My Dear Shepherds,
About three weeks before my retirement Jim and Jenn asked if I’d come to their home to pray with them and their five kids. I had dedicated their firstborn on Mother’s Day, 2001, and their last two, adopted siblings, on Mother’s Day, 2017. Our hour together was a sweet time of tickling and teasing, reminiscing and praying. It was a good night to be a pastor.
I hope that when our church kids grow up they’ll remember that they had a pastor who knew and loved them like Jesus when they were but little lambs. Yet Jesus taught us that we may need kids more than they need us.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
We all grow too big for our britches which keeps us from God. What kids have going for them is that they are small and they know it. Faith comes easily to the child-sized. Once in a while it would do us good to find a tyke at church, get down on one knee, look them in the eye, and say, “When I grow up I want to be little like you.” That’s why we need to be born again.
I still make it a point on Sunday mornings whenever I can to step away from adult conversations to engage with a child, for my sake as much as theirs. It’s not healthy for a Christian, especially a Christian leader, to only circulate among adults. Children disciple us if we have ears to hear and eyes to see.
One Sunday we arranged for a couple of our third graders to pray in the worship service. We asked them to simply pray as they did before bed. So, each in their turn, those two sweet little voices began, “Dear God ….” We all leaned in to hear. Despite being in front of the whole church they somehow prayed as if only Jesus was listening. After they’d each said Amen there was a kind of holy hush. No one clapped or chuckled at how cute they were. Actually, I think most of us were a little envious.
Typically, in our church we dedicate infants, one of my favorite pastoral privileges. But one Sunday after the service a young Korean couple came up to me in the foyer with their son who had been born just that week. “It is the custom in our churches for the pastor to bless our newborns,” they explained. They wanted me to do so right then and there so we huddled together. I placed my hand on that little boy’s head and prayed as wisely as I knew how, ending as God taught Aaron, “The Lord bless you and keep you ….” (I wonder if those were the same words Jesus used.) It just took a couple of minutes but it was one of those little ministries of outsized significance that pastors do. I don’t know where that little fellow is today, but I know this: he’s better off for that blessing. So am I.
Be ye glad!