In October 2001, Jane Williams called my name while Dr. Moore shook my hand in the St. Luke’s Sanctuary, and I will never forget my excitement that morning. As eager as I was to be gifted a shiny, new book, it was the actual presentation of my Third Grade Bible that was most exhilarating. This rite of passage was so powerful because these leaders whom I had admired my whole life were entrusting me with something sacred…it was the first time I remember feeling like a valued member of this community. Third Grade Bibles was the beginning of the church showing me that I am worthy.
One may assume giving third graders their own Bibles is such a long-standing tradition for practicality purposes. And it is! We are equipping our young people with a necessary tool to further their spiritual growth. Our third graders are invaluable to Children’s Ministries staff and volunteers – we rely on their leadership and mentorship of their younger peers, especially when Children’s Church restarts next Sunday. Highlighting and annotating and taking home what they learn, third graders gain a newfound investment and appreciation in their small group time – Bible Blast! – because they each have a personal “textbook” from which to study and teach.
As I am sure the Bibles presented this morning will also evolve in time, my own Third Grade Bible is filled with scribbles and frayed pages. In the 17 years I’ve possessed this Bible, I have relied on its lessons and wisdom. More so than the leather binding or pretty calligraphy, my Bible has been a reminder of my church family and its steadfast presence in my life. Week after week, my friends and I brought our Bibles to Sunday School, where we studied and shared and grew up together. I brought it with me when I went to college, opening it up in times of joy and in times of sorrow as I sought answers and clarity. The comfort my Bible has provided was something I anticipated when I received it all those years ago…but not just in the traditional way. Along with access to scripture, I have a physical reminder that I am an integral part of the church.
I pray we, as a congregation, uplift them as our equals: we all have the same Bible, worship the same God, and are saved by the same grace. I pray they know this about their place in St. Luke’s, but more importantly, they know their place in the Kingdom of God. They are each uniquely loved and valued by Christ. They are worthy.