“When I was a child” 7:30 p.m., , 2013 by Robin Wardlaw
Season of Pentecost, Year C
Readings: Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalm 34; Luke 9:46-48
Childhood. It came up the other day and family members were comparing their childhoods in very general terms. I remember cap guns, secret forts, wide area games, magical summer nights out on the curb–very good experiences mixed in with the usual misfortunes. How different they can be, though. I said I remembered mourning when I was eleven or twelve that I was leaving childhood behind. I had had a good start to life. A relative said in contrast, his childhood was not good. His teen years hadn’t been that great either. Life didn’t start to be more satisfying to him until adulthood. By world standards, we both had things amazingly well. Food, peaceful society, love, education, security, healthcare–the things many children don’t even know to wish for.
The bible doesn’t have much to say about children or child rearing. Most of the actors in bible stories are adults. Proverbs has a few things about being strict with children so they don’t stray from the path. The passage from Deuteronomy gives a thumbnail sketch of religious education. Tell your children the history of the people, all that God has done, and the laws to keep. “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:7)
Then in the gospels, Jesus heals children and young people. He tells adults they are behaving like willful children at one point, quoting a proverb of the day, apparently, about children who chant to each other, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not cry.” (Lk. 7:32). And then there’s this passage about greatness and humility. Become like this little child if you want to be truly great, he tells people.
Tomorrow UNICEF puts out its annual report on the state of the world’s children. It will tell us what we already know, that there is a great disparity among them. What is probably won’t tell us is about their spirits. Which ones have hope, which ones feel confident about their future and their world. Last year’s report was about urban children, and what they need. There’s the chart about education, and what a big difference between children of well to do parents and those of poorer parents. Many years more in school for those more privileged children. Big difference in some ways over two thousand years, and yet some things are still much the same.
Does the 2012 Executive Summary of the report just take more words to say what Jesus said about the child in the story? Address poverty. Increase inclusion. Tackle inequality. Partner with all children, but especially those on the margins. They have dreams, all children. They experience the sacred. They have so much to offer.
Let’s talk about ourselves as children. If you’re willing to share, tell us about your early experience of the holy.
As we get ready to be met by the Spirit at the table, let’s reflect on what we are about to do. We eat together. No problem to come up with bread and juice around here, although many people depend on food banks to get by right here in Canada, in Toronto. Some of those people have children. Elsewhere, the Red Cross, the UN and other agencies are doing the same thing on a vast scale, helping refugees stay alive until drought or war ends, and life can go back to normal.
Our taking bread together is a sign to the world–our physical well being matters. Our taking bread together is a sign to the world–our spiritual well being matters. It’s so simple to eat together, if you have food. It’s so simple to eat together, if you have peace. This is our way of saying to one another, this is the world we want for our children, our grandchildren, and all children.