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First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Week 4 — “What About The Baby Carriage?”

Yesterday’s message …

  • Concluded a series on marriage by talking about parenting;
  • Did NOT depend on Deuteronomy 6:4-8 to do so!! (Inside joke for preachers and/or long time church go-ers there);
  • Shared the resource of www.thebibleproject.com;
  • Landed at this bottom line: We tell stories so that we raise story tellers.

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Well, we have been talking about FCL, TCM here at GS recently, and for the past three weeks the focus has really been on the LOVE part and the MARRIAGE part. For the many of you who are married and for the ALL OF US who have been impacted by marriage. But as many if not most of you know, the little middle school rhyme has a third piece to it: “Then comes _ (usually some random friend) in a baby carriage.” Well what about that baby carriage? What does that do to this thing called marriage? Or, in many cases, when the baby comes before the marrying does? What does baby in carriage do to the relationship?
Because in my neighborhood I see young couples walking around with the carriages and I get a sense of nostalgia (I REMEMBER WHAT THAT WAS LIKE!) and wonder (ISN’T THAT SWEET?) Now: for the lady – true story – who puts her little dog in the baby carriage and walks it around the neighborhood, I get more of a WHAT THE? … but that’s another story. Because, dog aside, you know this because a lot of you lived this as one who went through a divorce or grew up in one: babies and children RARELY save a marriage. Instead, they usually bring a different kind of stress or tension that magnifies what was there before. And those stresses rarely get easier as the child gets older. I came across this book (AV): HOW YOUR CHILD’S ADOLESCENCE TRIGGERS YOUR OWN CRISIS. Well thanks a lot! Both to 13 year old AND to author! Now you know why we have all these 45 year olds driving Alfa Romeos that they can’t even fit in! And then, I know, as we consider this baby carriage thing that some of you here feel like you caused that divorce you grew up in. Not anything you DID, necessarily, but simply your PRESENCE. And although mom and dads and grandparents and aunts and uncles all told you it wasn’t your fault, you never felt quite that confident. So here we are. Baby carriage time and for all too many couples and households, maybe the one you’re in now, it does more dividing than uniting.
And here’s the deal. Most of the time, when churches and pastors and authors and experts deal with and teach on parenting, & marriage & the interaction of the two, they focus on the HOW. (Not HOW are babies made … that’s next week.) HOW do you raise, HOW do you potty train, HOW do you discipline, HOW do you change diapers, HOW do you get through teenage year. And there’s a place for all of that, and all of that is important, it’s just a bit premature. I want to back it up to a WHY question. Why are you given children? Whether it’s biological, step, or foster, why? What is the design and purpose from ON HIGH in entrusting you with kids? Is there a reason beyond biology? Deeper than ensuring the continuation of the species? More than keeping the name going?
Which is why Psalm 78 is such a revelation. As we say here every Sunday, the bible is library and not book and as we said THIS Sunday, within that library the Psalms is the song book. The Spotify if you’re just too digital to catch a song book reference. But SOME Psalms are songs that teach as they sing. Like my son learned the 10C to a song back in the day with the chorus Don’t bow down to idols; idols don’t love you. (Clip?) That’s really the function of the song that is Psalm 78 – it is a song that was sung to teach. And what it teaches is very much a survey of the history of the Old Testament people, the Jews, the children of Israel.
Yet the opening “verse” of the song (verses 1-7) is absolutely fascinating. Look at how it begins in 78:1 and whenever I read here, circle those words that have to do with WORDS LISTEN SAY TELL:

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.

So right from the beginning, we get the sense: this is urgent, this is a big deal, and the big deal has everything to do with words. Words, apparently, make worlds. The Psalm then goes on in the same vein in 78:2-3:

I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.

Ah, so you’re Jewish and what are the things that ancestors have told? What is the history and what are the stories that at this stage belong to them and to no one else? Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, (Cain’s wife!), Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, David, and the rest. Red Sea parts, 10C given, people wander, Goliath dies, and all the rest. It’s their way of reminding themselves and their descendants: WE’RE CALLED. WE’RE SPECIAL, WE HAVE A HISTORY THAT DOESN’T JUST SHARE OUR FACTS. OUR HISTORY SHAPES OUR FUTURE. It’s a history we declare and that in return it defines us.
The thread continues in 78:4-5:

We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,

Oh, Lord, that’s gorgeous. See how it’s less on the HOW of the next generation and more on the WHY? To tell that generation WITH WORDS that our faith is a faith based on God’s invasion of history. It’s based on history, not philosophy, and if we don’t tell the stories, no one will know. Tell the children, it says simply. Now: can we admit that telling children the stories, the historical invasion of planet earth by creator God, sometimes takes some flexibility? Like the little boy in Sunday school who, when asked to draw a picture of his favorite bible story, drew an airplane with four people in it? Three adults and a baby? “What’s that?” the teacher asked. “Oh, can’t you tell?” the boy answers. “It’s baby Jesus and his family’s FLIGHT to Egypt right after he was born! Duh!” The teacher pondered. “I see Mary and Joseph. Who’s the other guy?” The boy rolled his eyes at how slow his teacher was. “That’s Pontius, the Pilot.” Takes flexibility! You’ve no doubt heard that kind of honest confusion or have had it yourself. Words make worlds.
But then turn to 78:6:

so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.

