Everyone is a Child of God
—Rev Margaret Bird, 9 Jul 2017
Matthew 11. 16–19, 25–30.
How are you coping with this hot weather? I’m finding it rather difficult to sleep; my cats are suffering too, poor things—after all they can’t take off their fur coats so they seek out as much shade as they can.
Our children are all grown now, but I still remember when they were young just how tired they would become during the day when it was difficult to sleep at night; it often led to fractious children during the day, too exhausted to cope with the change in temperature.
When we were shopping in Reading yesterday, you couldn’t help but notice the many children who were rather unhappy in the heat: too weary to walk further or crying because it was all too much. Children react to the here and now if they are unhappy or sleepy, they let you know.
When Jesus reminds the crowd about their apathy and lack of attention we can sympathise with his annoyance at their ignorance and indifference. Aren’t children much better at seeing through the mist and discerning the truth? They often see in black and white and are honest. They see what is in front of them and react accordingly. Whereas we, as adults, want all our questions answered and are often blinded to what is hidden from sight. We complicate matters because we can; we put up barriers so that our perceptions are not disturbed or questioned just in case what is revealed to us shakes our foundations.
Jesus says to us, ‘stop, put away your adult ways just for a moment. Begin to think like little children. Open your eyes and see me for who I am and what I bring for you.’
I spend time with those in this society who you look down upon: the ones you ostracise and reject. You accuse them of not being good enough but God loves them just as much as he loves you. I came to live amongst you so that you will see and know that everyone is valued, everyone is a child of God, everyone is welcome. I came for all of you and not just a chosen few (those who think they are superior to the rest).
I want you to know that you can lean on me: everything that troubles you, all your burdens and problems I will share. I can help you to overcome all these if you will just trust me and see why I am here. Just stop, listen, sit for a moment and clear your mind; be like a little child, inquiring, absorbing, wondering, trusting, loving and seeing what is all around them rather than looking through closed or suspicious eyes.
Watching children grow and develop is such an honour: noticing how they deal with the world around them, learn a language so that they can communicate and begin to wonder at life’s mysteries; those questions that are difficult to answer. I’m sure Dolly’s parents have witnessed changes in her since she was born: noticed how she has grown and developed; how she responds to their care and attention. That sense of awe and wonder that we experience when we see an amazing sunset or the face of our new-born child, awake in us something that is of the other; something we often find difficult or impossible to name. Our experience is a spiritual one; it evokes an emotional response. Jesus is asking us to see him with that same sense of awe and wonder, to see him as God come amongst us: an outpouring of God’s love for us in the world, who accepts us as we are. And to show that God loves us, through the care and concern that Jesus offered to the marginalised and lost, in his inclusive ministry and the way he gathered everyone together.
I spent a few days last week in Salisbury staying near the Cathedral. I was there for a course; each morning began with walking across the road and going into the Cathedral to join in with morning prayer and Holy Communion. It was a time to step out of a busy life and just be in the stillness of a relatively empty building, but a prayerful one, where worship and praise had been offered for hundreds of years. In the stillness, in the silence you could just be yourself, free from distractions, and open your heart to God. We don’t always manage to find those moments to stop, pause, rid ourselves of all the baggage we collect. Just for a few precious moments to be still. To turn away from what can become a daily routine or chore, and just reflect what we often cannot see or feel because life gets in the way.
As we baptise Dolly this morning and invite her godparents to make promises on her behalf, we are reminded that we are all asked to turn away from what separates us from God and to turn to Jesus who shows us how to be human. A way that invites us to be more like him: showing God’s love to all those we meet and being more like Jesus.
Perhaps as Dolly’s godparents and parents make those promise on her behalf, you might also like to think about your baptism promises and what they mean to you, and perhaps, some time during this week in our hectic, demanding lives, to find time to be more child like: to stop, pause and see the world through different eyes.