By Pastor Krista Ducker
Opening video: (a kind of children’s moment): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii_LtHrEiao
Today is Family Sunday; a day when we take time to celebrate families and all they do to provide love and stability in our society. In honor of this day, I’d like to share a list of Ten Rules for Children in the Worship Service; just as a public service to our families here at Brookings First...
FB post: Ten Rules for children in the worship service (NOTE: Each rule has a corresponding slide in the presentation)
Rules for children in the worship service:
One. If you find that you're sitting in front of a child and they can't see, lean to the side.
Two. If the children seated behind you are rustling papers, hand them a crayon.
Three. If there is a baby that is crying, offer to take the baby from their parent and walk to the back of the church and rock the child for a while. The parent really needs a break.
Four. If the teenagers are whispering give them some Smarties. The rustling and crinkling will replace their whispering.
Five. If an adult complains to an usher about the noisy children near them, offer to trade seats with that adult and then apologize to the parents of the children.
Six. When a child is running around giving everyone high-fives during the time of passing the peace/greeting your neighbor make sure to give them an extra fun high-five, and then high-five the next five adults that you see.
Seven. If a child has worn tap shoes to church and is dancing on the wood portion of the floor, slip the sheet music for "The Entertainer" to the pianist and roll with it.
Eight. When the children can't hear because an adult around them won't take off their puffy jacket and it keeps squeaking and distracting the children, offer to help them off with their jacket and go hang it up for them where it goes.
Nine. When the three-year-old insists on standing on the front pew turned backwards looking at the rest of the people, give the child a pair of very dark glasses. That will prevent the child from catching any adult's eye, which would lead to distracting them. This will protect the adults who as we know have very short attention spans and are easily distracted.
Ten. When a child in front of you is very squirmy, and then they finally turn around and you realize suddenly, "Oh, it's Jesus!" take it in stride and play Got Your Nose till he turns around to the front again.
Our text: Ephesians 6:1-4
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: 3 “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
In our scripture for today, we are given a window into the ancient concept of family; the expectations that came along with being part of a family unit as it made its way through life in a society very different from ours; and this is one of those times when I find myself surprised at how applicable this word is to us, though two millenia have passed since it was written.
The text itself is based on a law, which by that time had been handed down from generation to generation--which itself was not unlike other ancient law codes in the near East at the time; with some important qualifications. The greatest example we have in our faith tradition, arguably in all the world, is the Ten Commandments. We find them in our Bibles in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. And in them is the command to honor your father and mother. Our text this morning echoes that command in verse 6; let’s look at it:
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord,[a] for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: 3 “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth
This echoes, nearly word for word, the fifth commandment:
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Ex. 20:12)
16 Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Deut. 5:16)
But it doesn’t stop there; in much the same way that Jesus would say to his followers; “You have heard it said, but I say to you”, the Apostle takes the letter of the law further, in verse 4:
4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
And it’s not the only place he does this; let’s look at the book of Colossians, chapter 3:
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.
In fact, Colossians 3-4 and Ephesians 6 constitute parallel teachings which both challenge the prevailing power structures of there day in dynamic ways:
They take on the marriage system:
21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord…25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
(Eph. 5:21-22, 25, 28/Col. 3:18)
And the labor system:
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; 6 not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, 8 knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.
9 And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality. (Ephesians 6:5-9/Col. 3:22-4:1)
In effect, Paul takes a commandment well known to all his Jewish sisters and brothers, and expands it; to include not only families, but also larger power structures in society. And he targets the three groups that had the least power and influence in his world; children, women and slaves. In this way, Paul enlarges the discussion to include not only family relationships, but power structures, assumptions, and the very building blocks of what made up society in this day. Paul recognized that they are all related, because they all have to do with how we relate.
