Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reflections of ninth grade Sunday School

We attended a large church in my youth-group years. These were the days of departments, comprised of a department leader and six to eight Sunday school classes and teachers. We would have assembly, aka large group time, then split into our assigned classes (I guess today the proper terminology would be "small groups"). To get an idea of the size of my church's youth group, each grade was its own department, and some years seventh and eighth each had two departments apiece.

When we gathered for assembly, the boys sat on one side of the room, girls on the other. It wouldn't be until eleventh grade before we dared intermingle. Our department head's name escapes me now, but he would always introduce that week's Sunday school lesson with a real life story that happened to him that very week that just so happened to perfectly illustrate the point of the lesson that week. We would often marvel at his ability to tie in some everyday circumstance of his everyday life to the lesson. In truth, we were just a little cynical that the perfect event would happen every single week. We would even wonder just how he would segue into the key points, sometimes making it a joke between us.

My ninth grade Sunday school teacher was a big former University of Texas football player named Malcom. He spouted Scripture effortlessly, one of his favorite being "what a man sows, so shall he reap." As I think on it, especially now as the mom of an up and coming ninth grader, it was an excellent word for young high schoolers like ourselves.

Malcom wanted to teach us to hide God's Word in our hearts through the discipline of Scripture memory. He assigned us a verse to memorize each week, and each Sunday as we gathered in our small classroom, we would copy the verse from memory into individual notebooks. Whoever memorized the most verses by the end of the year was promised a nice dinner in a nice restaurant with a chosen "other." Not to brag or anything, but eventually I was the only one doing any memorizing (yes, a brown noser even then, especially for a young, handsome football player--kidding! :-) ). The Scripture memory challenge soon fizzled and no dinner awarded.

But I will never forget the lesson Malcom taught me; yes with the verses he had us memorize, and certainly with the warning that we will reap what we sow, but most importantly through his love of the Word of God and his desire to encourage that same love in the hearts of silly, immature teenagers.

I have no idea where Malcom is now, nor our department head. I do know this: their legacy lives on today, in me. I may have laughed then at the perfectly coincidental parallel between the events of a week and the key points of a specific Sunday school lesson, but today I know that God's Word is alive and active and speaks to my everyday life if I will only listen and heed. I may have memorized a list of verses then in order to gain my teacher's approval or receive a nice dinner, but today I know Malcom's passion for God's Word within me and his desire for others to know that same passion is mine as well.

Oh, the faithfulness of our God! He planted seeds even when I was too young and foolish to know it. He has watered; He has reaped; He is worthy of praise! And when this life is no more, when we are gathered before the Throne in the Presence of the One worthy of all glory and honor and praise, I hope for opportunity to express my gratitude to two men who served the Lord Jesus in what was no doubt a thankless and sometimes frustrating place of service. I am thankful they did not grow weary and give up, but trusted the Lord of the Harvest, seeking only His glory and His alone...

6 comments:

  1. That sounds just like the kind of youth Sunday School we had growing up. Ours was a large, graded departments church, too.

    And, I, too, am very grateful God allowed those kinds of seeds to be planted when I was young and too foolish to understand the wealth I was being given. This makes me want to be more purposeful in passing that along to the youth I know now.

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  2. Amen. It's amazing to look back and see now the hand of God on our youthful lives, the seeds that were planted. I was able to recently send a letter of gratitude to someone who encouraged me in the 4th grade. (49 years ago) What a blessing...

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  3. Correct terminology in our present church is not "small group," but "COMMUNITY." Funny how terminology changes with the culture we are a part of. And thankful that the Truth is always the same.

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  4. What a fun day that will be when you are finally able to thank them for their service to God on your behalf! I truly think that those who teach Jr. High students will receive a special reward in heaven =).

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  5. That sounds just like the kind of youth Sunday School we had growing up. Ours was a large, graded departments church, too.

    And, I, too, am very grateful God allowed those kinds of seeds to be planted when I was young and too foolish to understand the wealth I was being given. This makes me want to be more purposeful in passing that along to the youth I know now.

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  6. What a fun day that will be when you are finally able to thank them for their service to God on your behalf! I truly think that those who teach Jr. High students will receive a special reward in heaven =).

    ReplyDelete