Tuesday, August 24, 2010
How Sad to Find It There
Every year for many years we have given out catechisms and Faith Alive Bibles to those starting in 5th grade (for the Bibles) or 6th grade (for the catechisms). They receive these books before the congregation as a way of setting them apart in the hearts and minds of the people, visual keys to pray for them and their growth in the faith. It is a proud moment when parents hand off the catechism to their children -- symbolic of the handing down of the faith from one generation to another (which parents pledged to do when they brought them to baptism).
There in the flea market was a Faith Alive Bible. Inside was the name of the child and the date. The book was in mint condition (not a good sign) and the child who had received it had not finished catechism. The family pulled away from the Church and disappeared. We met them in part through a visit to an antique mall that long ago was taken away by a tornado. That is how it began and how this little girl (now a grown woman) received the Bible so many years ago. And now there was the Bible sitting lonely on a table in a booth at a flea market.
So what was it? An antique? Not really. A flea? Hope not. Junk? Don't even go there. What it was, what it is, is a broken promise, a lost opportunity, and a sad disappointment. Sure, there are other kids and parents who drop out along the way but I never had to stare at the remains of this loss like I did that day, looking at the Faith Alive Bible from Grace Lutheran Church sitting there like, well, junk or excess baggage to be discarded.
Statistics tell us that many children are lost to the Lutheran Church from the font to the catechism and many more following Confirmation. I know that. It still makes me sad. I am filled with the disappointment of so many who could have, would have, should have persevered but did not. I feel a personal failure toward them as would any shepherd who has lost a lamb. I think about them often -- sometimes while looking around the room at the catechumens I am teaching now. I hope that others share this sadness. I especially hope the parents share this sadness and disappointment. What a loss.... for them as well as for the Church... for them as well as for the Lord. It is my prayer that God will open a door in the future to rekindle their faith and teach them what His grace has purchased and won on Calvary. It is also my prayer that this does not happen very often and that we as Pastor and congregation work to make sure, within the boundaries of our human frailty, it does not happen often. For there is nothing sadder to see than a Bible given in hope and filled with promise, now for sale at a flea market, along with chipped dishes, worn tools, marred furniture, out of date cookbooks, pet carriers of all sizes, and forgotten toys in good shape and bad... How very sad...