The Rev. Frank Logue
As a Little Child
In just a few minutes, it will be my great privilege to baptize Andrew Glenn Morris. Mike and Janice bring him here to promise that Andrew will be raised in the Christian faith and life. It is not something they are merely promising to do in the future. Andrew was born into a Christian home and in ways he might not yet fully grasp, he is already being brought up in a Christian life. Andrew will be fully initiated into the Christian faith today. And in baptizing Andrew, we celebrate and make concrete that which the Morrises have already begunraising Andrew to be a person of faith.
However, the task of raising Andrew in the Christian Faith and Life is not one for the parents. All of us have a role to play in this baptism. For we all make solemn promises today. After the presentation and some promises by the parents and grandparents, I will ask everyone of you to respond to this question: Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support this person in his life in Christ? The answer printed in the booklet is, We will. As a church, this is the promise we made to Emily Gross at her baptism last November and again we made this promise on Thursday when Mark, Deonna, Devon, Mark, and Elissa West were baptized. As we move forward as a community of faith, we will be called on again and again to pledge our support to people baptized at King of Peace.
Baptizing children creates a special burden for us at King of Peace. After all, we need to keep the promise we make to children in baptism. Our baptismal promise to do all in our power to help these children means that we must create an atmosphere, in which children are loved and know that they are truly valued. Then the task of raising them in the Christian Faith and Life is so much easier. We have to be open to ministry to children that values children as God values them.
If we take a look at this mornings reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we can see that Gods view of children is not always the same as ours. Jeremiah is writing about the very beginning of his ministry. He tells of his response, the first time he heard Gods word for him. God tells Jeremiah that before he was even born, God had a plan for his life. The young Jeremiah responds by telling God what God already well knows. He says, I do not know how to speak. I am only a boy. Jeremiah hears God and understands, but he is afraid to do anything about it, because he is only a child. God went on to tell him that only being a boy was no excuse. We shouldnt be surprised. God has always picked people others considered unlikely and God often ministers to us through children.
Its not that children were not valued in Ancient Israel. They were. We read throughout the Bible how children were seen as a gift from God, a blessing to their parents. But, older persons were honored by the society for their experience, and rightly so. Children were the powerless ones at the bottom of society. And yet, God did not view things that way. God looks more to the potential a person has and sees more than we can see. God gave the young Joseph the gift of interpreting dreams. Though his brothers got jealous of their fathers attentions and tried to get rid of him, God still used that gift to make Joseph ruler over Egypt. Later God gave the child David great gifts in music and great courage to stand up for what is right. As a young boy, David stood up to the mighty warrior Goliath. Samuel anointed David as Gods chosen King while he was still a child. David went on to rule over Israel as a great king. So this story of Jeremiah hearing Gods call as a boy is nothing out of the ordinary. Children can always serve as a reminder of Gods presence among us.
Andrew is himself a constant reminder of Gods love and care. At Christmastime, Andrew was the source of both great concern and great joy for King of Peace. The Tuesday Morning Womens Group and others here at King of Peace joined us in praying for both Janice and Andrew soon after his birth. Things had not exactly gone according to plan for either Janice or Andrew. Andrew was rushed down to Shands in Jacksonville for Intensive Care. We joined with other friends and family of the Morris family in praying for Andrew and most of all we prayed that they would be together for Christmas. Christmas Eve came and there was no Andrew and it was unlikely he would come home for a couple of days. But on Christmas Day, Janice and Mike were surprised when Andrew was ready to come home and they found themselves driving back from Jacksonville with a great Christmas gift. Andrew is a miracle. I see Andrew and am reminded that prayer can and does make a difference. Of course, thats easier for me than for Mike and Janice. I dont change Andrews diapers or stay up walking the floor with him when he wakes up at night. But none of that makes him less of a miracle among us.
We have these reminders of God in the children all around us. Being in touch with what they see and what they need can teach us too. As I mentioned earlier, we baptized Devon West this week along with her Dad and siblings. As a full initiation into Christianity, baptism is the rite of initiation. After baptism, you can fully take part in the church. This means, among other things, that all the West children can now take communion. On Thursday, I was reminded that I had not fully thought this through. You see Devon is allergic to wheat gluten. As Griffin and I bake the King of Peace communion bread ourselves, we well know how full of whole-wheat flour the communion bread is. However, any communion bread would be full of flour and wheat gluten. I dont want to rule out the possibility of the miraculous, that Devon could take communion and not be affected. But I also dont want Devon to have an allergic reaction to communion.
Just as I was trying to scroll through the possibilities in my mind, Bishop Louttit spoke up. He has heard of Devons dilemma and had a ready solutionrice cakes. We could have a piece of rice cake as part of the communion, so that Devon could take part. Being the fresh-from-seminary priest, I was a little slow to catch up with the Bishop. After all, hes been a pastor a lot longer than I have. I wasnt sure about the symbolism. Exactly how do rice cakes fit into our story? What does it mean to have rice cakes among the bread? The Bishop was way ahead of me and it took me a moment to catch up. What matters most in this case is not bread, but inclusion. King of Peace should make room for Devon to be fully included in our Christian Faith and Life. If including Devon means a little piece of rice cake with the bread, then thats what we do. After all, we vowed to support her. So as I was at the grocery store on Friday picking out the rice cakes, I was thinking this all through. Devons allergic reaction to gluten was teaching me about Communion. God cannot be confined to bread alone. Communion is a word for a deep connection with God and with each other. King of Peace could have no real communion if that meant that Devon had to be excluded from part of it.
Andrew and Devon are just two examples. They are just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg that will demolish all our notions about who God is only to replace them with a truer picture of God. As we as a community open ourselves up to the ministry of children as well as the ministry to children, we can learn from children as well as teach to them. Both are important.
The Bible makes it clear that children can know and love God in a way that can elude us adults. Once when people were bringing their children to Jesus for his blessing, the disciples tried to stop them. Jesus got mad at the disciples. He told them, Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:13-15).
Aldo Leopold was a great conservationist and favorite writer of mine. He wrote that he thought the process we called growing up was often a case of growing down as we went from a world full of possibility to learning more and more things that we couldnt become or that could never happen. We can come to miss the possibilities. Children cause us to see things afresh and can open us back up to the possibilities.
I got an email about this recently. I want to share it with you. Its on how children view the world:
It is no wonder that God loves children. They look at the world God has made and see it full of wonder and possibility, just as God sees it. King of Peace is blessed with lots of children for through their eyes we can see things anew. They bring up new challenges and new opportunities.
Jeremiah found out that saying, I am only a boy was not an excuse that worked with God. For God did not see a man in the making, who needed a few more years experience to be useful, but a full child of God.
For the children here this morning, I challenge you to not hold back on God. God is not waiting for you to learn to read better or to pray fancier. God loves you now, just as you are. God wants to be with you as you become all that you can be.
For the adults here this morning, I want to challenge you to approach God once again as a little child. Because childlike faith is the kind that God loves the most.
King of Peace Episcopal Church + 6230 Laurel Island Parkway + Kingsland, Georgia 31548-2526