Excerpts of Children's Sabbath sermon based on Luke 2: 41-53
Saint Patrick admitted he was a troublemaking young British boy in dangerous times when he was captured and taken into slavery in Ireland at the age of sixteen. He recounted later in life that during his imprisonment, he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast, where he would board a ship and return to Britain. Upon returning home, he joined the church in Gaul and studied to be a priest. In 432, he felt the pull to return to Ireland and be in ministry and relationship with those who had held him captive. Would we know of St. Patrick if not for his actions as a child?
As a boy Saint Nicholas survived the death of his parents. They were very wealthy and after inheriting their money, moved by the spirit of God, he went out into the community in secret during the night giving it away to those in need. At the tender age of thirteen, he became the Bishop of Myra. And as his legend spread, he became the immortal Santa Claus.
Joan of Arc began her spiritual life in 1425 with visions and voices at the tender age of 13. She saw angels, female saints that had come before her, and others that gave her counsel as she led French armies to many victories before being captured and martyred.
Saint Bernadette was a young child when she was out gathering firewood at a grotto in Lourdes, France when a woman appeared out of thin air. That woman was an apparition of the Virgin Mary, who went on to appear to her eighteen times and today that grotto, discovered by a child, is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the world.
Mary also appeared to the children at Fatima, in Portugal. The children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were not afraid to share what they had seen. As a result of their reports, nearly seventy thousand people gathered at the sight and witnessed the “miracle of the sun” in 1917. It was explained as “extraordinary solar activity”, which is believed by many to be proof of the appearance of Mary to these children. Pope John Paul II beatified the children at the altar of the Fatima Sanctuary on May 13, 2000, before an estimated one million people.
Children changing the world….
Children are pivotal in the bible stories as well.
In the beginning, God tells Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply: God wanted babies.
Joseph, as a child, had visions of the future given to him by God through his dreams. This was the beginning of a deep connection with God that eventually helped Joseph save the people of Israel from drought and starvation.
Moses’ childhood and connections between two worlds helped him understand the pain of oppression and how to be an agent of change.
Before David became king, he was a shepherd boy who battles the giant Goliath and saves his people, teaching us to have courage to fight that which seems impossible.
Children of the Bible changing the world….
Jesus was raised in a devout religious family. Every year they traveled about 200 miles with family and friends to the Feast of the Passover. There may have been as many as 200 people in the caravan, and they would all know one another. It would not be strange for children to be traveling with another part of the group. But Jesus was not part of the group. Jesus didn’t want to leave the festival. Jesus wanted to see more of the sights, maybe ride the Ferris Wheel one more time and get some cotton candy that Mary just would not let him have. Jesus knew it was time to go back, but like so many of the young figures in our faith history, Jesus decided to follow where the Spirit led. Jesus was a problem child.
You can imagine the fear and panic when Mary and Joseph realized their beloved, blessed son is missing. They go back, and they search for three days. When they find him, he is in the temple.
Interestingly, he is listening and he is teaching. They are amazed not only at his answers, but at his questions. He is having conversations. The adults are respecting him as a precious, inspired creation of God.
Jesus is found, and they pack up and go home. But despite all the trouble and the fear, Mary treasures the experience, treasured that Jesus felt the spirit drawing him so deeply to the temple that he was willing to get into trouble for it.
Jesus knew what he was supposed to go home with the caravan. Joan of Arc knew she was not supposed to lead the French army in revolt. Nicolas knew he was not supposed to sneak into people’s homes and leave them gifts. The children at Fatima knew they were not supposed to be seeing a vision of Mary. David was not supposed to beat Goliath, Joseph was not supposed to have visions.
And the disciples did not think Jesus was supposed to bless the little children. Jesus had important work to do, they thought, and children would only get in the way. But Jesus didn’t outgrow being a problem child. Jesus was going to do things his way.
As a child Jesus was nurtured in his faith by his parents and other adults who allowed his voice to be heard, allowed him to pursue his passions, and he was treasured even when he caused problems, when following his heart. This is the gift he was given, and the gift he modeled for us.
We need more problem children in the world, problem children of all ages.
Problem children are the ones who change the world, who stand up against the status quo.
Problem children are protesting around the nation on behalf of those who are oppressed by our financial system.
Problem children brought down an oppressive regime in Egypt
Problem children like Steve Jobs drop of out college and take up residence in mom’s garage, changing technology forever
Problem children are pressing to change United Methodist policy on sexuality by speaking out and by marrying same gender couples.
Problem children give up unhappy, but lucrative careers in exchange for happiness and doing good.
Problem children go to church on Sunday when society looks down on faith
Problem children do what is right, even when they know it is technically wrong.
Problem children are embracing a new vision of a missional church that practices what it preaches.
Problem children follow their hearts, just like Jesus and all the others we have talked about today.
We have to nurture the problem children we encounter. Jesus was nurtured in his problematic ways and he changed the world.
Our children of all ages, including each and every one of us, need to be nurtured. We never know when the craziest idea will be the one that changes thousands of lives for the better. Inside each and every one of us is a problem child stirring against discrimination, oppression, poverty, and the status quo that works for so few people. What can your inner problem child do to change the world?