He must have been around five (5) years old, but he had never experienced the joys of childhood. He is the boy who was pulled out from the rubble caused by an air strike in Aleppo in strife-torn Syria. There are girls and boys like him in various countries whose childhood has been stolen from them by war. We will never know their names, but there is a label for them – “collateral damage”.
Viewing this boy’s picture on TV reminds me of many things. He reminds me of the massacre in Bethlehem ordered by Herod as he tried to kill the infant Jesus. He reminds me of Jesus in His ministry calling a child to Himself and telling His disciples that it is to those with childlike faith that the Kingdom of God belongs. Closer to home he brings to mind our children at church gathering around the Word at worship during children’s time and the pre-school kids entrusted by their parents to our daily care. He reminds me of my own grandchildren.
How shall we respond to the boy from Aleppo and others like him?
We could, like the Levite, walk over, look at him and pass by on the other side of the road (Lk. 10:25ff). We could also reason our way out and say that war will always have unintended victims. Or…
We could ask God to give wisdom to our government leaders as they formulate and execute policies towards a just peace in the world. As we feel led by the Holy Spirit and as our personal powers and circumstances allow we could actually put our hands to the plow and volunteer or support legitimate local or international humanitarian organizations that help children. Some of us through the church or perhaps privately may already be doing that.
Perhaps Aleppo has a message for us. Maybe it is to remind us that we ourselves have received the tender love of Jesus as He embraced suffering and death on the Cross for our sake. Maybe it is to raise our sensitivity to His voice so that we may hear His call, respond and make a difference in the life of even just one child.
So I’m going to tell you a secret about us preachers today, but don’t get your hopes up, it’s nothing very juicy. Whenever we open up the lessons and find out that we have to preach about demons, it is, as we used to say in the 60s, a “bummer.” It’s very hard to talk about demons today, for the simple reason that we don’t experience demons in the same way as they apparently did in ancient times. We don’t have a contemporary point of reference. All we see is what we remember from the film, THE EXORCIST: Linda Blair’s head spinning around and the projectile vomit and the priest throwing himself out of the window … it’s all movies and magic and superstition. Now audiences are obsessed with zombies; I understand that THE WALKING DEAD is one of the most popular shows in the history of television. It’s fantasy, entertainment; literally, a horror show. Get the popcorn. So it’s very hard to talk seriously about stories like our gospel lesson today: Jesus’ encounter with a man known as the Gerascene Demoniac.
I have recently come across a Christian blog post entitled, “Killing the Church with Sunday School”. “Oh no!”, I thought. How can Sunday School be bad for church? What could we be doing wrong? I had to read.
Luckily, the point of the post is not that Sunday School is hurtful, but that when attendance in Sunday School takes children out of the main corporate worship, it can result in a lack engagement with the church body as a whole. Continue reading “Kids in Church?”
It was a late winter morning and I was riding on the 6-line subway train from the Bronx to Manhattan in New York. The passengers on the train were doing their own thing – either trying to get a quick nap, or working on their cell phones, or reading a book.
I guess I love Christmas as much as anybody (with the possible exception of Edith Klose, who has more Christmas decorations than God). My love of Christmas is very resilient: it has survived not only my own massively dysfunctional family, but also the professional necessity of leading public celebrations of it. In case you don’t know, that can involve hard, slogging work. Ask any teacher.
I love Christmas enough to care about what it’s about. Jesus did not come so that we could enjoy 2000 years of sentimentality about his birthday. Jesus came in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: Unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given … and his name shall be called wonderful … the prince of peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
I like the month of October. I like the crispness of leaves turning color and the smell of Apfel Kuchen baking in the oven. It also includes one of my favorite holidays – not Halloween, but Reformation. As a child, I was treated to an action-packed film on Martin Luther in Sunday School and in church we were sure to sing a lusty rendition of “A Mighty Fortress”. So what is this really all about?
As we considered a rather discouraging Treasurer’s Report last week, I told the Church Council very firmly that I am not going to preach about money. I don’t like to do it because I am personally not very interested in money, and also because I don’t think people want to hear about it money when they come to church. Nor will I fall into the trap that has captured so many, and promote to the “prosperity gospel”, the bizarre and dangerous idea that God wants us all to be rich. God never promises any such thing. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, Jesus says, and I’m with him on that one.
This month I was given a course at my workplace called “Inclusive Leadership”. The general theme was to show how our biases towards people determine whether they are included or excluded. Among the “students” were several seasoned managers, myself included, who started the morning with a bit of a smug attitude. We thought we already had a pretty good handle on the diversity and inclusion issue.
As you certainly know by now, the fine pipe organ from Ascension was donated as a Gift of Legacy to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (ELCA), Fairfield, Connecticut. After some renovations to the sanctuary, the organ was installed there by its builder, Mr. Jeremy Cooper. The Dedication Service is planned for Sunday, October 26th, at 4:00 in the afternoon. The people at Our Savior’s plan to honor the members of Ascension at the service. We will take the church bus to this event.