September 17, 2018
Then [Jesus] took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, September 23, 2019, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
women and children in a detention facility in
McAllen, Texas. (Photo: Hector Silva, Customs and
Jesus' words in the last two verses of the reading from the Gospel of Mark (above) are too enticing to resist relating them to the thousands of children who now languish in migrant detention camps along our southern border, their dreams of a better life dashed.
The reading also brings to mind the trip to the Guatemala-Mexico border that I took nearly two years ago as part of an international observation mission on human rights. One of our visits was to a shelter for migrants and refugees that make the long, arduous, and treacherous trip across several countries to escape the violence, and poverty in their homelands. The stories we heard were heart-wrenching.
Shortly after my return home, I wrote in my Monday Musing for that week that many of the youth never make it. They are detained at the Mexican border and sent back, but not before they are imprisoned, abused, or worse. In some cases, they disappear, never to be heard from again. Those who are deported and sent back often suffer from depression. They feel like failures.
Yes, when Jesus held that child in his arms, he did it to make a point. But this was long before the immigration dispute that rages in our nation today. He wasn't doing it to be cute, or to try to win votes like politicians do by kissing babies and hugging children. The use of a child as a prop is not meant to be the warm and fuzzy image that today's society has made it out to be.
History informs us that, in Biblical times, more than half of the children born did not live to be adults. There were all kinds of illnesses and hunger and famine. Many children, particularly girls, were killed at birth. Others were simply put out in the field to starve to death. In times of shortages of food, children were fed last. None of this was intended to be cruel, but because people felt they had to do these things in order to survive.
Children of that era had no rights. They were lower than second class citizens. Oh sure, when they grew up they would be useful as another worker to help bring income into the household. But as children, they were just another burden; non-persons, they didn't count! They had no social status-no power whatsoever! They were vulnerable.
But lest we develop an attitude of righteous indignation, consider that today, despite the fuss we make over kids, some of those same attitudes persist - perhaps not to the level of cruelty that existed in Jesus' day - but they persist nonetheless.
The immigration issue aside, it's estimated that 35,000 children under the age of five die daily around the globe, most from preventable poverty conditions. And even more astounding is the thought that the financial cost to end most of these child deaths, it has been proposed, is about $2.5 billion a year, which is the amount Americans spend on chewing gum.
So when Jesus takes a child in his arms, it's as if he's saying, "Forget about yourselves a moment, and think of the least among you, not the greatest, because that's where you'll always find me."
To welcome a child is to extend the simplest of acts to an individual whom society dismisses as perhaps cute but ultimately insignificant, someone who lacks any accomplishments, greatness, status, or pretensions. By extension, Jesus invites us to welcome every person in the same manner, without regard for external measures of their worldly importance. The simple act of welcoming another person in that way, Jesus says, is to welcome him, and in turn to welcome God the Father who sent him.
Ask yourself, who are the children today? Who are those people who are not highly regarded? Who are those without a place of their own; those without a leg to stand on; those whose voices are not heard? Who is seen as less important, by us, and by our society?
God calls us to respect and care for all life that God gives. In baptism we promise to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for peace and justice in all the earth.
May God's grace give us a heart of hospitality. May we grow as leaders in service. May we grow as servants in Christ.
I will be in Chicago Tuesday and Wednesday to continue the work of the Task Force to develop a Strategy Towards Authentic Diversity within the ELCA. This dedicated group has as its goal, to present a strategy for adoption at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly.
On Thursday, I will meet with the pastors and deacons of the Akron-Wooster Conference at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Akron. This is the second of seven conference gatherings with rostered leaders.
On Saturday, we hold the first of our two Fall Bishop's Gatherings for 2018. This one will be held at Zion Lutheran Church in Wooster beginning at nine a.m. Both gatherings will focus on
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Later on Saturday, at 1:00 p.m., I will be at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Brunswick to witness the ordination of Tim Kneuss to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. A son of the congregation, Tim has been called to serve as the pastor of Fairfax Parish in the South Carolina Synod. Bishop Herman Yoos will be administering the rite of ordination.
Rostered ministers are invited to vest and process. The color of the day is Red.
Sunday, I will be with the people of God at Trinity Lutheran Church in Carrollton as they celebrate their 200th anniversary.
This week and always, may God, your helper, sustain your life and rescue you from every trouble.
+Bishop Abraham Allende
 Sylvia Ronsvalle,
Behind the Stained Glass Windows: Money Dynamics in the Church
. Baker Publishing Group, 1996 (pp. 218-219)