Sermons

The EPISCOPAL CHURCH of ST. JAMES the LESS

Welcome the Child

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

A close friend of mine recently said that when she was a little girl, her father told her that in the summer, God always goes on vacation I literally thought, he went away until camp was over, she said.  

Even though God was not on vacation, and we have seen many of you over the summer, it is wonderful to welcome the month of September and to see all of the children back. This is a really special time of year for Christian Educators.  On Sundays, The classrooms are filled with young people as they get to know their teachers and each other. There are new faces and familiar ones. We miss the young men and women who have left for college but rejoice in their new journeys.  Mother Storm blessed our backpacks two weeks ago and hopefully those blessings are taking hold. Homework is getting done! Last week the Music and Arts program began. Dr. Matthew Lewis, our music director, taught our children musical scales and new songs. Please send your children to the chapel at 11:15  to join us!

And so this is the perfect Gospel lesson for this Sunday because we need to be reminded of how Jesus loved, treasured and valued children. He is very clear about that.  Think back to the lesson we just heard from Mark. Jesus asks the disciples what they have been talking about and they are filled with embarrassment. You can almost hear them quareling like kids in the back of the mini-van. . “No, he thinks I’m the best.” They tell each other. I’m the smartest, I’m the most trustworthy, the coolest.”

But  Jesus takes a little child in his arms and says to them,“
Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but one who who sent me.”

“Welcome the Child”. Which when you think about world that Jesus lived in, was not a typical thing to say. Rev. Amy Allen, a professor at Vanderbilt,  tells us that “Children occupied an interesting place in the first century household (for Jews and Romans alike).  They represented the future—they would carry on the family name, provide for their aging parents, and produce the next generation.  But in the present, they were a liability. Small children, especially, were more likely to contract an illness and to die. They participated in the household labor, but were not yet fully productive, and still represented another mouth to feed.  Many historians of this time period compare the status of children in such a situation to that of a slave. However, the power dynamics were more powerful than that. On the one hand, an adult slave could be “worth” more in the present; on the other hand, even the smallest child was a member of the “household”—an honor to which a slave was unlikely (and in most cases unable) to attain.”

What does it mean to “Welcome the Child?” and what can we can we learn from this lesson?  Angela Schwind a mother and homeschooler profoudly said “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

Children are innately spiritual beings. They are wired for God and sense the mysterious and the sacred around them. In church, their senses naturally draw them to the Holy -  to the candles on the altar, smell of the fragrant flowers, glorious colors of the altar linens, choral voices and beautiful music. If you read a bible story to a child, they seem to have no trouble grasping the essential meaning. Teaching them about prayer seems natural and easy, requiring little explanation and instruction. They really get that God is listening to their concerns. Their prayers are direct and to the point. Prayers in children’s chapel could be about a sick cat,  a neighbor who is ill or a grandparent in heaven. They can be disarmingly candid. A little girl in our spring communion class once said to me.. “Miss Susie, I wish i had known Jesus.” When I asked her why she said. “Because he seemed like he would be really fun to hang around with.”

10/11/2018