When the disciples try to shoo away people bringing little children to be blessed by Jesus, they were likely doing what they thought Jesus would want. They were certainly doing what reflected a common mindset in the ancient world. So when Jesus welcomes the little children and relishes the chance to bless them, he does the unexpected (which we have grown to expect). Over and over we see Jesus lift up the put down, identify with the powerless, include the left out. If we want to be more like Jesus, that’s what we must do.
This is why I love some of the traditions we have concerning new babies at Chenal. From the beginning, Danny Burleson established a pattern. Every time a new baby makes her or his first appearance at church, that baby and the parents are invited to the stage. That baby is held up (Lion King style) for everyone to see. They are introduced as our “brand newest member,” and we all applaud and rejoice. Likewise, once a year we have parents read scripture and prayer over their child, and the parents and congregation make a pledge to care for and nurture in faith these kids that God has entrusted to us.
I love what that symbolizes. I love the reminder that gives us. We are praying for, we are committing to work for the day when the faith that surrounds them in our church becomes a faith of their own that wells up inside them. We are praying for and working for the day when they choose to be baptized, choose the path of discipleship, choose the way of Jesus on their own.
But we are also declaring that children aren’t church family in waiting. They won’t just be important to the life of the church some day. Children are the future of the church, but they are also our present. From day one, our children are a vital part of this church family. After all, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”