Thursday, June 7, 2018

Team or Life is not all about You... or Me

2 Corinthians 5:15
“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

This week, I was asked to lead a devotion at the opening practice of a Little League All Star team.  The team has selected a great verse from 1 Corinthians 12:12 as their team verse.  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”  The coach wanted me to help the players understand what this verse means as believers and as baseball players.  Thus, when I arrived, I have all the players line up around home plate and lay out in front of them their different pieces of baseball equipment.  I asked them to pick up the bat first and asked, “What if this was the only piece of equipment you could use – on offense or defense?  They tried to figure out ways you could use the bat on defense – but it wouldn’t work.  Then I asked, “What if you could only use the glove to hit the ball?  What if all you could use was the baseball?  What if you had to use your bare hands to hit the ball?”  The point is obvious.  Each piece of equipment has its purpose and is needed for the game.  In the same way, each player has different abilities, strengths and weaknesses.  No one player makes the team.  This was true even for the great Michael Jordan.  The Bulls didn’t win till he learned to play as part of the team.  All the players on the team are important.  Team is not all about anyone of us – not all about me or you.

That’s true in Church and in life.  God has not designed us so that we don’t need other people.  He has not designed us to be able to make it on our own.  Church and life are not all about me… or you.  We forget that far too often, to everyone’s harm.  I know I do.  In fact, I forgot this the other night at a Church meeting.  I was advocating a certain program. I firmly believe I was leading in the right direction.  At one point, however, I made it all about whether people were agreeing with me.  I said, “Well if you don’t want to do this, that’s fine.  But you won’t have my support.”  I have thought about it since and realized that with that statement – I made it all about me… about me having this ridiculous need to have everyone agree with me…   For some reason, many times in order to feel good about ourselves, we have this need to have everyone see it our way.  That’s the very definition of co-dependence.  The reason for wanting as many to be together on the issue was not my need… or shouldn’t have been.  It was the fact that this program is the right thing and what God wants us to do.  It’s about Him, not me!

We all forget that. We all fall in to the trap of making it all about me.  I have seen it again and again in churches.  Someone doesn’t get their way.  The church goes in a different direction.  That person walks out in protest, or threatens, “Well then maybe I need to go to a different church.”  In other words, maybe I need to take my ball and go home.  I have couples come in for marriage counseling.  Almost inevitably the most use word will be “me.”  “He doesn’t listen to me.”  “She is always trying to control me.”   ME! ME! ME!  God did not design marriage to be all about me or you.  “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”  “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”  He wants marriage to be all about Him so that we can love and serve the other person. Another example – in hard times people ask, “God why is this happening to me?  Why are you doing this to me?  What did I do to deserve this?”  God’s answer is, “Life is not all about you.”  That’s the point of the opening verses of John 9.  As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.   And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

This wanting to life to be all about me is at the heart of sin.  Our first parents took the fruit and ate it because they wanted to be like God.  They wanted their lives to be all about them, not Him.  That’s why Jesus came… to change all that.  Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He refused not to make life all about Him.  He came “not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”   He got up and washed the feet of the disciples.  He prayed in the Garden, “Never the less, not my will but thy will be done.”  He died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose again that all who believe in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” 

Why did Jesus do all this?  “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  This is such an important life lesson.  When we make life all about ourselves – we make ourselves and everyone miserable.  We so dissension and conflict.  The truth is God created us to be servants and not masters… to submit to His way not demand ours… Remember that team, or church or life is not all about you or me.   It’s about Him!  

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Strong Words

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

I was out golfing with a friend the other day.  I had ended up in the sand trap one too many times, so I turned to him and said, “I hate sand traps.”  He looked at me and replied, “Pastor, hate is an awfully strong word for a sand trap.”  He was right. Indeed, the word “hate” is an awfully strong word period and we should be careful how we use it.  Jesus even warns us, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

There are a lot of words like this aren’t there.  Someone says, “I despise broccoli.”  Really?  You despise broccoli?  What you really mean is that you don’t like or appreciate the taste.  Or someone says, “I love pizza.”  Aren’t you trivializing a powerful word that is meant to express how much you treasure another person?” 

