August 30, 2011

Sunday School

Posted in Obedience, Spiritual Warfare at 7:19 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Remember when Apostles were disciples
Made of paper stuck to flannel board?
Peter always had a scruffy beard,
Wore a brown striped tunic tied with cord.

John was young and brave, but pensive.
Judas had an angry, brooding face.
And paper Jesus in a white robe
Spoke in King James words of love and grace.

And those paper men inhabited stories
That were exactly fifteen minutes long
So that we’d have time for crafts and cookies
After learning to tell right from wrong.

Then if there was still some time left over
Beth and I would take the paper men
And dance them wildly on the table,
Though not meaning to be irreverent.

I can’t remember when it happened,
But the paper men broke free and came
Demanding of us fierce obedience
To the King of kings that they proclaim.

Now they will not let us dance them,
For by Christ they are controlled.
And they call us in the holy battle
For His Kingdom to be bold.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

This poem seems very simple on the surface, but I intended several layers of meaning. At the obvious level is the change that takes place in our personal lives as we mature from a childlike view of the Bible as a collection of interesting stories into a realization that the purpose for studying Scripture is not simply to gather a list of unrelated facts but to transform us into Kingdom-builders who are focused on the will of God. Knowing that St. Peter was a fisherman or that St. Matthew was a tax collector is helpful only if I can connect this information to the story of redemption that is being woven through their lives. At some point we must realize that being redeemed does not mean simply going to heaven when we die; God’s people on earth are being redeemed here and now on a daily basis to participate in His purpose of filling the earth with His glory. Of all His creatures, we are the only ones who can choose to dishonor Him, and we were the only ones given the Great Commission. But most of the time, we go about our own lives choosing our own way, and to make ourselves feel better, we dress our will in paper robes of faux obedience (faux-bedience?), like those children in the poem using the flannel board disciples as puppets. One of the holiest mysteries of the Gospel is that if we want to save our lives, we must lose them to Jesus Christ:

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25)

May God protect us from trying to be His puppeteers! It is so easy for us to keep “spiritual things” at an intellectual level, not letting them intrude upon our daily lives. But the appropriate response to redemption is gratitude and obedience. Redemption demands a radical transformation in our own lives—radical love, radical holiness, radical obedience; we have been made members of His family, and we need to act like His children. Like Aslan, the Apostles are not “tame.” In contrast to their lives of self-sacrificing service to the glory of God, our spiritual busy work seems shallow, and it does not equip us for the very real warfare that we fight against principalities and powers. Satan means business, and we need to stop playing Church and start BEING the Church. But we can take heart from another level of the poem, which reminds us of how different were the Apostles from the time they were called to the time when they had to step into the role of Kingdom builders. The same St. Peter who wanted Christ to avoid suffering and who denied Him rather than be arrested became the St. Peter who helps us understand that the way of suffering is the way of sanctification.

This poem doesn’t reflect a specific event in my life (there is no Beth, in other words), but rather hundreds of hours as a Sunday School student, then a teacher. The date on my earliest draft of this poem is September 27, 2007, which would have been during seminary days, but I don’t remember exactly why the thoughts began to form. It was during the time when I was watching the DVDs of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I may have had the concept of spiritual warfare in my head. At some point I looked at those ugly orcs and realized that sanitized stories of Biblical truths do not prepare us for the sheer force of evil that rises up against us, waiting to deliver a death blow. That is why we must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! (Ephesians 6:10)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: