A nine-year-old boy didn’t hesitate a second to describe what he sometimes initially envisions regarding people rising from the dead.
“Something like movies with zombies,” Caleb Knollman said.
But especially at this time of year, he knows another perspective on death-and-life matters looms large in a heavily Christian community such as Columbus. He knows it’s a big deal at his church, St. Paul Lutheran at Clifty on East State Street.
And he knows that because the Little Sermon for youngsters just covered that territory moments earlier at a midweek Lenten service.
The eight-minute message from the Rev. Doug Bauman began with a story about the prodigal son, with the clergyman using imagery from one of the church’s stained-glass windows, to relay the narrative.
But as Bauman does each time he preaches to the children, he ended at the stained-glass window of Jesus carrying the cross. That’s all it took for the kids to mention his death.
“And he didn’t stay dead, did he?” Bauman asked, bending down to the youngsters’ level.
“Noooo,” said 6-year-old Abigail Knollman, Caleb’s sister. “He came back to life on Easter.”
Afterward, her brother simply shrugged when asked if it’s tough in an often-cynical world to believe in the Resurrection.
“Jesus was so, so powerful,” he said. “And the son of God.”
Bauman has seen youngsters readily embrace the Resurrection, marked this year on April 20 and considered the biggest day of the Christian calendar, for the 12 years he’s been at St. Paul.
Biblical accounts say Jesus rose to give followers new life — and eternal life, elements St. Paul’s younger set often absorbs in the church’s preschool.
“My experience is that they pretty easily get it and understand,” Bauman said. “And every Little Sermon I do ultimately leads to the cross and the empty tomb.”
So youngsters hear the topic arise every single week.
Sarah Campbell sees the youngsters she leads at Columbus’ First United Methodist readily embrace belief in the Resurrection. The topic will be discussed in two weeks during the Children’s Moment at Easter Sunday services. Children don’t ask about medical science or the how, Campbell said.
“For most of them, it’s more about the miracle that God can do anything,” she said. “And we’re leading up to that with some of our different lessons now.”
Campbell mentioned that children’s innocence and trust allow them to take hold of something that can be so slippery or hard to reconcile for adults.
“A lot of times, I think we adults get in our own way,” she said. “Kids have a vivid sense of imagining and believing something they can’t see. As adults, I think we sometimes can get a little jaded asking so many questions.”
The Rev. Clem Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, addresses the Resurrection at student Masses this time of year. He avoids focusing on convincing listeners, whatever their age, of anything. Instead, he tells them of the Scriptural texts of Jesus’ rising — and of Bible references that as many as 500 people saw him in the days after his death.
Davis also sees two other element adding validity to the Bible stories: That something was drastically different enough after Jesus’ reported rising that those closest to him did not recognize him, and that most of his followers died martyr’s deaths — significant, he believes, because those followers refused to recant their belief in something so unusual.
“I think kids have some appreciation for mystery anyway,” Davis said. “They already know there are many very real things in life they don’t fully understand. There are a lot of things in life I don’t understand and can’t fully explain.”