One very powerful word is the word “God” or the name “Jesus.”   By the gift of His name God has given us access to Him… to His throne room.  “Ask for anything in my name and it will be done for you.”  God devotes a whole commandment to His name, that’s how strong a word it is.  “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.”  In other words, don’t use it for trivial or even evil purposes.  The Pastor that confirmed me said that the worst thing you can say to another person is “God damn you.”  You are commanding God to condemn that person to eternity in hell.  That is a harsh misuse of some strong words.  But another misuse is when we hit our thumb with a hammer and say those words to our thumb.  In so doing we trivialize God’s name – one of the most precious gifts He has given us.  Think of what Luther wrote about the use of God’s name.  “We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.”

Of course, this book is a powerful word – God’s own Word.  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  With His word He created the heavens and the earth.  He said, “Let there be light” and there was light.  This word is the word that is about the “word made flesh” – Jesus.  Here you find the word (the Gospel) that is “the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.”  That Gospel word “is able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  This word is so strong that God gave the third commandment – “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” – commanding us to have sacred time in our lives for His word.  “We should fear and love God, that we may not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

Yet we abuse this word when we are hearers only and not doers of the word.  We trivialize this word when we are too busy to take time daily… when so many things become so important that we regularly skip our time in worship… when we see no need for Bible Study and such. 

Most people, I meet, have questions.  They want to know about God.  They want to understand him better.  They desire that He would work in their lives.  Well here in these “strong words” is God’s tool box. This is how He works in our lives – through His word.  There is a believer in Germany who didn’t grow up in the faith.  In fact, she was told to avoid the Bible because “Christians have corrupted it.”  That just peaked her curiosity.  So when she ended up in the hospital, she started reading the Scripture.  God and His Spirit went to work in our heart.  She had lots of questions.  So after she got out of the hospital she went across the street to Trinity and saw my predecessor Pastor Bob Flohrs.  He did some more sharing of God’s strong Word with her.  Eventually the Spirit gave birth to spirit in her heart.  She became a believer and was baptized. 

My point is – words are powerful.  We should use them with respect.  God’s name and Scripture are especially powerful… strong… life changing words.  Treasure them. Use them with care and respect.  Let God use His strong Word to do His strong work in your life.  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thank God for Teachers

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
2 Timothy 3:14

When I was a kid, I used to think that no one looks forward to school breaks, especially summer breaks more than a kid.  I used to count down the days till break – when we didn’t have to get up early.  We could spend the days however we wanted – at the pool, playing Baseball, watching the Cubs!  (Yes I had to get that in there.)  Now though I realize that I was wrong.  The people who most look forward to summer break… and who most deserve that summer break are teachers.

They work hard.   By this time of the year, they are tired.  I can see it on the faces of our pre-school teachers here at Fishers.  I could hear it in the voices of a couple of close friends who teach middle school and high school.  I have one friend that I like to kid about his annual sabbatical – his summer break from teaching.  But the truth is, I am glad he gets that break.  It will make him a refreshed and great teacher in the Fall.

Yet what is amazing, even though the teachers are all ready for break, they are still a little sad to see it come.  Yesterday was our preschool graduation.  During the rehearsal yesterday, and at graduation last night, there were tears being shed.  Teachers really invest a lot of themselves into their students.  

That’s why I picked these words from St. Paul for today’s blog – “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it…”  (Timothy 3:14)  I have been reminded numerous times this week about what a gift teachers are – especially those who teach us about our Lord Jesus.  I was reminded last night as I listen to little four year old students sing their hearts out about Jesus and about waves of God’s mercy and grace!  When you hear little kids sing at the top of their lungs about Jesus – to me that’s a taste of what we will all be doing in heaven.  Thank God for our teachers.

