Have you ever created something that you were just delighted in? Maybe it was a quilt, a sweater, or a soufflé. Perhaps it was an algorithm or a marketing campaign. Perhaps it was a child! There’s so much LOVE that goes into making something – or someone. And you spend time conceiving, planning, and correcting the process of creation – and then one moment it just *IS* – and you LOVE it. You DELIGHT in it.
If you can remember the full feeling of pride and glee when it was complete – then you’ve had a small tiny taste of what God must feel every time a new creation is made. That is what God felt each time one of YOU were created. And that feeling of bursting pride and overwhelming LOVE is what God feels about you – even today – because God loved you into being, and created you very specifically. You aren’t a mistake, although we each MAKE mistakes, and you have a role to play in this world today. In fact every day. But don’t worry – you were made with all the right components – and God delights in you just as God delights in each and every creation.
This is where we enter our scripture passage for today. You are the salt of the earth – just like salt, you have the ability to enhance, preserve, and to heal. You can do important things, but when you let opportunities pass you by, when you prefer to just glide along without making a difference, that’s when you’ve lost your saltiness. Being salty means keeping your eyes open and stepping into the life that is laid at your feet.
You are the light of the world! Just like each of God’s creation – you each have an incandescent ability to shine. This is easy to see in children – especially with a very tiny child. Babies faces reflect exactly what they are feeling – they don’t yet know how to fake it (like the rest of us) – and so generally they have these funny, googly eyed looks as they explore the world. But oh – when a baby breaks into a smile, a real and genuine smile – oh they shine.
But not everyone in the world gets a chance to shine. Not every child has the opportunity to be lifted up so that the entire household can benefit from his or her light. Some children have a series of baskets, blocking out their light and preventing them from adding their light to the world.
Part of the wonderful thing about being an adult is that we have the power of choice – we can choose what to eat, when to go to bed, and how we will respond to the world we meet each day. That is also our challenge as Christians, do we keep our eyes open and choose to see the difficulties of others, choose to act up, or say something, choose to do something? I think our scripture today encourages us to not only develop your own salty sense of self, but to use it to enable others to shine. And today, I want you to specifically think about enabling children to shine.
Kids love to show us teachers their boo-boos. Cuts and scrapes – some really gnarly and some hardly visible, but always adorned with cartoon Band-Aids. While most of these heal and disappear – I’m sure every adult here knows someone for whom their childhood scars still affect them every day. Because when you are scarred in childhood, it takes a really long time to heal.
I wonder what reverberations of today’s world we will see when the children of conflict zones grow to be adults. I wonder how the migrant kids will be able to shine, with so many baskets blocking their path, their sight, and their voices. Perhaps your personal saltiness enables you to advocate, fundraise, or lobby on behalf of foreign children. Perhaps it is in promoting cross-cultural understanding, or through serving refugee communities. Perhaps when you see the opportunity, you will choose to step into the gap.
I wonder about the air we breathe, and the beautiful earth we live on. I worry that there might be immense change in our planet during the lifespan of today’s children. I worry that the whole world will be under a basket! How do we change things? How do we equip them to live in a new sort of world? Perhaps you know how we can prepare for change, or prevent further damage, or renew our air, land, or sea?
I wonder about the low-income and unhoused families, whose parents are stretched thin through the trials of poverty, violence, exhaustion, or addiction. I wonder how children are supposed to learn and grow when food is scarce, the room is cold, and their minds are concerned with worries that children are not meant to have. Perhaps your salty self will see the neighbor who could use a cash-gift, or the organization that could help them bridge their child-care gap. Perhaps you could help them weatherize the windows, or simply acknowledge their hard work.
I wonder about the kids who are diagnosed and have trouble in school. I wonder how teachers will be able to invest time in them when they have 25 other students in the class. Perhaps you are called to help out in a school, or to help out with a tutoring program. Perhaps someone just like you could train to be an after-school buddy for a child who needs extra help, or an advocate in the system.
I wonder about the children right here in our own church. I wonder whether we are giving them the foundations of faith that will stick with them when they find themselves in the dark, under a bushel basket. Will they remember that they are not alone? Will we have told them about our own relationships with faith, of our own dark times, and how we choose every day to believe again? Will they know that there’s no magical way to just have faith – you have to choose it, and work to build spiritual discipline? Perhaps you are just the right person to invest in our children here – either as a teacher or as a friend. Perhaps you have a story that they need to know?
Each of you is created in just the right way to able to help with something. But we have to be willing to see the baskets – all those various and assorted baskets – that impede our world’s children, blocking the light, the path, and the air. We have to be looking, and once you see one, when you see that basket – you need to ask yourself if that is the basket that you’re supposed to lift. And then you have to choose to do so. And so you do – you remove that basket, and lift that child up so that their light can be seen by the entire household. By doing so, you will be letting YOUR light shine, and giving glory to God in heaven.
So do not be in despair at our situation, but be on the lookout. Know who you are, know WHOSE you are, and be ready to play your part. Because you are a beloved and capable creation of God, and you have a job to do.
In the name of God the creator, Christ the son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.
. . . One of the ways that Old South Church invests in our children is to feed the fire of their faith through giving each of our students a Bible. Today we get to stoke that flame and to invite these students into a relationship with God’s word.
Preached on the occasion of Children's Sabbath by Old South Church's Director of Children and Family Ministries.