One of my favorite memories of last week-end when my sister and nephew were here revolves around our outdoor firepit.
Their plane landed at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, but my nephew was much too excited to go right to bed. He's 8 years old, after all. Finally, they had gotten to the warmth of Florida, the promise of time in the swimming pool in February.
We went to the backyard, and my spouse built a fire in the small, metal firepit that we bought a few weeks ago. My nephew stood on the first step of the very chilly pool and decided to wait until morning to submerge himself.
We sat around the firepit and watched it flame into life. We couldn't help ourselves; we started to sing: "It only takes a spark, to get a fire going." I noticed that we were all singing, even my nephew. How did we learn this song?
My sister and I learned it at camp over many years and many firepits. My spouse learned it at church youth groups. It was a very popular song in the 70's.
My nephew learned it because my sister used to sing it to him as a lullaby--and thus, the next generation learns this song! For those of you in youth ministry and church camp work, when you wonder if your work makes a difference, I'm here to tell you that much of it will stick, even if you're not sure that any of it is sinking in.
We could remember most of the verses, but we weren't always sure of which lines went with which verse. Luckily, we have a copy of that old standby, the fish book, the songbook that doesn't have a name, but has that Christian symbol on the cover. In the 70's and 80's, that book always seemed to be in youth group rooms and music rooms and many a guitar player had a copy.
I thought of the lyrics of the song, which hold up well in terms of theology. I thought of all the ways we learn theology, and once again, I'm in awe of the way the song can shape us. Years after any one of us sang it, we could still remember all the words. I'm not sure I could say that about a Gospel text that I hadn't read in 40 years.
I read the work of many church thinkers who tie themselves into knots and pretzel shapes about the best way to teach children and to transmit our faith. While I enjoy these pedagogical debates as much as the next person, maybe it's time to go back to something more basic.
Let's start singing again. That spark will flame up through the years and keep our fires lit.
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