The sermon I gave yesterday, based on Romans 8:26-39 was built around the children’s book, Waiting Is Not Easy! An Elephant and Piggie Book by Mo Willems. (You can hear the sermon at this link http://www.woodstockucc.com/01%20The%20Last%20Word.mp3 if you wish). One of the members of our Kola Sunday school class wondered about how I know such great stories. I had to confess that this had little to do with me, and everything to do with a friend, a gift, COVID19 which prompted regular video calls with my younger granddaughters, and God.
Here’s the story behind the story, at least as far as I can trace it. I love Romans 8:26-39 and was very excited that it was one of the lectionary texts for Sunday. It sure beat talking about Jacob, Laban, his two daughters, and how Jacob the cheater got cheated.
For much of last week I fretted about how I could best preach about the reassurance of Romans 8, without tying it into a narrative. With that thought simmering on the back burner of my mind, I went about my week, including regular bedtime video calls with my two younger granddaughters, 6-year-old Anne-Sophie, and 3-year-old Marie-Hélène. Several evenings, one or the other of the girls showed up with the book, Waiting Is Not Easy! In the book, Gerald the elephant, and Piggie the pig, are best friends. Gerald is careful. Piggie is not. Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can. Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to. In this book Gerald loses patience with Piggie when he is told that a surprise is in store but that he must wait for it. His reactions are highlighted with loud GROANS (the word stretching across most of a page, and reminding Piggie repeatedly that waiting is NOT easy. Piggie knows that the surprise is worth the wait, but she has to keep Gerald there with her to see it.
It’s a fun book, especially when the girls GROAN-ed long and loud. Thursday evening, when I heard the word GROAN for the umpteenth time, two things clicked in brain. First, although the title sounded familiar, it wasn’t until my son reminded me that I remembered buying it for Anne-Sophie. I ordered that book along with several others easy reader books for Anne-Sophie through Amazon after asking one of my friends from church (who works with elementary students) about some book recommendations. Second, GROAN is a word that recurs in the Romans passage in relationship to prayer. The girls had shared the perfect illustration three times in one week before my own light went on. I’m slow on the uptake.
Where do these kinds of things start and end? I just happened to think of my friend for book suggestions after my son just happened to mention that Anne-Sophie would love some books for Christmas. I just so happened to find that title on Amazon. Mo Willems wrote the book in 2014, having no idea that it just so happened that a desperate pastor would hear it during story time with her granddaughters, not once or twice, but three times. And it just so happened that some mental synapse fired at just the right time so that the light went on for me.
One of the names I like for God, which shows up nowhere in scripture, but works for me is “The God of It Just So Happens.” That’s the beginning, and middle of the story. God only knows how it will end.
Waiting Is Not Easy, but It Just So Happens… ~ Anne