See that? A multiplier effect! Tell this unique, community shaping story that is our property because we are God’s possession not just so that your kids will know it but so that they will tell their kids. I love it! The bible is here thinking exponentially, generationally, and I love it. Because in that long term view of your own short term story is the grand WHY of raising children. Why, when the baby carriage gets full, it can be a source of unity rather than division. We tell stories so that we raise story tellers. We are not given children by God simply for reasons of biology or genealogy or convenience or EVEN SO THAT YOU MIGHT LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THEIR ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS but so that you will tell them THE STORY they’re not gonna hear in school or on the news or in social media except in the most distorted fashion. And you tell them THAT so that they will then tell THEIRS. In raising your children you are actually molding your grandchildren. Hallelujah!

Now: I KNOW what some of you are thinking. How can I tell stories when I don’t know them myself?? Guess what? Name me a better time to start learning than now. There’s no better way to learn than with your kids at your feet. You will learn as you lead. That’s how it has worked with me! And remember: everything you’ll be learning is for your GOOD. It’s not punishment. It’s privilege. God is sourcing you and empowering you to do this. It’s HIS story you’re sharing, after all. Because … not to teach is to teach plenty. You’ll be teaching that Jesus is average, that commandments are suggestions, and that God is optional. Your complacency will sow your children’s ignorance and destruction.
Our children’s ministry and student ministry ONLY work well if they AUGMENT, SUPPLEMENT what you do in the city’s best youth & children’s ministry venues: your family room. That’s the design of everything we do here. YEARS ago we put a NO PARENTS ALLOWED sign over our Student Ministry; now we realize what arrogant morons we were. Parents are partners and not opponents.
We tell stories so that we raise story tellers.
And, if you’re just learning and if you’re intimidated – or f you’re a veteran and still don’t know – we’ve resources to help you teach. Like this one: WEBSITE FOR BIBLE PROJECT MACEDO USES WITH KIDS PLUS SAMPLE CLIP. It’s free! Wouldn’t it be great if you ALL did that with your kids and grandkids tonight.
You know why all this matters? (And if you’re single, tuck this away for when the time comes.) You know what kills me? There are kids who have been at GS their entire lives and know more about Fortnight than John the Baptist. Or they have the Lion King memorized but don’t know what book in the bible tells about the King of Kings. Or middle schoolers who know Game of Thrones better than the parting of the Red Sea. Or high schoolers who trust Ellen DeGeneres more than the Sermon on the Mount. Or can recite Taylor Swift lyrics but couldn’t tell you the 10 C if their lives depended on it. We have excellent kids and student stuff here – but it is only excellent if it supplements you at home. It is much less effective if it replace it. I have this crazy dream that when kids arrive here on a Sunday, they’d be carrying stories they’ve been told all week … and be subtly preparing to tell them to their OWN kids.
We tell stories so that we raise story tellers.
It’s the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension, the completion. Get that. Tell that. It is history that makes you, shapes you, defines you. Guess what? It’s not a talk! It’s a conversation. Don’t feel like you have to have dedicated religious time as much as you weave it into every day and all conversations. Even when you’re at the store, in the cashier line, and there’s the Kardashians on the cover of people. What a great opportunity for you to say, “you know, I’m so glad the bible tells a different story. Those relationships in that magazine almost always go poorly because Christ isn’t it it.” Or later in the day when they’re wanting to get revenge on a classmate: “that’s like swallowing cyanide and hoping the other person dies. Jesus has a better way. Or even when they want to spend money on themselves: “can I tell you about the widow’s mite?”
We tell stories so that we raise story tellers.
These words make a world. You may have heard that old quote: Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words. Sounds so nice and sensible and ultimately it’s … BULL! The Gospel IS words, it’s history, it’s a story and if we don’t tell them they won’t know. And neither will their kids. . We tell stories so that we raise story tellers.
Most of you know this was not my childhood. By the time I rolled around (8th of 8) my mom didn’t take me to church. So I became a Christian essentially knowing NONE of the stories I’m telling you to tell. However, maybe, just maybe God used the little bit I got to do more. I remember when I was 9, 10, 11, and I’d be scared at night. I knew my dad wouldn’t react well to my fear so I’d tell mom. And you know what she’d do? This is a woman who no longer went to church. But she’d lean over me in bed when I was scared and she’d pray the Lord’s Prayer. The Our Father. I can still smell her skin when she’d do it. I can still see the birthmark on the bottom of her chin, a part of someone’s face you only see if they are leaning over you while you’re lying down. Scared but comforted. Anxious but praying. Not in church but hearing a story nonetheless. One I’m now eager to share with you. Hey, out of respect for that thing, that time, that TELLING, let’s pray the Lord’s Prayer now:

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