A little boy was overheard praying: “Lord, if you can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am.”
Among the reading for the daily Office today are found these words from the Gospel of Mark.:
“Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’”
This past Sunday, at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer, the children from our church made their way back into worship from Sunday school as they do each week. From where I stand at our celebration, I have a great view of the children as they make their way up the short ramp into the sanctuary from the Church Hall. Most worshippers in the church do not get to see those young faces as they approach the church from the classroom. What is so wonderful to see is the anticipation and joy in their faces as they are welcomed back into our worship setting. Certainly leaves me asking how we can send them out in the first place? These kids love getting back to church and joining their families and their church family!
Now I know, there is a great value in Sunday School and in Christian Education for our youngest members. That said, there may be more effective ways to offer that education. I guess we need to be asking ourselves, do we send the kids out to SS for their benefit or for ours? Before we get to excited here let me say, I believe that we have the best interests of our young members at heart at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake and I am not suggesting that we need to halt Sunday School as we know it. I guess I am simply encouraging us to ask some deep and difficult questions. We know that our children are nothing less than full members of the Body of Christ. I wonder what might happen at church if we started the Mass by inviting everyone over the age of 12 to go to the parish hall for some Christian Education (we could all use some) and to come back when we have set the Table?
The words of Jesus serve to remind us of that. If scripture does not motivate us to see that perhaps the children themselves might move us. Jane Cornett and the Children and Youth Ministry Team at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake are constantly giving us opportunity to learn from and be ministered to by our children and our youth. An example – just a couple of short weeks ago we lost one of the most active members of our church in Ray Hinton. He was present weekly at St. Mark’s and he interacted with all members of our church – including the children. Appropriately, the children took time during Sunday School to talk about Ray’s death and to pray about how to be present to Marion who was left to grieve. They returned to our Table Worship that Sunday with a shirt adorned with hand prints and hearts and messages of love to be delivered to her at the funeral home. They taught us all about how small gestures of love can make such a large difference. The children of St. Mark are we actively providing Pastoral Care to Marion and to her family. Yesterday Marion was at church and she looked beautiful, hand prints and hearts painted all over her!
Take opportunity to interact with the children in your church. They have something to teach us. They will minister to us. If you are tempted to get annoyed by the sounds that come from excited children or upset children or anxious children when they are at worship, remember the words of Jesus – ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
PS – if you are looking for an opportunity to interact with our youngest ministers, join us this Saturday. There is a “Walk through Holy Week” beginning at 1 pm. There will be a Pasta Dinner for people of all ages at 5 pm – come out and hear about Holy Week through the unfettered lens of our youngest disciples!