My first memory of this story about Jesus comes from a picture which hung on the Sunday School classroom walls of the Aspinwall United Presbyterian Church. Brown haired, blue eyed, white skinned Jesus smiling and laughing surrounded by children who were also smiling and laughing. And, my guess is as you heard me read that story about Jesus and the children a moment ago, the images that those word evoked for you included Jesus with your children or grandchildren. Laughing. Talking. Learning. Maybe something like a holy Time with the Children.
But, truth be told, we often misread these verses.
And those pictures from my childhood misrepresent the harsh reality behind the actual meaning and message of this story. A reality in which children were considered disposable. Literally. Occupying the lowest place on the social totem pole. Forced to leave home if there was too little food and too many mouths to feed. Abandoned if they were disabled or the wrong sex or if they could not add to the family’s worth. A harsh reality still in play in too many places in our world today.
“Let these children come to me.” Jesus said.
The dirty. The disposable. The disabled. The invisible.
And, not only is it easy to misread these verses, this morning I also run the risk of misusing these verses. Pulling and pushing them into a shape to fit what I would like to say today. I realize that. I run that risk anytime I put my words alongside these words.
So, with that said, this.
On this morning when we recognize and celebrate children.
And, remembering, too, it is Mother’s Day.
These thoughts about our children.
And, by extension, about the rest of us as well.
Pay attention to the pronoun I used.
Not my children.
Or, not only my children.
Our children who sing in Joyful Noise.
Our children who receive Bibles.
Our children who squirm in their seats or who fuss at inopportune times.
Our children who run off to Sunday Spirit.
Our children who are confirmed.
Our children who graduate from high school.
Our children who build homes in Nicaragua or repair homes in Appalachia.
Our children who hang out here on Friday nights.
With all that pronoun implies?
And, on top of that…
A dozen times or so times a year you promise to care for and to support and to pray for and to be an example for the children who are baptized and the children who grow up in our midst. Again, pay attention to the pronoun.
Maybe even, me…as I continue to try to figure out this growing up stuff.
The pronoun my is hard enough.
As in my children.
Having some part to play in raising two sons, I know what the exhausting and wonderful and wouldn’t-trade-it-for-the world time and energy and commitment required to raise children. The pronoun our, if we take what we say seriously, is an even more daunting challenge. The circle of concern and care and support and love suddenly becomes exponentially larger.
Who falls within that circle defined by our?
Where does our responsibility start and stop?
I leave it to you to decide, but I would suggest the circle includes not only my children and our children, but also the children who, on that day, climbed onto the lap of Jesus. And, maybe that is why all this is worth thinking about on this day when we celebrate the children in our midst and remember mothers everywhere and give thanks for all who cared for us and supported us loved us.