Let us open our hearts in prayer to the Lord, May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
I would like everyone to look at the person sitting to your right, and now at the person on your left. Look at the people in the pew in front of you, those behind. I'm wondering whether you notice what I see that these people have in common, besides that we are all sitting here for worship today? No? Well I see one of the most basic similarities among us all, "for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith". Now maybe you're all thinking, "most of us don't look like children, maybe we are the sons and daughters of God, but I don't think I'm exactly a child any more." I'm going to ask that at least for the sermon we all think of ourselves not just as the sons and daughters of God, but the children of God as well.
All of us have been or are children. Stemming from that fact, I'm sure we will all attest to the honesty and openness of children. Children have the uncanny ability to say whatever is in their minds whenever they feel like it, sometimes much to their parents' dismay. I asked my dad while writing this sermon, if he could remember a time when I had just blurted out something embarrassing. He told me of a time when I must have been three or four and my cousin David was at our house. I knew that David was not my Uncle Geoff's real son, but rather that he had been adopted by my uncle though a relationship with David's mother. It seems that I just went up to David and said, "Why did your dad leave your mom when you were a baby?" David who would have been in his early twenties then, joked around trying to pretend it wasn't serious. But my father also wanted to know although he would never have asked himself. The interesting thing about this incident is that it illustrates the capability of children to ask quite openly what adults are also curious about but what can't be asked because of the accepted rules of social interaction.
Many children in this congregation may be asking questions that we as children of God should be asking: "Why were all those people crying after the unity vote?" "Does it matter if that person was baptized or confirmed?" "Why do we only have one service each year with Second Baptist and IBC?" They also ask some of the questions we want to be asking but feel we can't: "If God is around us all of the time, why can't we see him/her?" "What does God look like?" I remember my brother when he was younger asking a flustered Sunday School teacher how it was that Noah and the animals survived if the flood destroyed everything else, including the plants which provide oxygen needed to live.
Even as we are unable to ask these questions we must remember that God is "ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek" him. He said, "'Here I am, here I am,' to a nation that did not call on [his] name. [He] held out [his] hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices." This sounds to me like something that might be said by many parents with children who are in their terrible two's or, and I'm ashamed to say it, who are teenagers. We all at times are running from God, we don't want to hear his voice, we don't want to do our chores as Christians, or we just want to do our own thing and all of this church stuff is just getting in the way. So we throw our own little form of temper tantrums; we sleep in a little too late on a Sunday, we deliberately avoid a committee meeting, and sometimes we even say things that later we'll regret. We are lucky though. We have a Parent who like all good parents will recognize that we need to rebel every once in a while to be normal children. If we ask for his forgiveness, we will receive it. He will be with us throughout it all. And for this I say thank the Lord.
I have to admit that I have my moments when it seems to me that the best option in any situation is to act like a two-year-old, say to the person, "Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you," and stomp out of the room. But thankfully, I manage to remember that I will have to see that person at the next meeting of the council, search committee, youth group, or class, and unlike when I was a child, I can't get mad at someone, insult them, and still have them be my best friend the next day. As a young child my best friend and I used to fight constantly, and over anything and everything. These fights usually ended with at least one of us screaming, "You can't be my best friend anymore". (And we've all known people like that when we were younger.) Our parents, recognizing that we really were good friends devised a plan to keep us that way. Every time we would fight, we would have to go sit together under the dining room table of the house we were in until we either came up with a solution, or forgot what it was that we were fighting about. I'm beginning to think that with all the shootings, nuclear weapons, and domestic violence that occur in today's society, more people need to be sitting underneath tables with each other.
Children, for all their squabbles and fighting among themselves, are seemingly unaware of the larger differences that cause so many problems in the world, the nation, the state, the city, or even this church. How many children in this congregation know who is Baptist and who is Congregationalist? And as to generations, I'm sure even I look old to some of the children in this congregation. An ongoing joke among the search committee has been that whenever I say something like, "There was a really nice old woman who I remember being in the nursery when we first came here," they will all laugh and say that she was probably only forty. These children understand the conditions under which we "are all children of God through faith." That "there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of [us] are one in Christ Jesus." I wish it were that easy, that we could wave a magic wand over this congregation and say, "There is no longer Baptist or Congregationalist, there is no longer old and young, there is no longer new members and old members." But as some will so aptly point out, it is these differences that make us an unique congregation, that we can embody so many different groups and still be one is to our credit. Still I think it would be a nice testimonial to God and to this church if for even one day we could lay aside those differences and look to our similarities, we are all children of God through faith. As many of us who have or will be baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves in Christ. We all have a vested interest in this church and in each other. So, my brothers and sisters, fellow children of God, dedicate this day to being a child, a child of God.
Let us learn to accept our differences and seek out our similarities.