On Sundays this summer, we started doing a children's sermon during the morning worship service. Here's how it works. One of the children brings something in a black box (something that fits inside, is not alive, and is approved by mom or dad). I open up to box and use the object to teach a Scriptural lesson. This can be challenging.
This past Sunday, Alexandra brought a piece of coral rock in the black box. I talked about God being our Rock and Fortress and Jesus being the Rock on which we build our lives. Of course, I've been thinking about rocks all week. (Funny I've been thinking more this week about the kid's sermon than the "adult" one.)
I came across this brief article by George Grant in Approaching the Throne of Grace: A Parish Presbyterian Church Prayer Booklet. This is what I wish I would have said, but then it wouldn't have been a "children's sermon":
I was reminded of a well-known English nursery rhymne
Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockleshells,
All in a garden row
when I decided this year to put in a vegetable garden. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to have fresh vegetables. I knew the soil would need to be prepared, holes dug, and plants placed with growing room between them. What no one warned me about were the rocks. They were everywhere! Little ones, medium ones, big ones, huge ones--an ever-growing pile of rocks, which all needed to come out so the plants would be able to sink their roots deep in the soil. I spent a lot of time breaking and digging up rocks.
It got me thinking about the rocks in the soil of my relationship with God--not the Rock on which we stand, but the rocks that get in the way of my prayer time with God. I have rocks of pride, covetousness, defensiveness, doubts, temper, greed, fear, right things done for wrong motives--the list goes on. Some days it seems like I have a rock garden, but the huge boulder in the middle is self-justification. Just as a shovel is needed in a garden to remove rocks, a confession is needed for spiritual rocks.
As Christians, we need a time of confessing our sins to God in prayer, both privately and corporately. Without it, we are likely to think either better or worse of ourselves than we should--either way it is about us. Prayer can become an exercise in self-focus and self-justification.
Confession, though, reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins" (1 John 1:9). Grace removes the boulders of self-justification, allowing us to be fruitful gardens. There will always be rocks this side of heaven, and as grace grows they'll be moved also.
How does your garden grow?