Today’s text highlights the word CHILDREN. It is used here to refer to generations of Israel that inherit the legacy of God’s chosen people. It is also, in Gospels, used to refer to all those adopted into God’s kingdom by becoming children of God. It implies vulnerability in our relationship with a God who wants to care for us.
By implication, we are all siblings. And in the way of families, we didn’t all choose each other, and it’s not always easy to get along with our adopted brothers and sisters. And yet this is our family, and we are asked to find ways to be in community together. We can sit at a common table, maybe on opposite ends, maybe arguing or staying quiet or speaking out, but we pass the bread and wine, and we eat together and pray together, and ideally when we leave the table, we find common work to do together in the world.
CHILDREN in the time of Christ were vulnerable. The Gospels tell many stories of children being brought into Jesus’ presence for a blessing. Parents were concerned for their offsprings’ wellbeing, because amny children didn’t live into adulthood: childhood mortality rates were high in those times. Gospels stories especially include instances of Jesus healing and even resurrecting children.
Thus the comparison of people to children is a reference to our vulnerability, as well as God’s caregiving role. We are asked to come into God’s presence openly, admitting that we are imperfect and flawed, beautiful and also broken. We asked to come, not robed in confidence, authority, and trying to look like our best and most powerful, potent selves, but as our honest selves.
For some people, the image of a mother-like or father-like God is problematic. We don’t all come from safe or healthy families of origin. Sometimes our personal experiences with parents cause us to mistrust the idea of God as a parent and ourselves as children. It’s important to honor this issue, and find other ways to talk about and illustrate God’s care and connection to us.
CHILDREN are the offspring of our own bodies. Like us, they integrate spirit and flesh. And they are tethered to us not only by physical, genetic ties, but also emotional, spiritual and mental ones.
After all, children are vulnerable in today’s society, too. Daily headlines remind us of this, whether it’s children dying from violence in our homes, city streets or someone else’s children killed as collateral damage in global conflicts. Diabetes is a threat in our country. Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues abound. Children are victims of abuse and crime. They struggle with addiction. Many of the US un-homed population are children. Even in the United States, and in greater proportion around the world, children live in extreme conditions of poverty, hunger, without shelter or access to basic healthcare or economic stability. Too many are living in times and places of violence, uprooted and forced to move without a regular home, refugees.
CHILDREN put a face on issues of justice. They cause us to pay attention, when it migh otherwise be easy to avoid or ignore the problem. It’s hard to look into the eyes of a child without caring what happens next. CHILDREN reach past our boundaries and create connection, when we’d prefer not to get involved.
As we are called to care to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves, our neighbors’ children are at stake.
Excerpt from lectionary texts from Bible:
- Exodus 12: 26- 27 — When your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord.
- John 11: 53 — And not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.