When Children Disrupt the Sunday Service
He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
I am new to this mainline church experience, this liturgy, this Book of Common Prayer. My children and I still gawk at the stained glass on Sunday mornings when the sun explodes on the other side of those angels and saints. I take the wafer every Sunday with a little bit of nervousness, a little bit of uncertainty. I still hold the cup like an egg that might break.
We have been at this wonderful place, St. James Episcopal Church, for almost a year now. And there’s always been something about it that I liked but couldn’t quite verbalize.
Until Holy Week.
On Maundy Thursday, we gathered in the chapel and washed each other’s feet. My five-year-old son washed the feet of my nine-month-old. He spilled a little too much water on to the floor. He took a little too much matza bread (an entire square, actually, bigger than his face).
On Friday, we walked the stations of the cross, and the children were invited to come up at the end and touch the wooden beams. Some of them giggled. Some of them stared. Their fingers were hesitant, curious.
On Sunday morning, the choir came in, their voices rising. Everything was majestic and holy and very professional. Then came a gaggle of children holding a homemade banner. They marched to the front, smiling and tripping over each other.
After the service, there was an Easter egg hunt in the cemetery, and the children dove over tombstones, hopped up on top of the slabs. The trees were budding, and the sky was blue, and the air—the air! It was chilly and warm at the same time, and it was spring and hope and everything new.
It wasn’t until after Holy Week that I realized why I love my church so much.
It’s because of how children are welcomed.
After all, how will we know how to receive the kingdom of God like little children if our church experience has effectively removed them?
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What is your attitude towards the chaos sometimes created by children in a church service? How do you think Jesus would respond to a crying baby, an unruly toddler, or the “unprofessional” involvement of children in the service?
PRAYER: Lord, help us to value children as you did. Give us eyes to see how little children receive your Kingdom so that we may also receive it and enter into it. Amen.