Good morning, Christ Church!
Rick+ has invited me to start writing the devotions for Wednesdays as well as Fridays. I am happy to do so. I just hope that I don’t wear out my welcome.
I have been re-reading a book by Jaroslav Pelikan entitled, “Interpreting the Bible & The Constitution.” It is a fascinating comparison of these two “Great Codes” and how the interpretation of each over the centuries has provided the framework upon which the respective communities are built.
While the focus of the book is on interpretation, it is also quite clear that instructing the new members of these communities in the language and content of these codes is absolutely essential if the communities are to thrive. How can people come together around a code if they don’t know the content of that code? In other words, literacy always comes first.
That is why I believe that providing education for our children must always be a top priority in the life of any congregation. We must give them the opportunity to hear and internalize the stories of the Bible if there is to be any hope of building Christian community. Yes, as they grow, our children will have the freedom to interpret these stories as best makes sense to them. But without the opportunity to first experience the stories, any hope that the Good News embedded in this “Great Code” might transform lives is seriously diminished.
The bottom line is that honoring the children entrusted to our care is always an integral part of our mission and ministry. Of course, Jesus addresses this in today’s reading from Matthew far more beautifully than I ever could.
Faithfully in Christ,
Wednesday, June 17, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
You have got to love these disciples! They are always concerned about the things that matter most, like “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” They seem obsessed with rank and self-promotion, a clear indication that, while they love their rabbi, they still don’t really understand a word that he has said.
In response to their question, Jesus calls “a little one” into the middle of their circle, thereby giving that child the place of honor. We need to remember that, at that time and in that culture, children were not only not to be heard, they really were not to be seen either. They had no status and were considered the property of their parents. Their value would increase only when they were old enough to contribute to the material wellbeing of the family.
As usual, Jesus turns this perspective on its head: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Forget about “greatness” in God’s kingdom. Concentrate on what is necessary to gain entry instead!
What is it about a child that makes her the role model for true discipleship? Well, I can think of at least three qualities:
A child is at peace with being dependent upon others just as we are called to be at peace with our dependence upon God. Yes, rebellion comes in the form of a teenager. But when we were very young, we simply had no choice. We depended upon our parents, our families, our teachers, and other adults in the community to take care of us. Likewise, true discipleship is about acknowledging our complete dependence on God’s caring for us and resting in that knowledge.
Trust goes hand in hand with this dependence. A child naturally trusts in those he depends upon. We, too, are called by Jesus to put all our trust in him and in the God who sent him. Unless and until we embrace Christ with such trust, we will not fully know the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
Finally, a child sees the world with an imagination and appreciation for the mysterious that we cynical adults have lost. One of my favorite quotes comes from Albert Einstein: “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.” There is no doubt about it. True faith requires imagination. It requires the mysterious. It requires seeing more than what is immediately visible. Again, this comes naturally to children but becomes increasingly more difficult as life goes by and jadedness sets in. And that is why this child now sits in the middle of this circle, a role model for all Christians to consider.
This morning’s passage does conclude with a very definite warning. Any adult who abuses the dependence of a child, breaks trust, and/or sabotages the gift of imagination and wonder will be liable to a very severe judgment. There can be nothing worse than our taking away and/or destroying the faith of another person. I believe that actually applies to all the people we meet along the way, for no matter where we are in life’s journey, we are all children of God. And as Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one such child welcomes me.”