This is the basic sermon, but I added to it as I preached it
Mortified–ok I probably wouldn’t have used that word in Jr. High, how about embarrassed. That’s how I felt when a grown man, Mr. Labenberg the health teacher, who was also my confirmation teacher at St. John’s Lutheran church, when he asked me to come to the front of the human development class at Emmaus Jr., High and then proceeded to hold my hand in front of, as we would say, God and everybody. Embarrassed, mortified, nervous with everybody’s eyes on me, the center of attention.
Perhaps that’s how the child, the boy or girl (not the “it”) as our bible translation states, perhaps that’s how the girl felt. Singled out from the crowd by the strange man who has been talking and everybody’s been talking about. This girl or boy is taken by the hand to the center of the room, surrounded by men and women he may or may not know, and then is held. We can imagine Jesus holding him or her this in his arms. In fact, the Greek word that has been translated “welcomes”, that word is “dexomai” actually means to take by the hand and hold.
So perhaps another translation could be “Whoever holds a child in my name, holds me, and whoever holds me holds the one who sent me”.
Holding our children–oh it’s so nice. When they are little and they are cute, and alive. If you are like me your heart broke at the picture the body of little 3yr old Aylan as the Turkish officer holds his lifeless, drowned body on a beach in Turkey. We don’t have to look thousands of miles away. In Kenosha the mother who drugged and then held her children as she suffocated her two young children Javier and Alicia, two more children lost.
These images and stories the names, hold our attention but only for so long. It’s not just our competitiveness that is childlike. We as a culture, we adults suffer from our own form of ADD–attention deficit disorder. Ours is that we hold onto an issue just long enough for the next picture, story, to come along let go and grab on to the next thing, over and over again and again. We’ve moved on to Packers, to no raising of interest rates, to bad hair, and other bad behavior. Not really holding on to anything long enough to do any real good. Not long enough to really change anything.
But you know the thing about kids, the thing I learned as a parent, is that kids also know how to get our attention. They know what buttons to push, what words to say, how loud to be, how to nag (I mean be persistent). Years and years ago, on a Sunday much like this one of my boys came up, after worship and as adult after adult shook my hand, he came up took my hand and in his little voice said, “Pastor Donna I’m thirsty”
It wasn’t “Mother”, or “mom” or “mommy”.
He had learned and learned quickly who tended to hold my attention. That in that place with the room full of adults, I held my attention on them–the big people, not the little ones.
Just as Jesus did that day with his disciples, mock or shock them it doesn’t matter Jesus get their attention by bringing that little one front and center. By wrapping his arms around that little one,Jesus calls his disciples, his followers, calls us to relinquish to let go the ways of the world–the looks only to the powerful, the wealthy, the strongest–the brightest, the biggest, the best, and instead to hold onto the most vulnerable, the most in need–that is where Jesus sees himself, that is where we see him–the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, the ignored Jesus places them front and center, not just as a sermon illustration, but holds them and calls us to hold them front in center of our hearts, our minds, our ministry.
To do this we can’t just talk about it. Just talking about things rarely changes anything. We need to do, to practice, to train ourselves over and over again. It’s really like something our kids do a lot of–learn. We all need to learn and relearn for the faith of Jesus to take hold. So this morning I’m going to ask the children, the youth to come up front and center once again this time for a blessing and I am inviting anyone who would like to to come forward and to place a hand on the head, shoulder, arm–to hold our children, the youth in a good and safe way for a blessing. If you can’t come forward you can reach out your hand to hold someone around you, for aren’t we all children.
O God whose love knows no beginning, no ending, whose love is for young and old. We call upon your Spirit for blessing, blessing for these young people who we hold. We pray that you would help us to continue to hold them in our thoughts, in our hearts, as they stand central in this spot today, may we keep them central in our work. Through them may we learn to see Jesus, may we learn to hold on to Jesus, may we learn that Jesus holds each and everyone of us, just as Jesus held that child that day so very long ago. We know your love enfolds us and emboldens us to hold the vulnerable at the center of our attention. Finally, bless all your children–children young in years and children long in years. We pray all this remembering that your love never begins, never ends. It just is. Amen.