Preaching is strange, believe me. I will never exhaust its mystery. You can sweat over a sermon that falls flat. You can cobble together on the fly something that people find riveting. The latter happened last Sunday. I could tell by your faces. Most of what impacted you was spontaneous and not even on my manuscript. If you weren’t there, I entertained the weighty question: will our children have faith?
I want to build on that theme recalling the story of a young girl with a special faith. Fifty-six years ago Ruby Bridges walked into William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. Ruby was black. The rest of the students were white. She walked in accompanied by federal marshals. At some point you have probably seen Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With. That was Ruby.
Ruby’s little walk signaled a major development in desegregation. Before her first day of school was done, parents had emptied that school of white children in a massive boycott. Ruby learned alone in 1961, taught by one teacher who stayed.
Huge crowds of protestors gathered daily outside to yell slurs and death threats at Ruby. Throngs of angry whites waved Confederate flags. Some even shoved a child’s casket in front of Ruby with a black baby doll inside. Mobs can get so ugly.
Episcopal layman and Harvard psychiatrist Robert Coles studied children from the Sixties desegregation movement. Coles took a personal interest in what made Ruby tick. Her display of strength, stoicism, and bright cheer amid her daily hell caught his attention and puzzled him. He began to meet with her every week.
One day Ruby’s teacher told Coles that she had noticed Ruby moving her lips as she was walking into school. Coles asked her who she was talking to. “I was talking to God and praying for those people in the street.” Coles pressed on, “So why were you doing that, Ruby?” “Well, because I wanted to pray for them. Don’t you think they all needed praying for?” We are talking about a six year old.
“Where did you learn that?” Coles asked her. “From my mommy and daddy and the minister at church. I pray every morning going and every afternoon as I come home.” Coles continued, “But Ruby, those people are so mean to you. You must have other feelings besides just wanting to pray for them.” “No,” she said, “I just keep praying and hope God will be good to them. I pray the same thing for them, ‘Please, dear God, forgive them. Because they don’t know what they are doing.’”
I ask you again, what I asked you in my sermon. How many of you want that for your children? How many of you will support FCC as we try to give it to them? How many of you will help us embed Biblical truth deep within their character?
You say that is impossible in today’s world. I say consider the resources God has provided us. Ruby’s parents could neither read nor write. But they discovered through their humility how to practice Jesus’ love in daily living. Will you join us?