Our theme for VBS this year was Confession and Absolution. You might think this is a little much for children or maybe a little "boring" for children to study during the "Dog Days" of summer. However our experience does not reflect this sentiment. Neither the children, nor the adults considered this subject too high nor too cerebral for the children. There may be something to the boring accusation. It is true Confession and Absolution isn't exactly a subject matter movie studios use as a subject for their summertime box office hits. Sure Confession and Absolution isn't as entertaining as the latest Star Wars or Marvel Comic movie, but what do those subjects really teach about Jesus? Do we as a church desire to be entertainment focused? Is that what we want to be known for?
I guess if we wanted to use the passage from Hezekiah 18:2, "And the prophet said, "Whatever the cost, make sure you entertain the children so that they will not leave the faith. Toys, gadgets and smoke machines are the very root of faith and will assure you your child will not leave the path of the Lord." New English Variable Non-Inspired Version, 2017.
If we desire to be true to this sentiment our main goal should be getting the kids excited. But how long are children excited about things that are sold to them as exciting? How soon do kids get tired of Christmas gifts? How quickly do we adults get side tracked from what was once so engaging? How often do news headlines change?
It is true we get a little silly at VBS during the games and sometimes the subjects of fidget spinners and cartoons or movies come up during lessons, however there is always one focus of Immanuel's VBS…Jesus Christ and him crucified. Not only is Jesus the focus, but all God given teachings that grow out of this truth are worth our attention. In addition, it is our duty as Christians here in Fairview/Allen/Mckinney to pass on to our neighbors and all those who come here from our community, the historical and biblical teachings of Christ. It is our duty and responsibility as a Christian church that we feed all who come to our door. Not only in physical food when needed, but we also must give the food of God's word.
During VBS we called the children to repent and by example showed ourselves to live lives of repentance. We heard God's Word concerning Confession and Absolution using the Small Catechism teaching from these stories:
Monday: True Confession - Luke 15:11-32 "The Prodigal Son(or more accurately The Prodigal Father)"
Tuesday: We Confess Our Sins - Luke 23:33-43 "The Thief on the Cross"
Wednesday: We Confess the God Who Forgives - Daniel 6 "Daniel and the Lion's Den"
Thursday: We Forgive One Another - Genesis 50:15-26 "Joseph Forgives His Brothers"
Friday: The Pastoral Office Forgives - 2 Samuel 12:1-14 "David Confesses His Sins to Nathan"
Each of these biblical accounts not only showed us how we are to confess but each of these stories were indeed focused on the absolution from Christ. Each of these stories held Jesus in them and finally focused us on his life, death and resurrection for us. The games, the lessons, the songs(A Mighty Fortress was our theme song…the OLD tune written by Luther of course!) and especially the Catechism lessons gave these children something to grab onto for assurance and comfort. It wasn't that we were trying to grab their attention, but that we give them something they cannot find anywhere else…Jesus. His word, his teachings, his forgiveness. I could go on and on…but take one of the parent's opinion of our VBS to heart.
"I have taken my children to all sorts of VBS. We've hit them all. We have come to your VBS several years. Last year my children got Jesus. This year they got Jesus. And I am sure, next year they will get Jesus again. Thank-you for focusing my children on Jesus."
There is not a more precious and glorious complement as this. This is what I live for as a pastor. So a big thank you to all who helped by volunteering their time. Thank you to all who donated money. Thank you to all who prayed for us. Thank you for being a place where Jesus may teach the least in the kingdom the glories of his love!
Whether our VBS hosts 2 children or 200, if we do not give the children Jesus we are doing the devil's work. However, when we give Jesus' word of forgiveness to one child the angels in heaven rejoice. Even if this child never darkens our door again, we have been faithful to our Lord's command to teach his word. We do not judge the successfulness of our VBS on how excited the kids are, nor do we judge the success on how much fun they had. The question is, "Did we give them Jesus?"
What we do in VBS is no different than what happens on a Sunday morning here at Immanuel. Our VBS and all events, youth or adult, are meant to reinforce what Our Lord does when he gathers his people on His day. On the Lord's Day he gathers his saints to forgive their sins and teach them. He gathers them to himself. On the Lord's Day we sing as we will sing when the Lord comes on His final day. Each Sunday is a reflection, a painting if you will, of what we desire the Last Day to look like. The faithful gathered to receive the bridegroom who has come for his bride.
So Thank-you for your support this year at VBS. Each year we hope to teach the children what Our Lord desires them to know. "He was crucified for our transgressions and raised for our justification." He truly is our Mighty Fortress.
See you on Sunday!