The truth is; we are not only members of families; we are members of systems that act like families. We are part of organizational structures outside our families that sometimes, perhaps often, act like families. And in all of those systems, Paul tells us through this scripture, we are to act in ways that promote our common flourishing; so that none is left out, abused, or hurt, but all can be free to serve one another out of love, in peace, and with joy. In essence, Paul is saying; “Be kind! Love one another. Be good to each other.”
Of course, we live in a society that rightly has condemned slavery as a valid system of getting things done. But the concept remains the same; we need to work together and be kind to one another, whether in our families or in any of the societal structures in which we operate--structures that so often mirror the dynamics of our families.
So let’s experiment a little. I want to offer some paraphrases of Paul’s words; some other possibilities to update them a little bit. How about these:
“Big sisters and big brothers, help your younger siblings to learn and grow, and don’t pick on them; for one day you will be grown and can support each other in your journey.”
“Employees, be dependable and dedicated in your work, and respectful to your supervisors, and bosses; don’t make their lives difficult; listen to them and work with them to be the best people they can be, at home and at work, so that together you can make your community a better place.”
“Players; train hard, be passionate and help your teammates. Give them the ball. Remember that you get to your goals together, as a team, and not as individuals. And coaches, model good character to your players and don’t push them to the point of exhaustion and injury. Remember that the ultimate goal is not a shelf full of trophies, but the development of good character in every player you coach.”
“Students, be diligent in your work, and try your best to offer your best in the classroom, not only in your assignments, but in your relationships with your classmates and with your teacher. Be kind. And teachers, recognize the constellation of relationships and circumstances, some helpful and some harmful, that your students are part of each day--be patient, kind and creative in your work, recognizing that you play an integral role in who they are becoming and your work bears eternal fruit.”
We are all part of constellations of relationships; in our families, in our community, in our places of work and learning. Each of these constitutes a building block of our society. At various times in our lives, we will be called to lead or to follow; to direct or to be directed. And wherever we find ourselves, as children of God we are called to work together in love toward our common flourishing.
What Paul is talking about essentially is kindness; motivated by love. Back in Paul’s day and before, law codes generally didn’t concern themselves with love. That wasn’t the motivating factor--law and order, yes; keeping people in their place, yes. Love, not so much.
But God did not let things stay that way. God began to reveal godself to a small, seemingly insignificant band of former slaves called Hebrews. God began to show them how important it is that we care for the outsider; that we give generously to those who don’t have enough; that we love our neighbor and take care of them.
And then God came in the form of one of them to live that law of love for us; to show us what it looks like when we care about people more than we care about power; he commanded us to love God and love each other as we love ourselves. He even said that was the most important thing--that all the law codes and rules and regulations we only created in service to this greatest commandment; that we love. Let us be people, not of regulations, rules, and loopholes, but of love; that our actions would be motivated not out of a desire to fit in or get ahead, but to include our neighbors so that we call can flourish together. This is God’s way for us; let us walk in it.
Let us pray; as we do, I invite you, when you hear the words “Hear us, Lord,” please respond with; “Lord, graciously hear us.”
A prayer for families:
We are very thankful, God, for the good times we have with our families. Thank You for allowing us to enjoy each other’s company. Thank You for giving us time to spend with them each day.
Preserve our good relationships, Father, whenever we are with our beloved families. Let peace reign in our homes and let compassion fill each of our hearts. Teach us what it is to experience real joy and enable us to show each other what this means.
Hear us, Lord...Lord, graciously hear us.
Dear God, we commit to you those in our families who have fallen sick. We believe that you are our Healer, our Great Physician. May You be the comfort of our family members who are physically in pain right now. Touch them with Your Healing Hands, Lord. Send forth your Word and heal their diseases. Let Your healing power flow through every cell of their bodies.
Loving God, we also ask that you heal the members of our families who are hurting emotionally. Their affliction is not physical, but we know that they are also in pain. Give them comfort as well, God. Give them the peace that transcends understanding. Heal their hearts, Lord, which may be full of anger, hatred, strife, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Clear their minds of any doubt, anxiety, or depression. Renew in them a peaceful spirit.