Last Sunday we confirmed three young Christian ladies here at Fishers.  They stood before the congregation and confessed their faith in Jesus.  Their confession was the fruit of parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers, confirmation teachers, DCEs and more who have taught them the faith.  Thank God for teachers. 

This week I got to visit with two friends who teach at a Lutheran School in Las Vegas.  For all sorts of reasons this has been quite a year.  Many of their students were at that concert on October 1 where the gunman shot up the crowd.  These two teachers and others at the school have spent the year loving the students of their school with the love of God… loving them, praying for them, listening to them – being used by God to bring healing to broken hearts.  Thank God for Teachers.

Just last week – just 30miles from here in Santa Fe, Texas – there was yet another horrible school shooting.  Once again, we have heard stories of teachers and teachers aids who put themselves between their students and the gunman.   Now those teachers, who are themselves hurting inside, must take up the task of loving their students through the coming time of post-traumatic stress.  Thank God for teachers.

Yesterday, I sat in my office listening to two new members – one a retired teacher and the other a retired principal – telling me stories from their days in the various schools where they taught and led.  Linda is a teacher.  I look on Facebook and see pictures of our daughter putting up camping tents in her classroom to help her special needs students grow and learn.  I think of our son – one teaching English in Indonesia, another teaching the faith as a Pastor in New York, the youngest talking about how he will miss the adult classes he has taught on vicarage.  Thank God for teachers.

This week, I texted on Facebook messenger with Pastor Miles.  He is the pastor who taught my confirmation class.  I loved those classes.  He woke up a hunger in me to know more about Jesus and God’s word.  He is the one who encouraged me to go into ministry… who took me to visit Concordia College Milwaukee (Now Concordia University Wisconsin).  There I began my preparation for ministry.  There I met the love of my life – Linda.  There I met the man who mentored me through the first 25 years of ministry – Pastor David Koch.  Eventually all of our children went there and three went all four years. While I was texting with Pastor Miles, I had the chance to thank him for being my Pastor and teacher of the faith. 

So now I want to ask you.  Who have been the significant teachers in your life?  In particular, who have been the significant teachers of the faith in your life?    My challenge to you is this – if you have any way to contact these teachers, take the time to do so.  This is a good time of the year to tell them thank you... and good time to thank God for teachers.  So, to all you teachers – thank you.  I thank God for you.  Have a great summer break.   

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Most Important Words in Marriage

“Let marriage be held in honor among all…”
Hebrews 13:4a

As of today, May 17, 2018, Linda and I have been married for 38 years!  Wow.  It seems like only yesterday that we were running around, checking people out of dorms at Concordia, getting dressed for the ceremony and rushing off to Hope Lutheran in Milwaukee to get married.  Since that rainy Milwaukee Saturday God has rained down so man blessings on Linda and me, that I cannot recount them all here.  Chief among those blessings though is that He gave us to each other; He has blessed us with 4 wonderful children (and three in-laws) and 6 of the best grandchildren anyone could ever have.  Happy anniversary Linda!  I love you.

Now to all of you reading or watching this blog – I don’t have 7 steps for a successful marriage.  I just don’t believe in such things.  So what can I offer you?  Well what about words?  I think words are powerful… have the power to build up and tear down.  I know that from experience… because there have been times in our marriage when I have uttered words that didn’t help… words that hurt.  But there are also good words that are important to every marriage.  The words we use are key to making sure that “marriage be held in honor.”  I would like to share a few.

The first ones that come to mind are “I’m sorry!  Please forgive me!”  The reason is obvious.  When two sinful people live together in marriage for any length of time – they are going to do and say things that hurt the other person.  That has certainly been the case for me.  Because of pride… because of the desire to be right, and to win the argument – these can be hard words to say.  But the truth is I have yet to have a marital argument when either of us was completely in the right or completely in the wrong.  We have both always have had reason to say, “I’m sorry.  Please forgive.”  Besides, isn’t it more important to win the heart of your spouse than it is to win an argument.

