Focal verse

For you are my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me abide in your tent forever,
find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
–Psalm 61:3-4 

Reflection

“Watch St. Paul’s church?” my son asks as I grab the computer from the office. It’s Sunday morning, and across the street we hear bells ringing to signal the beginning of church. My kids and I have remained home to worship during the pandemic while some members of our congregation gather in person. 

Many things are different when worshiping at home: the way we dress, what we can eat and drink during church, the loss of sitting next to others. Yet some things remain the same. My kids (5 and 3) still like to run around and dance during church. When we’re in the church building, they dance in the pews to the organ music. They’re comfortable running down the aisles to greet their friends of all ages. Essentially, they feel safe at church to be themselves.

But I also hope that the church doesn’t feel too safe for them.

I’d like my children to be uncomfortable at times, so they question what they’ve been taught to believe. I pray they will both love and wrestle with God and God’s people. During this uncertain year, I’ve turned to God with my questions, doubts and frustrations. Because I trust in God’s presence, I can offer the big feelings I have to God. It’s this trust I hope to instill in my children when we pray each night, lifting up what makes us sad and what brings us joy. Together we feel safe in the knowledge that we are loved, called and claimed.

Being challenged at church also looks like encouragement to speak up, advocate for justice and recognize everyone we meet as our neighbor. It looks like praying for people who think and act differently from the way we do. It looks like asking questions about what we read in the Bible. 

Whether you’re worshiping in person or online right now, I pray you’ll feel the safety of God’s love and presence through others and share that feeling with those you meet.

Practices 

  • As a family, make a list of questions you have about God, Jesus and church. Don’t worry about answering them; trust that the act of questioning is a sign of faith. 
  • Read Being Me From A to Z (Sparkhouse 2019), which lifts up the “importance of asking questions and helping others” so “kids will be inspired, affirmed and encouraged to love themselves, be kind to others, and care for the world around them.” 
  • When you hear Bible stories, write down the questions Jesus asked his disciples and the people he encountered throughout his ministry.   

Prayers

We pray for children and parents/guardians learning in new and unique ways.
We pray for our schools and day care centers.
We pray for elected officials to lead with justice and compassion.
We pray for God’s creation, that we might care for the land and ensure its survival. 
We give thanks for autumn’s beauty, found in changing leaves, pumpkins and mums.
We give thanks for ministries of feeding.
We give thanks for books and stories that inspire faith.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. 

Service opportunity 

Children living in foster care deal with a lot of transitions in their lives. One way to help them feel safe and loved is to create birthday bags. Contact your local social service agency (you might find nearby affiliates through Lutheran Services in America) and see if you could make up a bag of goodies for a birthday party (plates, cups, cake mix, balloons and a few gifts) and share with foster care families. 

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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