Hear us, Lord...Lord, graciously hear us.
We also pray that You would restore the bonds that have been broken among our families. We know, God, that there is nothing You would want more than feuding relatives to reconcile with each other. But we also admit, Lord, that we cannot do this on our own. For that, we ask Your Holy Spirit to surround us with Your love. May we be filled to the brim with love, that it may overflow and we may share it with our families. Allow us to be instruments of Your blessings to them. In due time, Lord, let our relationships also be restored. All these we pray in Your Name, Amen.
Hear us, Lord...Lord, graciously hear us.
Heavenly Father, You are our ultimate source of strength. When we are weak, You are strong. You lift us up when we are down. You renew our strength, and we soar on wings like eagles. Thank You, God, for always raising us up with Your mighty hands.
How strong our bonds are with our families depends on You, Lord. Which is why we ask You to always be the center of our family relationships. Enable our families to be as a triple-braided cord that cannot easily be broken. Let Your Spirit fill our hearts so we can love each other just as Christ loves us.
You are our strength when we are weak, God, and we are always grateful when You manifest Your power through our lives.
Hear us, Lord...Lord, graciously hear us.
Loving God, we admit that we are not always the lovers of peace that You want us to be. There are times in our families when we fight and bicker with each other. There are times when we let anger, strife, and bitterness rule over our hearts and because of this, we end up hurting our families. We ask for You to forgive us, loving Father, for these sins against our own families. Change our hearts and make them truly loving.
Also enable us, Father God, to extend the same forgiveness to the members of our families whom we have hurt. Humble us, Lord, so that we may seek forgiveness without pride.
Hear us, Lord...Lord, graciously hear us.
Lord, You are our Prince of Peace and the One that guards our hearts. May You always remind us to be peacemakers, especially within our families. Protect us from hateful thoughts, and let us not be the reason for causing chaos in our homes. Guide us each day as we walk through life with our families, wherever each of us may be. All these things we ask in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray: Our Father...
Celebrating Schoolteachers & Educators
By Pastor Pete Grassow
Our focus for the month is on the education of our children....
There are a number of education verses in the Bible. Today I will use three different quotes: Begin with the Book of Acts.
Act 13:1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Act 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Act 13:3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on
them and sent them off.
I recently heard someone saying - "all religions are basically the same. It does not matter what you believe - as long as you love God and be kind to people". Which of course is right: in that we should all love God and love one another.
But at the same time is fundamentally wrong - because all religions do not believe the same things. But because many people think this - we take bits and pieces of faith and cobble them together to make up a faith that suits us:
So, for example: there are people who follow Jesus, but also believe that karma will get you in the end, and hang crystals in their windows to keep evil away - a mixture of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, and the ancient religions of Egypt and Greece.
Those who first followed Jesus understood this - and were clear that we who are Christian should be taught our faith so that we do not wander off the path: Which brings me to our second education quote from the Bible: We find the following words of warning:
2Ti 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
2Ti 4:4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
...which might still be true today: because so many people seem to follow myths - better known as fake news. These are the people who have two sources of information: I saw it on Facebook: or I found it on Google.
Oh, and then the third source: I heard it from my friend - who saw it on the computer.
And the problem with this approach is that we never pause to ask the fundamental question of all education: do I have the research skills needed to separate truth from lies. All of which is based on the assumption that "I will know the truth when I see it".
the slogan of our age "Don't trust anyone - do your own research" - as if I know how to do my own research because I can read - or because I can click a mouse on the computer!
This is not the way of our Christian ancestors. They understood that people need to be taught. And they set aside teachers to do this: (Acts 13:1) which is recorded as having "prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul."
Here are the first teachers: Barnabas, Simeon, Manaen - and Saul (who becomes St Paul). To this list we can Pricilla, and Lydia and Timothy.