Of course, of equal importance or maybe more importance, are the words “I forgive you.”  Too many of us think that sounds prideful.  So instead we say, “Oh don’t worry.  It’s no big deal.”    You know when we come to God to ask forgiveness, He never says, “Don’t worry it’s no big deal.”  That is the same as saying “you are no big deal.”  Instead God says, “I forgive you.”  Those words acknowledge that what happened or what was said, did hurt.  They hurt because the other person is a big deal to you.  Our sin is a big deal to God.  Sin cost His Son His life.  To say to your spouse, “I forgive you,” is to say, “What you did or said did hurt.  But you mean more to me than that hurt.  I never want to lose you.  I love you.  I forgive you.”

The words “I love you” are extremely important too. We don’t say or speak those words often enough.  I especially think its important we learn to hear and to speak one another’s love languages.  Linda speaks love through acts of service and time spent together.   When she does something special for me, I know she is saying, “I love you.”  My love language is words of affirmation – to tell her how much she means to me.  I suppose I am speaking my love language by writing this blog.

The words “thank you” are also extremely important – to thank each other and to thank God!  Believe me, I thank God every day for Linda.  She has been so patient with me over 38 years.  She has supported me… been a rock of faith in times of transition and grief… been a great mom and grandma… has affirmed me as a Pastor when I doubted myself.  The list goes on and on.  For all of that – Thank you Linda and thank you Lord.

The vows you make on your wedding day are some of the most important words you speak in marriage.  Trust is essential to any relationship and trusting the promises you make to each other are essential to the security of any marriage.  Indeed, not only do husband and wife count on each other to be true to those promises… your kids count on it too.  Their sense of well-being and security is directly related to how faithful mom and dad are to each other.

Of course, the most important words in marriage are the promises of God’s word.  Indeed, the most important word in marriage is “Jesus.”  In the words of the old Hymn – Jesus is “the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”   Jesus is the third strand in the cord of marriage and as we read in Scripture “a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”  His sacrifice… He love… His giving Himself for us and to us… His promises spoken to us every time we read or hear His word… His promises affirmed to us in baptism and Holy Communion – what would we do without them.  For in some way big or small – all couples – us included – are guilty of being unfaithful.  But not our God!  He always keeps His promises.  He always loves us.  He has again and again healed and made strong the bonds of our marriage.

Thank you Lord for loving us.  Thank you, Linda, for loving me.  I love you.  Happy 38th!  Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Never Abandoned

“I will not leave you as orphans…”
John 14:18

We couldn’t believe he’d done it.  One night when I was in High School my friends and I made the 18 mile pilgrimage down to the Medinah Temple in the City of Chicago.  We were going to see a presentation by the Moody Bible institute.  We drove in two cars because one of my buddies had to bring his little brother and sister along.  Afterwards we all agreed to meet back at a friend’s house. When we got there, we noticed that our buddy didn’t have his little brother and sister with him. We asked him if he had dropped them at home.  His jaw dropped.  He suddenly realized that he had forgotten them.  He had gone to get his car but he hadn’t come back to pick them up.  He’d left his little brother and sister standing there on the street corner, in the City of Chicago, alone, at night.  Can you imagine how they must have felt?  Abandoned, forgotten, unloved…  I wonder if that’s not a little of what the disciple’s felt as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven.  They had just gotten Him back from the dead.   He gave them the great commission, sending them to be His witnesses in all the world.  Then He left!  They must have felt some sense of abandonment, of having been left behind. 

We’ve all experienced that.  It’s the feeling of panic experienced by the little child in the store who suddenly looks up and can’t find his parents.  It’s the feeling of loneliness experienced by the grandmother who has had to move into a nursing home, who feels like her kids and grandkids have forgotten her.  Abandonment is part of the grief that follows the death of a husband or wife.  Spouses and children often feel abandoned at the time of divorce.  The man who had rheumatoid arthritis, wondered if God was punishing him.  Had God abandoned him?   

