Before I get started I would like to say Happy Birthday to my son, Benjamin, the storyteller over at Brother’s Campfire. Go visit him and tell him Happy Birthday!
And no, Zoomy Children’s church doesn’t mean Air Force children’s church, I was just referring to the meeting program called Zoom. Many of you readers who have been with me for a while know that I have been a Sunday School teacher for a long time now. Since we have all these issues with this viral virus we can’t, of course, have Sunday School or Children’s Church in the regular way, either. What Pastor decided to do was have the Children’s Church put on a Zoom meeting so the kids could see us and more people could be involved. This week was my turn. I almost got cold feet.
There were a couple of things that bothered me. First, I have never taught Children’s Church. To a lot of people, it may seem like no big deal. What’s the difference? You teach Sunday School. But the issue that I have is that the age range is quite a bit broader and the format is different. I have taught different age groups over the years, but they were all grouped close together, four and five-year-olds, six and seven-year-olds, eight and nine-year-olds, ten and eleven-year-olds. Each age group has both its opportunities and pitfalls, which you get accustomed to. When you are teaching the littler kids, they are more concrete thinkers. Everything is literal for them and they don’t know everything yet. When you get to the older kids, (I currently teach ten, eleven and twelve-year-olds) they expect more life applications and can grasp abstract concepts and already know everything (I can only imagine what working with the teen classes must be like). In Children’s Church, you have a range of four-year-olds to eleven-year-olds. This is not my comfort zone.
Then we were going to use a new technology I am unfamiliar with. Another disadvantage to me is that I can’t read the room. As I am teaching, I can pay attention to the kids, see what’s working and what’s not working. Using video technology I can’t do that. Plus, I had never used it before. I had never really used the camera on the computer. In fact, I almost forgot it was there because you can hide it away, so most of the time I never see it. My wife figured out what the range of the camera was and cleaned up the room and made it look real nice. Then I discovered on Zoom how to add my own backdrop and not have to worry. So, I sat beside the Sea of Galilee to teach.
But I was still nervous. Several of the adults that would be tuned in have been former students of mine. Others are teachers I have worked with in the past or that I work with. The thing that I did have going for me was that I began to pray about the lesson as soon as I got the call on Thursday and I had a concept I wanted to communicate. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the lesson that I really kind of knew what I was going to say, but could I get the idea across to the kids? My wife helped me determine that I was better off using the equipment that’s built into the computer rather than using my fancy-schmancy headset. I liked the idea also because I could feel a bit more freedom.
I taught about Samuel and what I thought his childhood might have been like. One of the things about this story is that Samuel’s dad, Elkanah, had two wives, Hannah and Penina. We don’t do that anymore because Jesus taught us that no man can serve two masters. But this guy had two. One could not have children and the other could. In those times it was very shameful for a woman to have no children. And it didn’t help that the other wife would badger her and belittle her all the time. “Oh, yes,” Penina would say, “As I was saying to my children, you know how children are. Oh, wait, you don’t know how they are! hahaha!”
Hannah prayed. She prayed so hard and bitterly that she couldn’t croak out anymore words and just moved her lips. She told God that she would raise him with a Nazarite Vow if He would give her a son. She was in such a state that the priest thought she was drunk. When she explained how show was praying so earnestly for something, he told her that God had heard and would answer her prayer. Sure enough, she went back home happy and a year later she had a little baby boy. She stayed home for a few years until the child was weaned. The average age for weaning back then was about five years old. Yup.
Because she had promised he would have a Nazarite Vow, he could not cut his hair or have anything to do with anything made of grapes, especially wine, but anything else as well. Contrary to what Renaissance artist’s conceptions might be, men in those days did not wear long hair. For nobody to cut that boy’s hair was to make him stand out like a freak. I’m sure, knowing human nature, that his half-siblings gave him a rough time. Maybe there were a couple of nice ones, I don’t know, but I know that if you have something different about you there are people who will pick on you. Besides, we know what Penina was like that. I expect they yanked his hair and called him names. But, by the faithfulness of his mother, he also was taught from the beginning that he was dedicated to God and that his real purpose in life was to work for God. She taught him out of the Scriptures about what his vow meant and how he should act. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
Just then, our dog went after a bear in my living room. Well, almost. He was laying in my recliner like a lazy old dog and just happened to look up and started growling in low tones. He had seen this bear I have on the fireplace wall:
The bear was staring him down! Our dog, Hey-Boy, is an eighty pound royal standard poodle and will set up to barking like crazy. I was trying to figure out what I would do when that happened and still keep going with my lesson as though nothing were wrong when his mommy, my daughter, caught him and took him away before anything could happen.
So, I was able to get Samuel weaned and tucked into his strange new bed at the tabernacle in Shiloh. I explained that five was a good age for kids to have to start doing chores and that Samuel had work to do right away. He probably had to sweep the floor or dust or even help with the dishes. But as he grew up and got a little older, he was able to do more and more and learned more and more. I imagine that each year when his mom would come to visit him and give him a new coat, he probably talked her ear off about all the new things he learned. Eventually, she would start bringing his new siblings to visit. God rewarded Hannah with five more children.
Meanwhile, the priests were making a sham of the worship of God, stealing from the people’s sacrifices and committing all manner of sin with the women that would come. Their father did nothing to stop them, either. Their sins were getting worse and worse and making God mad. When Samuel was probably about eleven years old, God called him. The first couple of times that God spoke to him, the voice of God sounded like his pastor’s voice. Eli was, no matter what else, Samuel’s spiritual leader and when God spoke to Samuel, it was with a voice that sounded like Eli. This is why, the first couple of times the boy heard his name called, “Samuel, Samuel,” he rushed in and asked Eli what he wanted. The last time, Eli figured out what was going on and told the boy to say, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” When he did, God told him everything he was going to do to Eli and his sons and how he was going to judge them.
The next day, Eli asked Samuel what God had told him and warned him that if God told him to say something, he had better say everything He told him to. I think it took a lot of courage for an eleven-year-old boy to tell his ninety-plus-years-old teacher about the judgments the LORD was going to pour out, including that Eli and his sons would all die and none of their descendants would ever be in the priesthood again.
But as time went on, God did everything he had said and the people came to love Samuel as they watched him grow up into a man of integrity and intestinal fortitude who would anoint the first two kings of Israel.
And I learned that I can teach a lesson, even under strange and unusual circumstances.