I spent this morning at a regional airport, celebrating my 20-year-old son’s first solo flight. This is a big day in the life of a would-be pilot, so three of his flight instructors came to observe and congratulate. There were lots of smiles and swells of humble pride.
Then three moms arrived with their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. The children ran as fast as their little legs could carry them toward the airport’s viewing platform. They shouted with glee, pointing at the planes as the children danced, unable to keep still in their excitement.
Already very happy for my son, I then saw the small airport through the eyes of the children. How remarkable it is that these vehicles can fly! These almost odd-looking, two-seater planes taxi down a runaway with speed faster than my camera’s ability to focus and then, through the miracle of physics, hurl themselves into the air until they become just speck far in the sky. Wow!
The children’s exhilaration was contagious. Anyone who works with little children will tell you that this is one of the gifts they offer us adults.
As children grow and develop, they try to find their place in the larger, serious world. They become keenly aware of what others are doing and what they think, especially what others think about them. When the children are affirmed, they grow in confidence, venturing to ask questions and defining themselves as unique individuals.
For both of these reasons, we are celebrating Children’s Sabbath this Sunday. We want to challenge the grown-ups in our congregation to see the wonders of worship anew, through the eyes of those who are newest to our community. We will take time during the liturgy to explain why we engage in some of the practices we do every week, inviting all of us into deeper reflection.
We also seek to affirm our children. We say that they are a blessing to the congregation. We talk about how they are the future of our faith. This Sunday we are elevating our truly heartfelt words with actions that facilitate them to participating more fully in our cloud of witnesses. Even beyond participation, they will help to lead us.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet centers his writing on themes of restoration and elaborates on what an ideal kingdom will look like: a kingdom of peace where even the natural enemies of wolves and lambs dwell in harmony, a kingdom where “a little child shall lead them.” When Jesus walked the earth, his ministry also taught about a kingdom that looked “upside down,” where the first shall be last, and the last, first; where those who are exalted shall be humbled and those who are humbled shall be exalted. (Matthew 23) This Sunday, we seek to glorify these themes, especially as we long for restoration and pray fervently for peace.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” and he blessed them. (Matthew 19) We know that even as we bless our children, they are also a blessing to us. No one dances like no one is watching and loves like they’ve never been hurt before better than a child. As the most innocent among us, children help us remember how to love wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. They model a way for us to pray without ceasing, boldly asking again and again and again. They show us how not to worry, trusting that their parent will take care of their needs. They see the beauty of the world through eyes not yet made cynical, taking in God’s amazing creation, while we adults may often rush by too quickly to notice.
And as we baptize little children, we are reminded of our own baptism, where we are lovingly accepted, just as we are, and not because of anything we earned through our labor, but simply because we are a beloved child of God. (1 John) We are reminded of the holiness of water and the way that God’s forgiveness cleanses us of all our sins. We remember that we have the opportunity to be reborn, as God promises to make all things new. (Revelation 21)
Children are a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127). As we celebrate them this Sunday, we celebrate the United Parish in Brookline as a community, lifting up the smallest and the greatest alike. We hope you will bring your inner-child and worship with us.