- Pamela Jolicoeur
- Paul J. Dovre
- Anna Rhode â€™09
- Arland Jacobson
- Larry Papenfuss
- Polly Kloster
- Roger Degerman
- Stephanie Ahlfeldt
- Susan Oâ€™Shaughnessy
- Kristi Rendahl
- Dr. Heidi Manning
- Roy Hammerling
- Pamela Jolicoeur
- Jan Pranger
- Nikoli Falenschek '11
- Bruce Vieweg
- Dr. Paul Dovre
- Whitney Myhra '11
- Bruce Houglum
- Dr. Lisa Sethre-Hofstad
- Dr. Paul Dovre, Interim President
- Nick Ellig
- Virginia Connell
- Per Anderson
- Vincent Reusch
- Larry Papenfuss
- Carl-Martin Nelson
- President William Craft
- Dr. Olin Storvick
- George Connell
- Robert Chabora
Dr. Stephanie Ahlfeldt, CSTA
Dr. Stephanie Ahlfeldt
September 24th, 2008
Since agreeing to speak in chapel, I have been thinking about what I might say that could be meaningful. About three weeks ago, I had an idea to talk about childlike faith. I started writing not knowing if it would fit with the readings for today. I decided I would go with my idea until I met a block. If it wasn’t enough, I would take my ideas in another direction. I also hoped that Pastor Tim would be willing to use alternative readings to fit with my “left field” idea. Then I got the scripture readings for today and was surprised to see that the readings from Matthew were about childlike faith. I stuck with my original direction.
Then, I was chatting with Pastor Tim after chapel one day and he was commenting on how the theme for this years’ chapel is “Listen God is calling.” I got very excited (you can even ask Pastor Tim about this) because I realized that I had a children’s book (which I will talk about more later) to connect the scripture reading, the theme of chapel, and the theme for the year on climate change and the environment. This morning, I would like to connect these pieces.
As a relatively new mother, my oldest is four; I have been witnessing the basic understandings of faith come alive for my son and daughter. Trying to explain that God is Jesus’ father, but his parents were Mary and Joseph and he died on the cross but he is still alive, is all very complicated. I have always felt that I had a pretty good understanding of the Bible, but my husband, who is the son of a Pastor and attended a parochial school for much of his life likes to clarify my version. Trying to teach my children the stories of the Bible, but also help them to learn Christian values is a challenging process.
My daughter, who is 1 and a half, has picked up on the practice of praying before we eat. She thinks we pray every time mom sits down at the table (because I am always the last one to sit down). Well, I also tend to get up from the table frequently to grab something we need and so every time I sit down, we have to say grace again. My son has started adding to our scripted prayer as if to test and question the role of God in the world. He will add “thank you God for our food” or “thank you God for our water” after each prayer looking at my husband and me to see if God is in fact responsible for these things. Last week he added, “thank you God for the silverware.” This led to discussions about what God created and what is created by people. And if you believe people are God’s creation, then maybe God really is responsible for silverware?
This past weekend was the start of Sunday School at our church. As the chapel leader, I witnessed the first few moments of church school for many of these young children. Most of the kids were eager and excited to learn, many were dressed up, and some were crying. This reminded me of how we might all approach faith in a childlike manner. Eager and excited to hear the good news, dressed in a way that shows how special the moments are to us, and carrying with us a healthy dose of fear and humility.
For me, watching and listening to my children and the children I work with has reminded me about those things that I have grown to take for granted. I mentioned earlier that I had a book that connected childlike faith with listening for God in nature. My daughter actually found this book, God’s Quiet Things, in my son’s room. He had gotten it as a gift for his baptism. My daughter is very picky about what she wants read to her and this book has become her favorite, so we read it every night. I won’t read you the entire book, but I would like to read a portion of it…
Listen. Listen for God’s quiet things, like butterflies with velvet wings or raindrops making quiet rings on water. Listen! Can you hear a sound from worms that wiggle underground? Or any noise from fish that swim in ponds that lilies blossom in? Up high against the blue, blue sky a quiet cloud is drifting by. Look…and listen high and low. God’s quiet things are yours to know. Do you hear the darkness fall? The morning dew that comes to call? Look…and listen-everywhere. God’s quiet things are always there. Do you hear them? Listen.
During symposium last week, I was intrigued, frustrated, inspired, but truly aware of the important role that we all have in addressing the climate crisis. As Christians, we are called to be stewards of the earth. “Were you listening?” After symposium, my students and I were reflecting on what we had learned and one student reminded us that our land is a gift from God. We are to live off of it, but also to contribute to it and take good care of it. Sometimes, I think we do such a great job nurturing our relationships with people that we forget to nurture nature around us. Both are the reflection of God on earth and both are calling to us to Listen.
It is, of course, natural to develop a more sophisticated understanding of God and faith as we age, but with this sometimes comes a disconnect.
Reflect on your own faith. What was your faith as a child? What was the extent of your knowledge? How have you evolved and by some estimation, improved? How have you lost or become less like the vision of yourself you would like to be? As children, we all are born humble, innocent and pure. As we age, some of that is lost. For some more than others. Some would say this is a good thing, a coming of age, and sense of maturity. Some might say something is lost.
The bible verse for today states:
Jesus said, become as little children.
Who so ever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
How can we grow in our connections to faith, develop sophisticated understandings of God and the Bible, and remain humble? How can we balance the inevitable confidence that comes for many in adulthood that can spill over into inflated egos or arrogance?
Last week, I spent an hour in our backyard catching grasshoppers with my son. We captured them and put them in this bug container that had a magnifying glass. In my “grown up” reality, I would never even notice a grass hopper unless it landed right on me, but in the childlike world that I live in with my kids, we interact constantly with the “quiet things” of God’s creation.
Our climate crisis is humbling. If the cause is anthropogenic as the scientists tell us, WE are all responsible. Clearly, our climate is without a voice. Unless you count the messages sent in the form of devastating hurricanes, significant loss of ice, and extinction of animals. We start to listen when we have no other option but to do so. Maybe we are more like children than we think. We do what we want until we get in trouble and then we have consequences for our actions. I appreciate the “time out” that we had last week to stop and think about our actions. Have we learned anything or will we continue to ignore God’s call?
I see childlike faith as innocent curiosity and recognition of the simple things. We can hear God, see God, experience a relationship with God by filtering out the distractions (materials, money, and ego) and instead focus on the lessons learned from children. To ask questions, to challenge assumptions, to point out the little things, to walk humbly with God. Amen.