Here are the people who were qualified and accredited by the church to teach the faith. And ever since then we have a rich history of Christian teachers, which include names such as such as Origen of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, Catherine of Siena,
Martin Luther, John Wesley, William Barclay, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Rosemary Radford Reuther.
I would suggest that this is more than just teaching in church - forming our children extends to the teachers in schools, colleges and universities / the coaches on the sports fields / and the teachers of dance and music and art.
It is tough being a teacher right now. Teachers are confronted by people who have been educated by a YouTube video and use this to bring their anger and division about the teaching curriculum, and masks, and personal FaceBook philosophies. And they negate the training and experience of teachers. I am reminded of the story of I heard:
A mom calls out to her son "Harry! Wake up! You'll be late for school." The son replies, "Mom I don't want to go to school! The teachers and students hate me! Give me one reason I should go!" The mom says back, "You should go because you're the school principal!"
Today I am inviting us to pray for, and to encourage our School Principles, and teachers and educators, and Sunday School teachers and youth leaders. It is a tough time to be a teacher. Let us choose to encourage all who teach children - rather than to pile on yet more criticism.
That said - I want to take us one step deeper:
I want to point to our third education verse from the Bible:
1Jn 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The real question is what standard do we use to test the truth: if I find myself confronted by a YouTube Video - or by the neighborhood expert...how do I test it? How do I ask "Is it true”?
If we follow Jesus - then test every teaching against the life and teachings of Jesus!
Study the life and actions of Jesus Listen to the teachings of Jesus.
Anything that crosses my path can be tested - out of all that I have learned about Jesus: would He have said this - or done this.
This is my test of truth.
To do that we need teachers to help us discern what Jesus said and did.
Sometimes we think that we can do this by ourselves: I can read the Bible - that is sufficient!
Remember: You are reading a 2000-year-old document/ from a different culture / in a completely different part of the world. Sometimes I wish that we did not have the Bible in English - because this makes us assume that we are reading about an English world - Jesus spoke English - Jesus was a white American:
Jesus spoke Arabic - lived in Palestine - was a Jew.
So, gather your resources: teachers who love Jesus - and have spent a lifetime learning from Jesus - and learn from them.
Our passage we started with: the church drew two men from the pool of teachers:
Act 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ''Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Act 13:3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Teaching was not the possession of the group - teachers are to go out and teach:
If you have accumulated any knowledge - then go and teach it! Do ot sit in the smug satisfaction of knowing something - share it with someone else. Every one of us is capable of teaching one other person.
If you have heard anything worthwhile in my words - tell someone else!
Like Little Children
By Pastor Krista Ducker
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, 3 and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Falling into sin
6 “As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and be drowned in the bottom of the lake.
In this passage, Jesus responds to a question from the disciples that constitutes what we’d call a “teachable moment”; they ask him who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And in his response to them, Jesus re-defines what greatness looks like, by comparing the “greatest” in the kingdom to the very least in the human order of things in the ancient near east: children. He says to his disciples; “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus then goes on to say that there are three ways that children teach us about what it means to be great in God’s kingdom:
Children are humble; therefore, we are called to humility (verse 4); 4 Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Note: children are not only mentioned here because they are dependent and innocent. In Ancient Near Eastern society, children had no power or influence, and their lives were very precarious, especially if they did not have the protection of parents (that is, orphans). They were excluded from adult male society, that is the sphere of power in that world, at least until they reached the age of maturity, which would have been around 13 years old. So if we are to be a part of God’s kingdom, we will relinquish control to God and operate out of a spirit of humility.
Second, We are called to hospitality (verse 5); “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Jesus says to us that anytime we welcome and show care to those who are weaker members of society, it is as if we are welcoming Christ; this word hospitality is not about impressing our friends or having the fanciest, most lavish house parties in town--it is about an attitude of the heart that is open, that treats everyone with dignity and holds space for them with generosity of spirit and patience.
