Oxford Dictionary defines play…
as “an activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially by children.”
And then there’s the sea, wide and deep, with its countless creatures – living things, both small and large. There got the ships on it, and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it.Psalm 104:25-26 (CEB)
As I write this article we are gearing up for the first day of vacation bible school. Knowing the adults who are helping and the kids who are signed up, I know for certain that this year we will play! We will play games! We will play through crafts and science experiments! We will play through song and reflection! We will play in greeting one another and our meals together! We will play!
VBS is a great time for the church to learn from kids what God’s gift of playing is all about. I would go as far as to say play is essential for a curious and growing faith. In seminary professors called it our sacred imagination, a tool many preachers will lean on. It goes beyond reading scripture line by line, and instead uses the creativity God gave us. Not only do we read about Jesus walking down the road, but we can imagine the heat of the sun, the dirt on his sandals, the smell of fires cooking meals, the sounds of children in the street. We can be there with Jesus and put ourselves in the story. God gave us more than intellect to connect with God, but God gave us our bodies and our senses. In that way we can play with stories, thinking about the “what if’s”, the hidden good news for us today.If God is bigger than our intellect can grasp? If we are only able to perceive a piece of God and the rest remains mystery, then it is crucial for us to know how to play with God. When we play with who God is or is not, we can discover and discern more. We can stretch beyond what we perceive is possible to what is possible for God, and come to know God in new ways that satisfy us. In play we let go of our need to be right or stay within the prescribed rules. Have you ever played a game that was made up by a 5 year-old? So often the most meaningful scriptures are the ones that are creative, poems, song lyrics, words that inspire and imagine God in new ways. For instance the sun is not viewed as life-giving all around the world. And so the psalmist does not say God is like the sun, but God is like the shade at your right hand (psalm 121:5). What if next time we went from the heat of the summer sun to the shade of a giant tree we thought this is the relief the psalmist says God gave them?
This week at vacation bible school we will be focusing on Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” We will be reflecting all the ways God provides for us. We will read from Exodus 16 where God is a baker who provides manna and quail for God’s people. We will read from John 6 where through Jesus God is a caterer that miraculously feeds 5,000 people. We reflect and play with all the ways God gives us what we need.
In your daily life make time to play with God and God will play back. Use your sacred imagination and find that the Spirit will meet you where you are through color, taste, art, and silence of everyday life.
Rev. Keith McDevitt