Thinking About Kids Music – VBS, Worship and The Sacred

We’ve got a great volunteer who has directed the Children’s Choir for the last couple of years. She also helped with VBS this year with the songs. Both of these are quite below her skill level as a Eastman Grad, but we are very glad she takes the time.

We were thinking a bit about the contrast and crossover between what we sing during VBS, what we sing for worship, and what others do. VBS tends to reflect Christian Contemporary usually with a couple of older hymns and spirituals updated. To date, especially with younger kids, we’ve kept the choir singing simplified hymns in unison. As we started to look at the upcoming choir year we mused a little on what we were trying to do with those young voices and characters.

First, what we as adults give our kids to sing and read is telling them what is appropriate. We are giving them the social scripts. They will receive others and get some that sneak under our noses, but whatever we give them tells them “this is what we expect”. Second and following on that, giving them most modern songs laced with guitar riffs to be sung in worship I think flattens their world. It obviously flattens it in regard to time joining in with the general world treating anything older than 1990 as inaccessible or “boring”. But it does something worse I think. The Sacred gets flattened into the mundane. To replace that feeling of “holy” we amp up the emotionalism through 60 hertz sounds, syncopated rhythms and guitars. But that isn’t the entire story.

There is always the question of why are Negro Spirituals not in that CCM category, or why do they feel proper where others don’t? Why is it ok to sing Go Tell It on the Mountain or Were You There compared to much white CCM? My general thought there is that context matters. Those songs came from a people who six days a week were slaves. On Sunday they were free. Why Did David dance naked (2 Sam 6:14) and it was appropriate? Because he was bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. Something that doesn’t happen every day. Like those negro spirituals. Most CCM is just rich white people bringing what they see, hear and live everyday into a holy place with them. Instead of the songs of deliverance, it becomes the songs of acceptance.

So, part of what I think we’d want to try and teach, the social script that we’d like to give our kids, is an extra dimension in life, the sacred. The sacred doesn’t have to be stiff and formal, but we should be aware of the fact that this is Holy Ground. And being aware of the sacred, they can gain an appreciation for sacred music as an art and expression of its own and not just level the world to what is on 93.3 FM. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the grace of Christ. Are we singing “exciting” songs because the world wants us excited so that we are good consumers, or are we singing exciting songs because we are free in the presence of Almighty God? The context makes the choice. Are we forcing the excitement through music tricks and performance, or is it a natural wellspring?

We might have a few VBS style songs this year, maybe a tradition arrangement paired with a VBS arrangement, but the point is to teach the difference and why each has its place. And to know and understand what that place is.

Walking to Jerusalem/Marching to Zion


Luke 13:22-30
Full Draft of Sermon

I received more comments about this sermon than almost any in 5 years. The pessimist in me is saying “and you are going to pay for each one of those comments.”

In the worship service as a whole there was an interweaving of hymns and songs including one of my favorites, I Walk in Danger all the Way, Some of the VBS kids shared with us a couple of the songs from the week including “Stand Strong” and the one I reference in the Sermon Marching to Zion. But you don’t need that thicker worship setting to get the sermon.

The gospel point, the core of the text, is that it is Jesus alone who is walking to Jerusalem. And that walk ends outside the city walls. At the place of the skull. We can’t march into the city of God. We only enter through the narrow door, at the foot of the cross, through repentance. There is no “we” marching to Zion. The question is are you walking there? Is your walk with Jesus all the way?

The audio will be added later. Our guy who volunteers to convert the files (and has the stuff to actually do it) took a much deserved break. His son did the recording (thank you!), but the digital conversion is coming.

VBS Lessons – Growing in the Faith

In between the pictures of the fun I thought maybe I should/could sneak in a post about some of the core teachings of VBS on two levels. First the simple catch phrase or core concept taught the kids. Then an expansion on that for those older. The Christian life grows into maturity from the simple truths to recognizing those simple truths in deeper ways.

Core Concept
Catch Phrase
Deeper Spiritual Thought

Day 1
The Love of God
God’s Love Helps Us Stand Strong
The biblical person talked about is King David. King David was no saint, if you get what I mean. Adultery and Murder are up high on his list of sins. Yet David is one of the two people to receive the a grace covenant from God. (Abraham being the other. Moses received the law which is quid pro quo and not grace.) If God can love David, he can love us.

Day 2
Faith a Shared Journey
Family & Friends Help Us Stand Strong
The simple thought is family & friends. The deeper thought questions who is our family? Jesus asked just that question in Matthew 12:48. The answer was these – the apostles – and those who do the will of the Father. This is the first step into a deeper understanding of church.

Day 3
Prayer Helps Us Stand Strong A God who loves us and has made us his family invtes us to approach his as we might loving parents. Now since God is Spirit that entails two things. We ask not in the flesh but in the spirit through prayer. The second item is that it is not just us, but God’s Spirit residing in us. Nehemiah was the bible lesson. All the folks could physically see were destroyed walls. With the eyes of the Spirit, helped through prayer to understand what he was seeing, Nehemiah could see restored walls. Prayer helps us with spiritual eyes to see the deeper reality.

Day 4
Trusting God helps us Stand Strong
The core day of VBS is almost always Day4. This is because attendance drops on Friday, so the key message moves to Day 4. And that message is the resurrection of Jesus. The Christian hope is not in some flimsy and ill-defined “love” but is in the explicit and concrete resurrection. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and open the gates of heaven for all believers. When we trust in God to do for us what he did for Christ – which he’s promised as to Abraham and David – we are standing on the rock which is Jesus Christ.

Day 5
Bible/Word of God
The Bible Helps Us Stand Strong
If you think about it there could be a church without the Bible. Jesus never wrote anything. He just preached. The core of the apostle’s preaching was one thing – the resurrection. We could still have faith in Jesus without any written record. That is something called the oral or proclaimed word. But God, knowing that we are sinners and prone to stray, has given us the grace of a written word – the Bible. When we pray (day 3) or gather in community (Day 2) or even make claims about what God loves (day 1) how are we to sort claims in a fallen world? God has given us his Word – the Bible. Christians stand on that Word. It norms our life. We become conformed to Christ through the work of the Spirit using the Word.

VBS Day 3 – Prayer Helps Us Stand Strong – Nehemiah and the Walls of Jerusalem

Today we talked about prayer. Nehemiah was a post exile prophet who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. The story is found in the Old Testament book called by his name. The building of the walls goes real slow, and then real fast – after prayer.

And then there is the rest of the day given to some fun. Here are the day’s photos…

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Fire, Baptism, Peace and Division


Text: Luke 12:49-53
Full Sermon Draft

You don’t get much more raw than this text. This is the Jesus that tends to get submerged. This is the Jesus of a sign of contradiction (Luke 2:34, Acts 28:22). So much of Christianity and church has been scrubbed and sanitized, domesticated and made safe…and then you read passages like this. And if you are going to be apostolic and orthodox, you have to make room for them. You have to talk about fire and division. And you have to see them as good news, because it is passages like this that are at the core of the Christian proclamation. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here. Settle before you are thrown in debtors prison until the last penny. (Luke 12:58ff)