Third, We are called to be good examples of faith (verse 6); A stern warning, but a reminder--the way we behave toward each other matters. How might we be causing each other to stumble? Especially now in our highly charged times? Sometimes I think of the command that we not use the Lord’s name in vain in this way. If I use the same mouth to praise God and curse my neighbor, am I not tarnishing God’s name? Who would want to know God after seeing me behave like that?
How we behave toward those who are weaker, or sick among us--or those who share different views--matters. We need to operate out of a place of humility and hospitality, with welcome and generous hearts, so that we do not lead others into places they shouldn’t go.
This evening on our first Manna in the Middle service in a year and a half, we have had the tremendous joy of confirming one of our young people into the church and into a growing faith in God. Ayden, we celebrate this with your family and your confirmation friends, and we welcome you into this church family.
And in a little while we will be welcoming students of all ages as we bless their backpacks and award bibles to our children. Let us look at these moments not only as opportunities to bless them, but to be reminded of God’s call to us to be people of humble hospitality; that we would allow God to shape us into strong role models of faith for these young people, and for all who look to us for guidance, in Jesus’ name.
By Pastor Pete Grassow
Intro: Today we come to this service with a number of things on our minds:
• Yesterday was 9/ 11 - and many people are sad.
• We continue to be challenged by the Corona Virus - and more people are dying now than last year this time.
• And it is National Grandparents Day.
I want to honor all of these emotions - will speak about Grandparents, and then lead us in prayer for those who have died
I remember the moment that I discovered I was a grandfather - My daughter phoned - and spoke to my wife: "You are going to be a grandfather" I thought it smart to say "So I will be married to a granny"; to which she replied "such a young woman going to bed with a Grandfather feels kind of wrong". Because it is Grandparent's Day, I have chosen a passage about a grandparent: it is a beautiful story of love, and compassion - a story that I hope will challenge us:
Naomi is a Jewish widow, who comes from Bethlehem. She had moved with her husband and two sons from Israel across the Dead Sea to the land of Moab - which is an ancient kingdom whose territory today is located in the modern state of Jordan. And then tragedy struck: her husband died. Her sons married local women and lived with their mom for the next ten years. And more tragedy both her sons died. So she decided to move back to Bethlehem. Naomi released her daughters-in-law from their obligation to care for their mother-in-law: she told them to find new husbands within their own culture. One daughter went back to her family - but the other chose to go with her mother-in-law. Her name was Ruth.
Ruth 1:16 But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.....
Ruth 1:22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Here Ruth meets a local Jewish man called Boaz . He was a relative of her deceased father-in-law, and custom dictated that he should take her in and care for her: in fact there is provision in Jewish law that suggests that he should marry Ruth. It is called Levirate marriage - and says that if your brother dies then you must marry his widow - (do I see you thinking about how this would turn out today?) Let me read a bit from Scripture:
Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.
Ruth 4:14 Then the women said to Naomi, ''Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!
Ruth 4:15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him."
Ruth 4:16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.
Ruth 4:17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ' son has been born to Naomi." They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Today I want to speak briefly to all who have Grandparents and then to all who are Grandparents.
First of All: The story of Ruth challenges us in the way we view older people: anyone who can be a Granny or Grandpa to you. Let us not become trapped in this idea of biological grandparents - I come from a culture where we call every older person Granny or Grandpa as a sign or respect.
Ruth chose to look after her mother-in-law. Tough ask: some mother's-in-law are hard work! I am blessed with my wife's mom (turns 97 this week & Jenny is with her).
Today invites us to be respectful of those who are older.
I saw a tragic clip-on social media of a school board meeting in Tennessee where a grandson was speaking about his grandmother dying of Covid - and the people around him were mocking him. Let us show our children how to care for older people. We are better than those who mock the dead: when people have died - show respect.
• we will remember those who died on 9/ 11: we show respect for them and their families: it is what Christ-followers do.
• We will show respect for all who have died of Covid: and for their families.
