Giving up self to grow the kingdom

Published 10:14 am Monday, March 13, 2017

“Play is the highest form of research.”
– Albert Einstein

“You matter.”

The words dripped like honey to the child hiding in the corner crying. He had been in the sanctuary just moments before the incident. Lying down in the pew, coloring in one of the books passed out by the ushers to keep little hands occupied, he had been happy. But as he stretched out is arms in a yawn the way children do, not paying attention to who or what they might bump, his hand knocked the hymnal ajar causing it to fall out of its holder.

The thud was louder than the squeal that occasionally came from the sound system. The thud was louder than the whispers of Sister Bettina who always feigned innocence about gossip. The thud was louder than the soloist who at that moment was singing his heart out as if he was on Broadway or in some opera house. The thud interrupted everything.

The preacher stood to see from where it came. The organist hit wrong notes and rested her fingers and feet to silence as she realized the long practiced music was no longer the center of attention. Everyone turned to see the wild tuft of hair, two little eyes, and one little nose peeking above the next to the last pew.

“Well, I never…” Sister Bettina began a long monologue of proper parenting, disciplines and punishments she’d deal out, peppered with several cordial notes of “bless his heart.”

The preacher sat back down, but the interruption had clearly disturbed her. The collective scowl from the organist and the soloist was beyond compare. The child had placed a solid staccato where it should not have been.

The sum total forced the shamed child out of the sanctuary and into the corner. That’s where the old gentleman found him, crying. Placing his arm on the boys shoulder, he simply said, “You matter. No matter what looks people give, no matter what they say or do, know that you matter more.”

The boy’s ears didn’t understand the meaning, but his heart received the message. He mattered to God. The old man’s words not minced.

“God loves you. You matter.”

As we begin Lent this year, a season of giving up self and focusing on God. We might also pay attention to where God’s focus has led us. Children. The older I get, the more I am tempted to want worship and church to feed me and focus on me. I forget that I’m called to give up self so Christ’s Kingdom will grow among the children. As a welcoming church, we’re called to deny ourselves and offer hospitality to the mother who’s desperately trying to quiet the baby and to the child who fidgets, whispers, and can’t seem to keep still. We thank God for the interruptions no matter how large or small because they are blessed interruptions.

At High Street UMC, God is calling us to be the children’s church. We’re collecting funds to build a new playground. We’re praying about the possibility of having a before and after school program.  We’ve starting a new “Kids Gathering” on Sunday nights. We’re following Christ when he speaks to us concerning the littlest among us. We’re giving up self to grow the kingdom. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

“Let the little children come to Me; Do not get in their way. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to children like these.”   

– Matthew 19:14 The Voice

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.