"Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." — Genesis 28:15
Kids. You never know what will work and what won't, what will sink in and what will provoke the dreaded eye-roll. All you can really do is put your love out there and hope for the best.
We were coming to the end of our annual youth and family retreat at a lovely beachside retreat center. In an effort to keep things simple for the children and multi-layered for the adults, we had focused on the story of Joseph at Bethel, all angels and awesomeness and a pretty spectacular promise from God.
On Sunday morning we gathered on the beach for worship. Kids, worship, beach—what had I been thinking? The sun was shining. The waves were rolling in. The distractions were legion. Almost half my congregation was busy with shovels and buckets. Brendon, who sat with his back to me, was clearly not paying attention.
But, being a preacher, I just kept talking. I told again the story of Jacob and his pillow and his dream. The ladder and the stone pillar. And when I got to the part where God stands beside Jacob and speaks to him, I said, "And what did God tell Jacob?" Which was the whole point, after all.
Sunshine diamonds danced across the water. Seagulls squawked overhead. And eight-year-old Brendon, who was still facing the opposite direction and playing in the sand, did not miss a beat. In a voice clear and strong and sure, he spoke the words of scripture, almost verbatim:
"I am with you and I will be with you wherever you go. I will bring you back home and I will stay with you until I keep all my promises."
Kids. You just never know.
Stillspeaking God, let me never forget the power of your promises. And may I always remember to share them with our children. Amen.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.