Family Liturgies

My Three-Year-Old, the Marathoner

by Joe Greemore

Reflection & Scripture

Today was one of those marathon Sundays at church. You know the kind – the ‘breakfast-and-out-the-door to nine o’clock church school, ten-fifteen service, twelve-thirty lunch, three o’clock bells, four-thirty youth, six o’clock class, eight o’clock dinner’ days. I figured the kids would be exhausted – I was exhausted – churched-out for easily a week or so.   But our three-year-old, the apparently self-designated spokesperson for our family, proclaimed, “I love church.”

How do children do that? After a day of practically “living at church,” (and yes, yesterday I may have told them we were going to live at church for the next half hour to get some work done; it was intended to be tongue in cheek, but the distinction was lost, and they don’t soon forget!), they gleefully reflect at a late evening family dinner how “much fun church was today.” Maybe that’s one more reason why Jesus championed children as he did: children get excited for just about anything.

In a world where most everyone came out at odds with him, his ministry, or his truth claims, Jesus found a ready audience in children. No leading questions, no quid pro quos, no caveat redemptors, no conditions, no strings attached. Hear Jesus’ feelings toward children in Mark 10:13-16:

Jesus welcomes the children - Mark 10:13-16
The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.
(The Message)

In Mark 9, last week’s Gospel text, Jesus welcomed a child; a closer read of the text (or a glance at Eugene Peterson’s rendering of Mark 9:37) reveals that Jesus “embraced” that little one and educated the disciples in the benefits of doing the same as embracing Christ himself. Mark 10 continues this rhetoric, reasserting the intrinsic importance of children within God’s kingdom. We talk much of being for Jesus, being for grace, being for freedom, standing for justice and opposing injustice, and these are all very good things. But Jesus, being filled with all of these, is for children.

If you haven’t read last Monday’s post, A Genuine Welcome, please do so now. It’s a powerful call to action in a world with ample opportunity. If you have read it, it’s worth a re-visit.

I hope my kids are as excited about church in ten years as they are now. I suspect their excitement now is because they feel welcomed, appreciated, needed, and loved there. And that, my friend, is worth the marathon.

Questions to Spark Conversation

  • Name one of your favorite childhood memories. How does this remind you of the ‘simplicity of a child?’
  • What is one way we can “push children away” from Jesus? from ourselves? and how can we avoid that?
  • How do you see children in the center of life in God’s kingdom on earth?

Prayer

God, thank you for opening wide your arms to welcome me, all that I am, and all that I bring, as a child to yourself. Grant this day that I may rekindle the joy of a child who is deeply loved. Bring all my thoughts that resist peace into accord with your perfect will. Thank you for the gifts of your commonwealth. I receive them with a grateful heart and recommit myself to sharing these precious gifts with others daily. Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Gather your family together. Take time to tell each person how much they are loved and one or two things you especially appreciate about them today. Invite each person to do the same for everyone else. Listen deeply to their responses as you share, verbal and non-verbal, allowing time for silence. Lastly, listen deeply to the things they love and appreciate about you.

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