St. Ignatius is known for his practice of regularly reflecting on God’s presence in the daily humdrums. He taught his students a series of regular “examens,” as they were called. He wrote out a whole program for a 30 or so day examen. For two years we’ve been practicing a modified form of examen with session. at the end of our meeting we take time to ask ourselves and one another: Where or how did we experience the presence of God during our time together?
This past Sunday our children and youth led worship for the annual “Children’s Sabbath.” They write and lead all the various parts of the service. For those of you who know me, I can be very critical (a neutral term, really, that simply reflects one’s ability to think about things deeply). Some see criticism as negative, but it can also be positive. A good review for a play or performance is still criticism. For the congregation, when the children lead worship we tend to lay a lot of our criticisms aside in order to make room for our children and youth to express themselves in worship as authentically as possible. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes this is challenging.
On Sunday our nervous children and youth welcomed the congregation to worship, called everyone to an awareness of God’s presence, led us in confessing our lack of faith, and assured us in God’s love and grace. They shared their work in Sunday School (each class adopts a mission for the year), and shared their thoughts on how “all roads lead to God.” Some of our youth shared how this congregation has helped them on their road. One shared a beautiful painting expressing her vision of what the road to God might look like.
Despite the typical missteps, confusion, and chaos that ensues on a Children’s Sabbath Sunday, I have to say, God was present. Our children and youth were engaged and very present, and God spoke through them in the stories, the missions, the liturgy, as well as the music (many of our youth participated in the Alameda Street Band, which comes out every once in a while). “From the mouths of babes” came the Gospel of resurrection hope and fulfillment.
It’s easy to be negatively critical (at least for me it is). But I’m trying to be more positively critical: What’s working? Where is God in this situation? How can I be more a part of what God is doing? What might God be inviting me to give?