A Simple Gesture, A Sacred Act How many times have you seen squirming children and anxious parents sitting in worship? As the church gathers in celebration and song, in prayer and reading, in water and word, in bread and wine, we bring all that we are to the house of worship and the table of grace. We bring our whole selves, all of our idiosyncrasies, our fears, our joys, our sorrows, and all that makes us who we are. When parents bring their children to worship, they are living out their faith and fulfilling the promises that they made when their children were baptized. Yet, many parents come with anxiety that their children will be too loud and disruptive. They tend to sit in the back where they can quickly excuse themselves if their child cries out or “makes a scene.” Unfortunately, the farther children are from the “action of worship” the more disconnected they are, and therefore less participatory. Yet, if families with small children sit closer to the front, parents risk the greater scrutiny of other worshipers. The truth is that children are not little adults, they are kids. And the way their brains work are much different than the way adult brains work. They cannot sit still for an entire hour of worship, nor can they be silent. They are children and we know that; we were children once. And many of us still are, no matter how big we get. I have heard the argument from some that when they were children or when they had children, they were made to be still and be quiet. If they didn’t they were reprimanded or punished, with a pinched ear or a poke, or “taken outside until you learned.” But what does that teach our children about the love and grace of God? Would God punish a child for standing up and looking backward in a pew? Would God pinch a child for making a joyful noise at an inappropriate time in the service? Parents have a hard enough time just getting their families to worship, much less running herd over them so everyone else can worship. Several weeks ago, a saw a beautiful sight, a simple gesture, and a sacred act. While leading worship, I saw a woman in the back of the sanctuary pacing back and forth. Upon closer inspection I realized she was cradling a child and gently rocking it as she walked. What was beautiful in that moment was my realization that the child she was holding was not hers, nor were they related. She had witnessed a struggling mom trying to tend to another child, while still holding on to a squirming toddler. As an act of grace, she had offered to take the toddler so the mother could do what was necessary without “causing a scene.” That simple gesture was indeed a sacred and holy act. It was a way of living out the gospel, a true act of welcome. How many of us wouldn’t have deeply appreciated someone to offer this when our children were young and causing us such anxiety in worship? How we are church for all of God’s people makes a huge difference. It does take a village to raise a child, but not just a child. It takes a village to be the Body of Christ. When one struggles, we all struggle. When one hurts, we all hurt. When one rejoices, we all rejoice. A life of simple gestures is a life of sacred acts!
Let the children come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God!