Sermons
Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Welcoming Children - June 15, 2014

Matthew 18:1-5; 19:13-15

Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's here today. Happy Father's Day to men, who though they may not have children of their own, teach, mentor, coach and provide for children in many ways.
It is not often I get to say Happy Father's Day to you. Typically I am at the closing worship service of Annual Conference on Father's Day. This year the schedule has me there next Sunday instead.
This Father's Day is special because today two fathers will commit themselves, along with the mothers, to take responsibility for their daughter's spiritual nurture, as the C. and L/T families present Emma Nell and Hazel Grace for baptism. 
Stereotypically we think of fathers being responsible to provide for their children. We now know that fathers also play a critical role in guiding, teaching, and nurturing their children. Studies show that children whose fathers attend church are far more likely to attend church as adults – more so than if it is just the mothers who attend. Dad's your spiritual examples and nurture of your children are important.

As we baptize these two little girls, let us remember that we as a congregation also play an important role. There's a reason why, except in very rare circumstances, baptism is not a private ceremony. It is a public proclamation of faith. The church takes responsibility for the spiritual nurture of those who are baptized. Today as a congregation we will promise to surround Hazel and Emma with a community of love and forgiveness. We will promise to pray for them. We will promise to include them in our care so that they too will grow in their trust of God and be found faithful in their service to others.
Not all churches baptize infants. Some practice what's called believer's baptism, where the baptizee must be old enough to take the vows for him/herself. In those churches more emphasis is placed on the faith of the person being baptized. We, on the other hand, understand that in baptism the primary actor is God, who says, in effect, "This one is mine." That is the primary reason I will not rebaptize someone who has already been baptized. Usually such a request comes when, after a period of inactivity, someone comes back into the church and wants to mark his/her renewed faith. Certainly such a thing is to be celebrated, and we do that with a reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant. To rebaptize, I believe, is to say to God, "You didn't do it right the first time."
As United Methodists we do baptize infants like these two precious little girls today, because Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." We baptize young children because Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." To welcome a child is to welcome Jesus.
Let's reflect on what it means for us as a church to welcome children, both in the sacrament of baptism and more generally in our church.
To welcome children is to welcome Jesus because Jesus came to us as a child. The story of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem is not just a lovely tale to be told at the end of December each year. It is a truth to be lived all year long. God came among us as one of us in the child Jesus, thereby blessing our very humanness, including that of childhood. God continues to come among us as one of us, to be made incarnate or in the flesh, in human beings. Sometimes that is as a child.
We know from the stories of his childhood that Jesus was born to a poor family. Joseph and Mary sacrificed two turtledoves when they presented him at the temple – the poor family's option - rather than a young lamb.
Even today, children have little of worth. They don't own property, work at living wage jobs, or generate funds. As any parent knows, children are expensive: food, clothing, child care, and all the other things they need cost a lot of money. In the same way as families who welcome children know they are in for many expenses, churches who welcome children face many costs. Their Sunday School offerings don't begin to cover the cost of glue sticks and markers, and all the other supplies, not to mention personnel to organize children and youth activities. Children often come to the church to ask for our support, be it for the March Mission Focus or a scout fundraiser.
As a child, Jesus had far less than our kids do. No playstation, bicycle, or college savings account. No baseball equipment, four kinds of jackets, or boxes of legos. Joseph and Mary welcomed him into their lives and hearts. The children who sought out Jesus had no more than he did, and Jesus welcomed them. When we welcome children into our church we do so knowing they are not a zero sum game. We welcome children, knowing we must invest time, energy, and money to do so, because to welcome children is to welcome Jesus.
The Bible tells us that Mary wrapped Jesus in bands of cloth. Babies were typically swaddled in old rags, not cute little onesies with funny sayings on them or fluffy blankets knit for them by Grandma. What the Bible does not expressly say is that Jesus made all the messes that any baby makes: diaper explosions, spit up, and spilled milk. He was not always cute and adorable. As an older child he conveniently forgot all about his parents when he stayed on at the temple talking to the elders, focused on his own interests with little thought for his parents.
Welcoming children into the church, surrounding them with a community of love and forgiveness, recognizes that they won't always be funny or charming. Sometimes they'll vault over the communion rail during worship, fuss during the silent prayer, and stomp grapes into the newly cleaned carpet. Of course we need to set appropriate boundaries for their behavior, and sometimes children will cross them. We welcome them in their fullness because to welcome children is to welcome Jesus.
Jesus welcomed children when the disciples would have shooed them away: "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs." As he later rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey not a war horse, knelt before his disciples to wash their feet, and broke bread saying, "This is my body given for you," Jesus acted out the message he taught. He showed them what service and self sacrifice looked like.
We welcome Jesus when, through service and sacrifice, we welcome children. It is not always convenient to be the second adult at youth group or Tweens. As part of our commitment to be a safe place for everyone, we need that second person here or youth group does not happen. It is a constant struggle to come up with that person and blessings on those who agree to play that role.
Teaching Sunday School is a big commitment. Changing diapers in the nursery is an even humbler act of service than washing feet – and those are all part of welcoming children into the church. They are what we commit to when we say during the baptism service, "we will surround you with a community of love and forgiveness."
I am delighted that we have so many programs for children and youth in this church: Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, Tweens and Youth Group, bell choirs and activity time, the camp angel's fund and the March Mission Focus. And in the end, welcoming children is more than a program or a fund. Welcoming children is an attitude which says children are more important than the building or a peaceful worship service; more important than respectful lines at coffee hour when no one takes more than two cookies or attention to the bottom line in the budget. Welcoming children in our church is an attitude and even more than that, it is a belief: to welcome children is to welcome Jesus.

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    Starting August 18th, 2019 Sunday Worship go back to our regular worship time at 10:30 am Sunday mornings.

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Sunday morning parking at the church is available in the high school parking lot on Third Street across from the church and in the city lots west of the church. These lots are available only on Sunday mornings. A small lot for handicapped parking is available just off of Adams Street on the north side of the church, with an accessible entrance directly into the sanctuary. A lift operates between the Fellowship Hall (3rd Street level) and the Sanctuary. William Sound System Receivers and Headsets are available to assist with hearing problems.

322 East Third Street
Moscow, ID 83843

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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...