But back to Grandparents: Let me speak now to those of us who are Grandparents. We can fill a grandparent's role without having any children of our own/or without having our grandkids near to us. It can be that you keep an eye on the kids in the neighborhood. It can be that you have kids next door to you. I think of a Grandfather who greets every kid who arrives in church as if they were his own...
I want to invite us to reflect on the impact we make as Grandparents in society. Here is a story of a Grandmother: Naomi - she has a grandson - born of her son's wife . This boy's name is Obed - and this boy has a mother who is a Moabite: There is a troublesome text in the Bible that tells Jewish people to avoid the Moabites : Deuteronomv 23:3-6 says, "No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live."
And here is Naomi with a Moabite as a Grandson! Yes his father is Jewish - so young Obed is half Jewish - except that some will point out that the Jewish faith is passed down through the mother: who is not Jewish. Ruth does say that she will take on the faith of her mother-in-law: but she is known in Scripture as "Ruth the Moabite". In essence this boy is a questionable half -breed.
And at this point - while the gossip is swirling through the village: Obed's grandmother steps in and settles the debate:
Ruth 4:16 Then Naomi took the child aryd laid him on her lap and became his nurse
Naomi places this new child in her lap: there is no safer place than in the arms of a granny: "I will love you". And then even more startling: "I will nurture you" She nurses this child. This is a very intimate action - "I will let you share my strength. I will make myself vulnerable for you".
Naomi becomes an example for every grandparent here - the fact is that children need our protection...and it does not matter who they are! The story of Naomi says to us all
- they do not have to be your blood for you to love and protect them. There is a lovely moment in this story: the whole community steps in and names this boy: he is called "Obed" which means "Servant of God" - literally he is one of us...he will serve the Lord amongst us.
And he did - he becomes a grandfather to King David - and thus one of the ancestors of Jesus.
Challenge all of us to step up and be grandparents to every child that crosses our path.
We simply do not know what lies in their future...and how they might become useful to God.
Let me close with a story:
Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents' house the week before Christmas. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers.
The younger boy began praying at the top of his voice. "I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE!"
the older brother leaned over and nudged his younger brother and said, "Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn't deaf."
"No, but Grandma is!" the little brother replied
I challenge us not to be deaf to the voices of our grandchildren: show them love, and kindness and compassion. Take the time to listen to them and to encourage them.
By Pastor Pete Grassow
Can You Hear It?
It is the Labor day weekend……
And so much has happened: fires on the west coast and storms on the east coast,,
And children going back to school!
So what is the word from the Spirit of God for today?
Using the reading set for today: Mark Chapter 7 – a man who is given the gift of hearing….am reminded that there are so many voices clamoring for our attention: and we all need the gift of hearing the Spirit.
An introduction to the reading:
Jesus has moved north – away from the Sea of Galilee – into the territory of foreigners. Last week I spoke of the Greek speaking woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter – in Tyre. Jesus now wants to return to the Sea of Galilee – but cannot take a straight line: there is a mountain (Mt. Meron) standing nearly 4,000 feet high directly between Tyre and the Sea of Galilee. So he travels north to Sidon to take the pass through the mountains to the Jordan river valley, where foot travellers to Galilee would have fresh water for the trip: I have a riddle for you…“Who is permitted to speak but not able – and able to speak but not permitted”
I am going to read from the Scriptures: and the answer is found in our reading. he journey.
Mar 7:31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.
Mar 7:32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
Mar 7:33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.
Mar 7:34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
Mar 7:35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Mar 7:36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
Mar 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Here is the story of a man who could not hear. Not only was he unable to hear – he also had difficulty speaking. There is a connection: he was unable to speak – because it requires hearing to speak clearly. Back to riddle for you…“Who is permitted to speak but not able – and able to speak but not permitted”
Here is the man who was permitted to speak – but was not able to do so.
And in the culture of Jesus this was even more painful than might be realized:
The deaf were different: –“they are not mentally well – possibly even insane” So they were chased out of society. Not only were these insane people – but they became “unclean” – the rejects of society.