That’s at the heart of our fear of abandonment.  We know what we deserve because of our sin.  I remember what one man told me. “When you are doing wrong and trying to hide it, you feel cutoff from everyone. You seek to hide the truth, especially from people you love.  To do that you put on a mask, you give off the impression that everything is fine. All the while inside you feel terrible.  You feel like no one really knows you.  You can’t talk to anyone. You feel all alone.  Surely God wants nothing to do with you.  You know that’s what you deserve.” 

Yet the meaning of Ascension and Pentecost is quite the opposite.  The promise of Jesus in our text for today is that God has not and will not abandon us.  “I will not leave you as orphans…”  It’s the same promise Jesus makes just before ascending into heaven. “I will be with you always.”  In Acts 1 Jesus promises, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”   Indeed, that is one reason why He ascends into heaven.  He leaves so that He might give to you and me the gift of His Holy Spirit.  “I will ask the Father,” Jesus promises, “and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

The word that is here translated “Counselor” is the word “paraclete.”  That word means “One who walks along side.”  What a perfect description of the Holy Spirit.  As we walk through the joys and sorrows of life God gives us His Holy Spirit to walk along side of us.  The Lord sends Him to us in the waters of Holy Baptism.  He speaks to us in every sermon and Bible Class.  He meets us at this table where with bread and wine He gives us His very body and blood… The Holy Spirit walks along side of us is by giving us each other.  That’s the whole purpose of a ministry like Stephen Ministry, of pastors, of small groups, of AA and Celebrate Recovery groups – fellow believers God uses to walk alongside you in a time of trouble.  How much it helps to receive cards from fellow Christians when were sick, to have a Christian neighbor stop by to see us in the hospital, or to bring a pie by the house at the time of death.  How good it is to be able to call a brother and sister in Christ just to talk or laugh or cry together.  The Holy Spirit walks along side of us as we support and care for one another.

I remember one woman who was at the worst part of chemo therapy.  She was feeling alone and abandoned.  One day she was on her way home and she stopped for an ice cream cone.  While there she passed a man who just sort of starred at here.  Then he followed her out of the store.  “You are going through cancer treatments, aren’t you?’  “Yes,” she said. “How did you know?”  “I could tell,” he said.  “I was where you are just a year ago.  I just wanted to tell you that you are going to be ok, no matter what happens. I know you feel alone right now. But you aren’t.  The Lord will never abandon you.  That’s what got me through.”  That man noticing, understanding, stopping to speak to me was all the assurance I needed that what he had told me was true.  I wasn’t alone!  God had sent that man, just when I needed him.’  That’s what Jesus has promised. “I will not leave you as orphans.” Amen!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Life in the Passenger Seat

"God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."  
Ephesians 1:22-23

There is one thing that the drivers in my family really hate.  They hate driving with me in the passenger seat.  When they follow too close… go too fast.  I am constantly jamming my foot down onto an imaginary brake. I grab the handle above the door as if hanging on for dear life.   If they unexpectedly hit the brakes or someone cuts them off, I just about jump out of my skin.  I did this other day, riding with our DCE Richard to Austin.  I was giving him instructions – when the light would turn green, was there an arrow or not.  He was nicer than my family.  My family hates when I try to drive from the passenger seat.  Why do I do it? It’s because when I’m not driving, I’m not in control. 

It’s hard not being in the driver’s seat. When the company is getting ready to lay off employees, you go to work worrying.  Why? You aren’t in the driver’s seat.  Do you know what scares people about surgery?  They are afraid of the anesthesia.  They won’t be in control. A teenager gets his driver’s license. What scares parents about letting him have the car? They won’t be driving.  He will.  We struggle when we aren’t in control.  As a result, whether out of worry, or fear or anger or manipulation we try to drive from the passenger seat. 

That just doesn’t work.  You can stomp your foot on the floor all you want but the car won’t stop. You have no brake… no gas pedal… no steering wheel.  Any attempt to drive the car from the passenger seat will only cause trouble… You’ll anger the driver… You could cause an accident.  Damage will be done.  People will get hurt.  The same is true in life… Trying to control other people… trying to manipulate or change them will only destroy relationships.  It will only create resentment.  Worry will only give you ulcers.  Fear will rob you of peace and security.    

