How many times has someone said, “I am so glad to see all of these children, because they are the future of the church”? I know I have. And on the surface, that is an accurate statement. I am indeed hopeful that the children in our congregation today will still be the church in the future.
But with that said, it must also be noted that children are more than just the future of the church, they are also the PRESENT of the church. They are here now, and are vital and vibrant members of the congregation in the present moment. We have to be careful not to relegate children to the future alone, for to do so denies their sacred worth in the here and now.
What would happen if we all decided to honor the inherent worth of children, instead of trying to mold them into smaller versions of ourselves? What would happen if we began to value children for who they really are, instead of considering them to be charming accessories to our community? Would we perhaps take more notice of, and work harder to alleviate their suffering?
The prophet Jeremiah has written, “In those days they shall no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’” (31:29) Although it is no longer a common theological perspective that believes God punishes children for parental sins (see John 9), it is hard to deny that children often suffer for bad decisions that adults make.
The United States of America ranks #1 in the world in the number of billionaires.
In the United States of America a child is born into poverty every 32 seconds.
The words of the prophet announce with boldness that this is not God’s desire. “In those days” is a phrase that points us toward the fulfillment of the reign of God, at which moment children will be released from suffering the consequences of their parents’ (and other adults’) decisions.
For the next two weeks in our worship services, we will celebrate children – not as the future of the church, but as the here and now. “…For it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”