It was a typical Sunday morning a few winters ago, with the children of the church all gathered in a circle trying to figure out how to sit comfortably in snow boots. We were exploring the story of Jesus healing the paralytic, when a three-year-old raised her hand with excitement. “Sandra,” she said, “This story is like Frozen!” Now, mind you, this was the winter where you could not make it more than five minutes around children without someone singing a song from the hit movie.
To be the ever positive and encouraging educator, I said, “Tell me more” (while internally rolling my eyes). “Well, Anna was frozen just like the man’s legs were frozen.” Alright, I thought, let’s see where this goes. “And, Elsa’s love unfroze her, just like Jesus’ love unfroze the man. So, if we love people, less people will be frozen.” I will admit, I was shocked. How was she able to have this reflection? I came into working with youth and children in the Church through years of higher education on human development. According to most developmental theories this type of comparing, contrasting, and analyzing was well beyond this child’s age.
But, I had forgotten one crucial factor – I was not the teacher. God was and is the teacher of sacred conversations. God transcends developmental markers. There are the rules of order we have created, and then there are those from God. God is the ultimate teacher, who continues to show up and show off all around us, if we are humble students open to the movement of God in our midst.
Today’s Psalmist revels in God the teacher, praising the gift that is the Torah, the teachings of God. The Psalmist sees God as being made manifest through God’s teachings. Psalm 119 has been minimized by some for its length and repetition (it is in fact, the longest Psalm). Recently, however, Psalm 119 has come to be appreciated as poetic expression, with intentional and complex structure. Do you remember in elementary school making acrostic poems? Often using your first name, the teacher would invite you to describe yourself using the letters of your name. Psalm 119 is an acrostic with the Hebrew alphabet. We do not know exactly why the Psalmist made this choice – was it to make it easier to remember? Was it to make the point that the law of God covers everything from “alef to tav?” We don’t know.
What we do know is that we find a beautiful prayer in today’s verses. The psalmist petitions God, saying, “Teach me. Lead me. Help me.” As clergy within the United Church of Christ, I often reflect on a “Still Speaking God.” Today’s Psalm invites us to view God as a still teaching God. A teaching God who has much to impart to us in the ways of living into love, justice, and community.
How might our lives change if we were to invite God in on a daily basis to teach us, lead us, and help us? We might just learn something from the unexpected teachers that God sends to us, even those trying to figure out how to sit in their snow boots.