Just a few weeks ago, we heard Mtr. Mary Lynn speak frankly about New Year’s resolutions. How many of us start out with specific goals and the resolve to make these goals a reality? Often around things like food and exercise. For me, I usually make it to January 9. It is my birthday and there is cake. There is a celebratory meal with family and friends who treat me to an oversized lunch, and more cake. Always with the cake. And then there is life. It keeps happening. All the things that happen that we weren’t prepared for, and the thing we were prepared for. We live in a society that moves at a breakneck pace. All of us are busy, even our kids! There’s school, sports, music lessons, dance lessons, theatre, birthday parties and more. I could increase the list ad infinitum. My resolutions lose resolve and become lofty aspirations.
I am going to venture a guess that at least one person reading this has made the resolution to bring their children to church more often. It is a great resolution, like most others, that fades quickly. Getting kids to church is hard! It is hard enough to get them out of the door during the week, much less on a Sunday. Inevitably there is an argument to get them into church clothes. Then there is the being at church part. People whisper in church. They sit quietly in pews, paying attention to the readings and the sermons. I’m not sure about your child, but with mine, those things are not going to happen. She wants to play with her friends, shriek and squeal the way children do, she wants to move about freely while everyone is seated. When this happens, I can feel my frustration rise. I will sternly shush her to no avail. I turn pink with embarrassment because my child is disturbing everyone! Ugh, so embarrassing!
Who would be crazy enough to resolve to get their children to church every Sunday? I hope the answer is...YOU!
It has taken me a long to time to embrace this fact, my child is not disturbing anyone in church. Nor is anyone else’s. They are bringing the energy that only a child can. When people crane their necks to see what the ruckus is, they are smiling. Nowhere else is the love of God more evident than in the joy of a child. Isn’t it a glorious thing? When we come together to offer our praise and worship to the Lord our God, children are already steps ahead of us. They are not bound by the "should" that we as adults impose on ourselves and others. Children are an outward and visible sign of God. They belong in church. All children are welcome. No exceptions.
I have a request of you that perhaps you will add to your resolutions for 2018. Bring your children to church every Sunday. Let me advise you that there is no need for church clothes. Breakfast didn’t quite happen? We have donuts. You’re exhausted and not quite ready for Monday to be tomorrow? Come commiserate over a cup of coffee with the many of us who feel the same way. You are not alone in the journey of raising children. Raising children is hard. Even those who manage the dressy clothes and the successful ingestion of breakfast are struggling with some aspect of child-rearing. Raising children is not for the faint of heart. Yet, grace is always there. It nudges us along when we truly feel like we just can’t do another thing today. Jesus stands beside us with every frustration, loss of patience, with every shout we wish we could take back. He is there when you look at that child and feel like your heart just might explode because it cannot contain the love you feel for that child.
Once you get them to church, there is so much offered to your child. It goes far beyond Sunday School. At church, kids will form relationships with each other, outside of the pressure-cooker of comparison and competition that exists in our schools. They will have the chance to interact with kids who are older and younger, who come from different schools or different communities. Knowing that the world is a bigger place than the insular world of a particular school can be liberating. We aren’t looking at a kid to determine their academic, athletic or artistic ability. We aren’t evaluating them. We welcome them as a child of God. We are always glad to see them, no matter what. When they are at church they will learn an alternate life narrative to that which is glorified in mainstream culture. Accomplishments and accolades can be very good, but learning that happiness and self-worth can be measured by metrics other than material success is invaluable.
In church kids won’t just learn about God in a book, they will experience God in relationships and in community. We are one body. They will know how it feels to seek and serve Christ in others; and they will feel the light of Christ in their own heart. When Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them.” I’m pretty sure that he was talking about wiggly church children. All children are welcome, no exceptions. The community of St. Bart’s will embrace them, no matter what. And you, parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or guardian, will be embraced and loved. No matter what.
May God bless you and I look forward to seeing you in 2018.