Practice Makes Perfect

Speaker: John McLarty

Audio Recording:

Sermon for Green Lake Church of Seventh-day Adventists
for July 21, 2018

Texts: Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Luke 2:48-52

Wednesday morning I reviewed three photos I had taken on Tuesday night at Vacation Bible School here at the church. I counted 30 kids. That’s a weighty responsibility and a rich privilege. 30 kids with eager faces and bubbling energy.

Then I counted the adults in the pictures–23. And that did not include a number of adults and a teenager or two working in the kitchen. That number did not include the five adults leading music. So, if I counted correctly, on Tuesday night there were more grown-ups here than kids.

Which is a beautiful thing. A perfect example of church the way it is supposed to be. Devoted to the nurture of children.

I often cite statements by Jesus highlighting the status of children. This high regard for children is evident in the Bible from the very beginning. Children matter.

The one time God offered an explanation of why he chose Abraham as the progenitor of the Special People, God said, I chose Abraham because he would teach his children. Genesis 18:19.

The Book of Deuteronomy consists of five sermons preached by Moses at the end of his life, a sort of final testament. One of the central themes of the book, is Teach your children.   We heard one of those passages in our Old Testament reading this morning.

Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors. Deuteronomy 11:18-21 NLT, accessed through Blue Letter

This passage ran through my head this week as I spent time hanging with the grown-ups and kids at Vacation Bible School. I saw people investing a lot of time and effort in children–children of our church and others who also joined us. Our kids are perfect. That is they are just right for awaking our intense affection and admiration and their very perfection awakens in us holy ambitions for them. We want to replicate in their lives the story of Jesus that we heard in our New Testament reading:

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. Luke 2:52

As a Christian congregation, a community shaped by the words and ministry of Jesus, we have no higher calling than to support our children as they grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all people.

So to all of you who put in so many hours, so much creativity and love, to make this year’s Vacation Bible School happen, thank you. Thank you not just from me. Thank from the congregation and thank you from the one who sits on the throne of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thank you to Bryan for leading out. Thank you to Bianca and Brenda and Olga and Beverly and ??? who created the fantastic decorations.

Each evening began with supper. Thank you to LaRene for organizing the suppers and thank you to all the people who worked with her. The food was wonderful. Following supper we had singing led by Gummi and Nancy and Scott. Thank you musicians for your music bright and lyrical. It was perfect. We had a Bible lesson on video, then the kids split into three groups. The groups moved through a rotation of science lessons, games, and crafts.

Thank you Elyse for the geology lessons. I couldn’t believe it. The first night, each kid got to break open their own geode. That was just the coolest thing ever. On another night the kids fished around in a bin of dry beans to find actual fossils that were buried there-shark teeth, crinoids, brachiopods, ammonites, orthoceras. Karla Walter and her team did amazing crafts. One night they mixed exotic and common ingredients to make cave slime. Another night they made bats.

Karen Baker and her team organized games every night to burn off some excess energy.

Karin did a continued story.

It was a hopping, happy place.

Thank you to all who made it happen.

When I think about what it takes to make Vacation Bible School happen, I cannot help it, my mind also wanders to consideration of the work required to provide all our other kids programming. Every week, volunteers provide high quality programs for children and teens. The faithfulness and generosity of these volunteers makes this a welcoming place for the perfect children God has placed among us. The perfect children who will grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. You volunteers are the hands and heart of God in coaching these young people in their growth.

Thank you.

One of the truisms in every endeavor is practice makes perfect. Last weekend some of our members participated in the STP, the Seattle to Portland bicycle ride. It’s two hundred miles. The day was fiercely hot. They made it.

Some of us are thinking–wow! 200 miles! On a bicycle??!!! Others sitting here are thinking that sounds like a nice day’s ride. What makes the difference? Practice. When a person trains, mileage that once seemed daunting becomes merely a description of what you do when you have a free day.

It is the same in spiritual life. When we practice spiritual disciplines, we are shaped by the disciplines until what once seemed like an impossible challenge becomes a normal part of our life.

When we make it a daily practice to pray for people, including our enemies, we find it easier to forgive them.

When we make a daily habit of reading the Bible or other devotional literature, we will find it easier to speak words that are honest and kind.

Through years of practicing meditation, we will develop softer hearts toward others who are broken and unskilled at living.

Practice makes perfect.

Here at church we pour a lot of effort into programs aimed at supporting our children as they grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and other people. This is one of our highest callings.

All of us who have children in our homes, let’s pledge ourselves to support our children’s practice. Let’s model and teach regular prayer, attention to holy words, Sabbath-keeping, kindly speech. Acts of compassion.

Let’s practice. And let’s encourage our children in their practice.

Because practice makes perfect.