at work around you, leading us through the unknown? I see God through our leaders keeping us safe with new rules and guidelines, through our healthcare workers healing and protecting us, through neighbors who drop off a few cups of flour on our porch, through friends and family who strive to connect in new and creative ways. And through our children, who teach us every day that God’s lighthouse is burning bright, helping to guide us through this stormy wilderness.
Thanks be to God.