Childhood Faith

Hi friends!  Here is yesterday’s sermon … sorry I didn’t get it posted earlier.  I’ve been under the weather!

***

Luke 2:41-52

Childhood Faith

Children’s Minister I am not.

I have been told many times by people who attend this church that the children’s sermon is their favorite part of worship. In fact, at my annual review a few weeks ago, it was noted that I was particularly good with the children during our time together before they leave for Church School.

When I heard this I almost wanted to ask the Personnel Board if they were sure they were actually thinking about me and not someone else when they made this assessment.

Let’s face it – during children’s sermons throughout the past two years I have:

Attempted to make mud, which led the children to scream “EW!” and refuse to hold my hand during the prayer
Stuck my hand in a pumpkin mid-sermon
For some reason thought it would be wise to have children put together a 100-piece puzzle in the middle of a worship service
Thought rocks floated, only to be told by those children – and the choir! – that rocks, in fact, do not float
Let them pass my iPad around
“Jumped For Joy” with over forty children and a fully-lit Advent wreath

I am not sure if people enjoy observing my children’s sermons or they just simply cannot look away.

It is not that I dislike children’s sermons; I actually fear them. When I lived in Georgia my clergy mentor and I shared a mutual fear of children’s sermons. We all but “rock-paper-scissor’d” one week over who would have to do the children’s sermon on Sunday in worship. Give me a difficult text to preach on and a packed sanctuary to preach to over a children’s sermon any day.

There are a few things that scare me about children’s sermons:

You never know what the children are going to say or ask
You have a very limited time frame to get your point across
You need to keep a wide range of ages engaged and interested
And the entire time the carnage is unfolding there are approximately 100 adults watching from their pews.

I have often wondered why they do not offer a “Children’s Sermons 101” in seminary.

And yet despite this fear, as my own faith has evolved, I think children’s sermons are starting to grow on me. In fact, I think I am starting to see some magic within them – not simply in the sermons themselves, but in the children that surround me when I deliver them.

This morning’s scripture reading comes from the gospel according to Luke. It immediately follows the birth narrative; it is the story of Jesus as a boy in the temple.

For as much as we, as Christians, claim to “follow Christ” we actually do not know much about the man whom we follow and worship. The birth narrative, itself, actually only appears in Matthew and Luke and this story about Jesus as a boy can be found solely in Luke. Most of the time we come into the story fully at Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of his ministry. We really only know about the end of his life.

And yet – this story from the Temple is known and loved by many people. Why is that?

I was thinking about this text this week as I was reflecting on the Christmas Eve Family Worship & Pageant. That service – as hectic as it was – was simply magical.

I was also thinking about this text this week as I was reflecting on the upcoming baptism of three children – a seven-month-old, a two-and-a-half-year-old and a three-and-a-half-year-old. Baptisms – as chaotic as they get at times – are also simply magical.

When you stop and think about it you realize that the faith of child – a childhood faith – is simply magical.

As I thought about both the service and child baptism, I realized that it may or may not be about the literal truth of this story that really matters in our lives and in our community – it is about what this story represents in our lives and in our community.

So we all know the story: Jesus and his parents had travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Jesus’ parents left without him, assuming he was traveling back with friends. When he never arrived at home that evening they returned to Jerusalem where they eventually found him in the Temple. He wondered why his parents were so frantic: “Why would you need to search?” he asked. “You should have known that I would be in my Father’s house.”

Many believe that this story is so special because it proves in one way or another that Jesus knew that he was the Son of God. Others believe that this story is special because it reminds us that we should take care and show reverence to our church buildings, leaders and worship.

But I also wonder if this story is special to so many because it offers us a glimpse into the childhood faith of Jesus himself. Jesus was not just a man who healed the sick, reached out to the marginalized, cried out against injustice and died on a cross; he was once a child who wondered “Why?”, who asked insightful questions, who looked for meaning in ritual, who traveled his own journey of faith and felt safe within a place of worship.

He once was a boy who wandered off in search of something – and found himself within a community of faith.

The children and the youth of this church teach me so much; they push me to think about things in ways that I never would have thought about on my own. Over the past two years, I have collected stories from these kids that could fill a book.

I once heard a child ask their parents during worship, “Is she Jesus?”
A parent texted me after church one Sunday and said that their child told them church was disgusting because, “Rev. Sarah made me drink blood.”
A parent once asked me what she should say the next time her child asked her, “But what does God look like?”
I was left speechless during a confirmation class when a confirmand asked me, “So did Hitler go to Hell?”
I have been followed around multiples Sunday mornings being asked why I was arranging prayer shawls on a table, fabric on the altar or candles on the floor. “But why, Rev. Sarah? Why?”

I image that the best is still to come from these kids.

Childhood faith is simply magical.

If this morning’s story teaches us anything it is that Jesus was perhaps more radical than we thought when, later in his life, he said, “Let the children come to me.” {Matthew 19:14 & Mark 10:13}

It is not about simply acknowledging their presence, but about celebrating their faith and where they are on their journey.

It is not about simply creating activities and programming for them, but about allowing them fully into our lives and into our community.

It is not about simply making promises to them in baptism, but about living them out, day after day, throughout their lives.

This morning’s story also reminds us that perhaps we, too, should tap into our childhood faith every now and then.

We should wonder, “Why?”

We should ask insightful questions.

We should look for meaning in the rituals we take part in.

We should travel our own journeys of faith rather than simply just being part of something that is familiar to us.

We should seek safety in our houses of worship.

We should wander off in search of something – and find support, perhaps even answers, within a community of faith.

Childhood faith is a magical thing.

I know we live in the real world where bills must be paid, chores must be tended to and health, safety and security must be taken into consideration. But I wonder what the real world would look like if we tried to hold onto that childhood faith, the faith of a boy who wandered off into the Temple, just a little bit longer.

I think that in baptizing children, supporting programming for them and welcoming in our community of faith, we have a lot more to learn than we have to teach.

Childhood faith is a magical thing.

Let us stand in reverent awe over that magic. And let us wander our journeys our children – children of God.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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