And then this amazing moment: we are told that Mar 7:32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
This is a powerful phrase: “lay his hand on him” . Those who had watched Jesus knew that Jesus did not see anyone as capable of making him unclean…. Jesus ignored the social stigma surrounding people. Jesus touched people – embraced them – ate with them.
Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus takes this deaf man aside from the crowd privately. Here is Jesus giving him personal care and attention. And Jesus uses signs to communicate – because the man cannot hear. Here is Jesus telling the man that he understood his problem: a series of symbolic gestures…. Not magic – but signs that a man who cannot hear will understand:
This weekend marks the end of Summer holidays – the children are going back to school.
And I believe that this story can help us see our children in a better light – whether you are a parent / Grandparent / Uncle or Aunt or family friend.
All too often we treat children as if they are unable to hear and to speak: sometimes we even operate on the basis that “Children should be seen and not heard”
We make decisions for them – without them. “I know what is best for you” We override their decision making capacity because we are grown ups.
Especially true right now – adults arguing about what is best for the children – and do not see their fear and confusion at the adults arguing over political leaders,
And the Corona virus
and masks or no masks
and our opinions on ending the war in Afghanistan. And every other thing that makes us afraid.
And our children watch us like this man watched Jesus – unable to comprehend….
And they are needing the one thing that Jesus gave this man: he touched him.
Our children need us to hug them….no long explanations – no theory – no lectures – touch them Give them your hugs and reassurance that they are loved.
Do like Jesus: take them aside and give them your personal attention : away from everyone else. Where they know that they are treasured and noticed.
Reassure them that your love them – and that God loves them.
I know that I have been speaking about children – but allow me a moment to speak about the other categories of people that we often treat like children –
I have a friend who has cerebral palsy. Her name is Jenny and she lives in Cape Town. She is extremely bright – but limited in the way her body behaves.
She shared with me her frustration when she is out shopping: the assistant at the store will speak directly to the person pushing her wheelchair – as if Jenny cannot hear. She is perfectly capable of understanding her purchase. It is just that her hands and feet do not work as she would like….but she is treated as if she were unable to hear or speak:
What made it worse was when the carer who was pushing the wheelchair suggested that the store assistant speak to Jenny:
Suddenly there was a need to speak slowly and loudly to Jenny: as if she were mentally slow and hard of hearing.
After one such incident she posted this on her Facebook site:
Jesus shows us a better way: take the time to listen and speak to people who have physical (or mental) challenges – all it requires is a little more time and a bit of patience – and a change of perspective in our thinking.
One more thought:
Jesus shows love to this man and he is healed:
And then this man breaks into language….Jesus can’t keep him quiet!
Back to riddle for you…“Who is permitted to speak but not able – and able to speak but not permitted”
The man was now able to speak – and Jesus tried to keep him quiet!
In fact Jesus tries to tell people to keep quiet – and they just ignore him:
Sometimes this is true of our children – pay them attention and they do not keep quiet!
But this is how children learn.
They are verbal – learn through asking questions “But why” until we wish that we had never started.
I do know that when I take the time to sit with my friend Jenny – she can’t keep quiet: it has been bottled up, waiting for someone to listen. The longest emails I get now are from her: everything in caps but full of joy and interest in life (takes her hours to type with one finger)
But hear the response of the crowd:
Mar 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.
This is the best thing that anyone could say of anyone: “Well done”
Kind of reminiscent of the Genesis account of Creation: when God was finished – it was well done.
This is our goal as followers of Jesus – to do things well: The words found in Matthew Ch 25 ring in our ears – when the master returns and evaluates our work we will want to hear him say “Well done Good and Faithful servant”.
If you are in doubt about this – . Let God open your ears to hear the good news today – that you are God’s beloved. God made you well.
And then the challenge: I invite us to get behind our children / people who are physically and mentally challenged / people who do not do things like you or me / and give them courage – to help them to see and hear clearly that they are God’s beloved.