a sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter on Psalm 23 and Matthew 18:1-5
preached at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone on May 15, 2011
Having our children lead us in worship is exciting and inspiring. This day has been a long time coming, and the fact that we have this time and space together with our children is nothing short of amazing, especially considering that just a year ago we averaged about two children per month in worship! But once we had this incredible core group together, I’m really glad that we set aside this day to have them lead us in worship. They always do an excellent job reading scripture, so why shouldn’t we ask them to do a little more?!
Once we set the date for this service, I worked with Laurie-Jean, Mary, and Julie to plan the details and pick the right text, and they pulled together most of the other pieces. But then when the time came to write the sermon, I didn’t know what to say – the fact that we can have this service in this way is an incredible proclamation of the word on its own, and I’ve wondered all week about what more I can say beyond pointing to this time together. But maybe that’s all we really need today – maybe simply to realize that the word can sometimes best be proclaimed in our actions, that God’s word can become real in our midst in the most unexpected and yet real ways, that the word can be fulfilled in our hearing and thinking and doing and being again and again and again.
So today we hear again familiar words that we can see alive and at work in our children:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Our children show us that God cares for us, takes us everyplace we need to go, and gives us everything we need.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
Our children remind us that God gives us rest and renews us and restores us when we most need it and when we least expect it.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Our children tell us that God walks with us every day, makes things right for us, and shows others how to live through us.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff – they comfort me.
Our children give us confidence that God protects us in the most difficult times, keeps us from being afraid, comforts us when we aren’t sure what to do, and guides us when the path ahead is uncertain or even seems unsafe.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Our children make it clear that God overcomes all our fears and makes a space for things to be okay when we least expect it.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Our children tell us that God marks us as God’s own and gives us everything we need and more, starting here when we come to be baptized and continuing each and every day.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
Our children show us that God’s love is all around us, and we can’t ever escape it.
I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Our children here certainly make it clear that we are most comfortable wherever we can be ourselves, wherever we can play and have fun, wherever we can just be ourselves – especially when that place is God’s house.
In these and countless other ways, our children show us the fruits of God’s incredible love and point us to the possibility of what God can do as the world is restored and renewed.
I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when he brought a child among the disciples and pointed to that child as a model for greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Children bring an incredible imagination, freedom to dream and hope beyond adult limitations, humility in the face of things they don’t understand, and a radical openness to the possibility of something new. All these things are at the core of the kingdom of heaven, where status and wealth just don’t matter, where dreams become real as life becomes whole, where everyone is welcomed and loved, and where all creation finally understands and lives what God intends.
I believe that our children are the best models of God’s shepherding love and God’s intentions for the kingdom of God, and yet I don’t think we always treat them as we should. We don’t always listen closely to what they have to say. We don’t always take them seriously and treat them like the human beings that they are. And we don’t always trust that they might be able to show us something new about what God is doing in our world. But if we listen closely, take them seriously, and follow their example, our children can and will show us a more complete glimpse of the kingdom of God. Their hope can give us courage for the living of these days, their love can show us God’s unlimited love for us, and their faith can show us the way to the kingdom of God.
So may God give us eyes to see and ears to hear the faith, hope, and love of our children so that all of us can know God’s shepherding love and be a part of the incredible new thing that God is doing here and now among us.
Lord, come quickly! Amen.