Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor

Some moments of respite and spiritual nurture I look forward to in these days of “shelter-in-place” are Pastor Caroline Noll’s twice-weekly Godly Play devotions.

Each Wednesday at 10:00am, Caroline goes live on Facebook with “The Faces of Easter” story cycle. On Fridays, Caroline offers “Parables,” also at 10:00am on Facebook.

The first parable Caroline offered was the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

All the pieces were arrayed on the floor in her home: green grass, cool water, the sheep enclosure, the Good Shepherd, the sheep, and the rocks in which one sheep gets lost.

I have been a part of the telling of this parable Godly Play-style several times, and I am always calmed by the steady movement of the sheep across the green grass, of the Good Shepherd moving across the space to rescue the lost sheep in the rocks, and by the movement of them all back to the safety of the enclosure under the caring, watchful eye of the Good Shepherd.

This parable strikes a deep chord these days.

It also reminds me of a story I heard my mother tell more than once as a sermon illustration.

The story goes something like this:

There once was a little girl whose family was living in a homeless shelter.

Each day after school, the school bus would drop her off at a church that provided an after-school program.

She would often be one of the last children picked up in the evening as her parents worked long hours.

The little girl and her parents would return to the homeless shelter when it opened each evening.

The next day the pattern would repeat itself: rise at the shelter; receive breakfast and a bagged lunch from dedicated volunteers; hours at school and work; homework at the after-school program; then back to the shelter for evening dinner and sleep.

The volunteer director of the after-school program noticed that the little girl followed a specific routine.

She would eat the offered snack, do her homework, then play with the same toy each afternoon.

It was a Noah’s Ark set, with a big boat, a set of many types of paired animals, Noah, Noah’s wife, and their children.

The little girl always played with the Noah’s Ark set the same way.

She set up the boat on a table, drew out the gangplank, lined up each set of animals two-by-two, placed Noah’s children behind the animals, then Noah’s wife, and then Noah bringing up the rear.

She would march the animals two-by-two into the ark, lining them up neatly.

Then would come Noah’s children. Noah’s wife would follow, and then Noah.

She would carefully put the gangplank back in its place and close the door.

The crowning, final piece was a dove with a branch in its beak, placed into a notch at the top of the ark.

The little girl would then place the completed ark back onto the shelf from whence it came.

After watching this for several weeks, the volunteer director approached the girl as she was marching the animals into the ark.

The director asked, “Where are they going?”

The little girl replied, “Home. They’re going home.”

My friends, in these days of rocking in a sea of chaos, with so much suffering and uncertainty, may we rest in the promise that God-in-Christ will bring us home.

May the Peace that passes all understanding be with you, and may you be well –

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