As we approach the summer months, we will soon notice churches posting VBS (Vacation Bible School) banners in front of their church location. VBS is that special week when children gather for games, music, and play during the summer.
Have you ever attended a VBS?
If you have, then you recall the feeling of lining up for punch and cookies in the fellowship hall. You may even remember a kind grandmotherly soul helping you create a craft out of a bar of Ivory soap. You may even be able to recite a verse of scripture which you committed to memory because of VBS. What are the sounds, smells, and memories that take you back to your VBS days?
When I think back to VBS I remember singing songs with titles like, “Deep and Wide”, “This is the Day”, and “This Little Light of Mine.” These little VBS songs sound so simple until one day when much older you think back on some of the lyrics and lessons.
I remember a song we were taught by Rev. Allen in Creola, Alabama. The song had lots of hand motions. It was called “Father Abraham”. The title and the music seemed innocent enough as we children would point to everyone around and sing, “Father Abraham had many sons, and I am one of them and so are you!” Later in life I would recall discovering that Father Abraham was the great patriarch of three of the largest religions on the earth—Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That simple VBS song from Creola, Alabama taught me to imagine the healing that could take place in our world if the children of Abraham could all sing together. What an amazing lesson of grace and love!
Do you remember learning songs like “Jesus Loves Me,” “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”, or “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World?” Those songs have amazing messages for our lives as adults if we delve into the deeper truths they teach.
One of the songs I recall learning as an older child was the song, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” This folksy song is filled with lyrics lifted right out of the gospel of John. It recalls the prayer of Jesus in John 17 for his followers to live in unity and oneness. This song also highlights the teaching of the New Commandment, the mandate from Jesus that his followers would “love one another” (John 13:34-35). Can you imagine the impact upon our community, nation, and world if we who gather in pews on Sunday could become known by our unity and love?
Sometimes I wonder if the problems and challenges we all face in our world, such as war, racism, sexism, hunger, poverty, etc., could all be addressed if we took time to circle back to the important lessons learned in VBS. Could it be that our world needs a season of VBS more than ever before?
I pray that our children will all enjoy a joyful summer and soak up all the life lessons found in VBS!
Dr. Cory Smith is the Senior Minister of Auburn United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, The Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is married to Alicia, and they have one daughter, Sarah Morgan.