Saturday, December 13, 2014

A little child

(I was looking for a particular document in my "document library"--that's what Windows calls it--and happened upon a sermon from 8 years ago, just after my granddaughter twins, Emma and Morgan, were born. Thought I'd share it with you.

I don't listen to Imus anymore, by the way, not since the girls were born--too cynical for a man with granddaughters....)

A LITTLE CHILD (9/24/06)

In the midst of his travels through Galilee, teaching and healing, Jesus encounters a dispute between his disciples. They have been arguing and debating who among them was “the greatest”.
That’s not surprising to me. I suspect it’s not surprising to you.
There’s the story about two old friends who meet after many years and the first friend talks about his success in business and how much money he makes, how big his house is, how many SUV’s he has and how important he is in the community. Finally, he says to the other friend, “Enough about me….How do you think I’m doing?”
I’m a great fan of Imus in the Morning on 660 A.M. radio. Imus is disrespectful, politically incorrect and often obscene. His friend, Charles McCord, does the news. Charles can report the death of thousands from a Typhoon in Asia, a bombing in Beirut and a drive-by shooting in Queens and Imus will say something like, “I didn’t sleep well and have a terrible headache….”
God bless him, Imus is honest and predictable. It’s ALL ABOUT HIM.
The truth is, I’m like that too. It is all about me—whatever comes up, no matter how distant or how horrible—I’ll find a way to have it be about ME.
It’s all “ego” all the time.
Of course the disciples would be arguing and fussing about which of them was “greatest”—more important, most valuable, indispensable.
Harriet Fotter and I were talking this week about what I want to happen in October since I’ll be away on the first leg of a split up sabbatical.
“I want Sunday attendance to double,” I told her.
She looked at me a long time. “Do you really mean that?” she said. “Do you really want attendance to double without you here?”
And I have to admit I had to think about it….
It’s all ego all the time…..

So Jesus gave the disciples a “talkin’ to” and then a living example.
He told them that the one who would be greatest must be servant to all.
Give up your desires, your ambitions, your need to be “the greatest”, he told them. The only way to be “great” is to clean up the messes, follow along behind, take care of everybody else.
Not what they wanted to hear, I’m sure. Not what I want to hear, by the way….
Then he took a little child and put the child in their midst. Jesus picked up the child and held it close to him.
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me,” he said, kissing the child’s head, holding the small body against himself, “and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

I spent a lot of time Friday holding Morgan Rhys and Emma Case in my arms, kissing their heads, feeding them bottles of my daughter-in-law Cathy’s breast milk, having them fall asleep on my shoulder, feeling their little, so new, so wondrous bodies against me.
I must admit I’d always doubted all the hoopla about grandchildren. Well, I said to myself when grandparents were going on and on about the miracle of it all, “well, it can’t be that astonishing….”
I was wrong. It is “that” astonishing to welcome a little child into Life and into my life. It is “that astonishing”. That wondrous. That holy.
More than one person has said to me since those two girls—Morgan and Emma were born—“I guess we’re going to have to hear a lot about your granddaughters from now on….”
How right they were.
Your ego goes away when you hold a baby to your chest. Who I am and what I accomplish and whether I’m “the greatest” ceases to matter, absolutely and finally, when I hold those two girls in my arms. It’s not “about me”, any more. It’s about them—welcoming them into the world, into my life, into a lifetime of hope and magic and amazement—that’s all that matters.
Already, in my imagination, Emma is a scientist who will find the cure some horrific disease and Morgan will be an artist, a pianist perhaps, who will bring joy to the world through her talents and gifts. And both of them will know love and heart-break and love again. And they will make the world a better place because they have lived in it.
Jesus was so right….(Well, we expect him to be, don’t we?) It is in welcoming the child that we find meaning and joy and purpose. Ever so often, I see a baby picture of me. We have one on the mantle of our kitchen fireplace. And I also see pictures of me as a child—a skinny little boy with a bad haircut (who am I to talk?) and a crooked little smile.
We are all children, somewhere deep inside. And what Jesus knew and what he told us is true, true, true…all that matters is how we welcome God’s children, how we hold them near, how we make them a part of our community, how we open them to the possibilities of life.
Whatever else the church is “for”; whatever else our purpose as the Body of Christ might be—there is this, this and this most importantly—we must provide “hospitality” and welcome to the little ones who God loves most of all.
And we are all, all of us, “little ones” down deep. We are all the child Jesus embraced in the circle of his disciples. We are all the pictures on the mantles. We are all the Morgans and the Emmas of God.
And how shall we find “greatness”? By welcoming everyone who walks through these doors. By embracing them and holding them near. By acknowledging the possibilities of their lives. By knowing that in welcoming them—the little ones, the strangers—we are welcoming God into our midst.
It is all pretty simple.
And so challenging…so hard….

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.