O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Lord of heaven and earth,
as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer,
give us patience and courage never to lose hope,
but always to bring our prayers before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 16.1, 5-10
Preserve me, O God, for in you have I taken refuge;
I have said to the Lord, ‘You are my lord,
all my good depends on you.’
My share has fallen in a fair land;
indeed, I have a goodly heritage.
I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel,
and in the night watches he instructs my heart.
I have set the Lord always before me;
he is at my right hand; I shall not fall.
Wherefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices;
my flesh also shall rest secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Death,
nor suffer your faithful one to see the Pit.
You will show me the path of life;
in your presence is the fullness of joy
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
Today’s reading takes us back to a passage we read earlier in the week. Once again Jesus is welcoming children. We have already heard Jesus’ teaching that we need to change and become like children if we wish to enter the kingdom of heaven. Today we see that demonstrated in the way he welcomed them into his presence and blessed them.
On many occasions during my ministry I have heard two conflicting arguments: I have heard people lamenting the absence of young people from our congregations, and I have heard those same people complaining at the noise and distraction of children in their churches. Those same faithful worshippers of God have been just like the disciples in today’s reading. As parents have brought their children into the worshipping community, they have found the disciples speaking sternly to those who brought them. Time and time again, parents are told of how previous generations had sat quietly and respectfully, how those model children never moved or spoke out of turn. It should not be a surprise that those modern parents rarely return for another bout of rebuttal and rejection.
Of course, there are other models of church which consider themselves to be better equipped when it comes to ‘dealing with’ children. Those churches are also rooted in a past that prefers children to be ‘seen and not heard’. The concept of Sunday School and ‘play corners’ do not give families a sense of belonging. The ‘sending out’ or ‘distracting’ of children is yet another demonstration of the disciples speaking sternly to both the children and those who brought them.
Too often church communities live in the past and, just about, in the present. I would suggest that it is our responsibility to live for the future … the future foreseen by God. We are called to be active in the mission field. That mission field involves the inclusion of all who seek to enter into a closer relationship with God, no matter what their age. The argument that children ‘do not understand’ what is going on or what is being said is not good enough. The behaviour of those who would criticise or sideline the little children demonstrates a very profound lack of understanding!
It is our responsibility to engage with young families and to help them as they take those first tentative steps into the lives of our churches. Our little children live in an age of engagement and learning through experience, and not an age where they are expected to sit still, do as they are told and miraculously absorb knowledge. The Church can play such an important part in sowing the seed of faith, in nurturing that seed, and in propagating the next generation of faithful disciples. It just needs to stop being those disciples who speak sternly instead of welcoming in love and joy.
Prayers of intercession
For peace in the Church and peace among all people, let us pray to the Lord.
Give to the Church the innocence of children and the wisdom of experience. Guide and bless all who come in childhood, and bring them to the fullness of faith.
Bless and keep all children. May they grow in health of mind and body, learning to live in the way of love and faith. Grant them the loving care that will support them into happy and secure lives.
As we give thanks for our families, may we never lose our love for one another. Bless the homes throughout this community. Guide teachers and all others who work with children.
Have mercy on those whose marriages are broken or under great strain. Grant healing in the restoration of love that has been lost. Tenderly comfort the children of broken homes.
We give thanks for the departed who have been brought to glory by the power of Christ. Grant them rest and peace in the family of heaven where all are for ever one in him.
We offer our prayers as children of Christ, the protector of all who come to him.
Prayer for the week
in whose service lies perfect freedom:
teach us to obey you
with loving hearts and steadfast wills;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.