What makes this so silly is that the drivers in my family are great drivers.  If I would just trust them, I could enjoy the drive.  This is the message of the AscensionGod has given us a driver we can trust, our Lord Jesus Christ!  God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.  Jesus ascended into heaven.  He sat down at the right hand of God.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.  At baptism Jesus has been made Lord of your life.  Jesus has sat down on the throne of your heart.  God has placed Jesus in the driver’s seat.

Often times when I am driving, my family doesn’t like being in the passenger seat.  I will make a turn they weren’t expecting.  I will go some place they didn’t know I was taking them.  They have come to know that I usually find my way to places.  They know if I take them some place unexpected I usually have a good reason. Sometimes our Lord makes unexpected turns in life – an illness… a move to a new community, a job loss, a baby we weren’t planning. We are tempted to worry, “How can losing my job be the best place to turn?  How can you allow my spouse to get cancer?”  Paul’s prayer for us is that even when we can’t see where Jesus is taking us… when He makes unexpected turns, that we would trust Him“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Think of Jesus’ life and ministry.  When they came to arrest him Jesus simply gave Himself up. When they lied about Him He wouldn’t defend Himself.  When they whipped him, beat Him and crowned Him with thorns He didn’t call on 12 legions of angels to rescue Him.  Jesus didn’t come down from that cross.  He just hung there and died.  How could that be the right route?  How could He overcome by allowing His enemies to overcome Him?  How could He win His victory by losing?  How could He gain life by dying?  How could He save the world when He couldn’t save Himself?  Yet He did.  On the third day He rose to life again. What had looked like weakness on Good Friday was really God’s power at work to save the world.  What had seemed like utter defeat had actually been total victory.  This Jesus is the one who has ascended into Heaven.  He is the One whom God the Father has placed at His right hand.  This is the One whom God has appointed him to be head over everything for the church.  We can be sure that every turn God makes, even the unexpected turn, is the right turn.  

Several years ago I had a conversation with my good friend Pastor David Koch.  He was battling cancer.  They were trying everything… even new special medications.  They tried experimental treatments.  They tried chemo therapy.  That day David had  been to the doctor.  The cancer was getting worse.  I asked him if he was discouraged.  He said, “I’m disappointed but not discouraged.  God knows where He is taking me.  He’s in control.”  He was right.  Eventually the Lord took one last turn.  He took David home. Our life of faith is like that.  It’s life in the passenger seat… enjoying the ride no matter where He takes us.  After all, Jesus is in the Driver’s seat.  We can trust Him.  Amen.  

Thursday, April 26, 2018

I was Once a Crying Baby in Church

“Let the children come to me and do not hinder them,
for to such belong the kingdom of God.”
Mark 10:14b

I was once a crying baby in church. I know that may surprise you but it’s true. According to my mom, there was one time when this high powered preacher came to town.  Mom really wanted to hear him.  In fact, she wanted him to pray for me, her little boy.   Dad was working, so we went, just the two of us.  Mom says there was a huge crowd.  This preacher had quite the reputation.  Somehow mom got a seat down close the front.  She said the man was giving a wonderful, powerful sermon.  But then I started cry.  Nothing she did would calm me down.  People were turning around and staring at her, looking disgusted.  I was oblivious to that.  I just kept crying.  Knowing me, I was probably hungry.  Finally, a couple of the elders came up to mom and told her that I was making too much noise.  We would have to leave… or at least go outside.  Well, according to mom, she was about to get up and leave, when the preacher himself intervened.  He told the elders to leave us be.  Then, mom says, he did the most wonderful thing.  He invited mom to bring me forward.  He wanted to pray for me.  Mom has treasured his words ever since.  “Let the little children come to me,” He said, “and do not hinder them, for to such belong the kingdom of God.”

Yes, you guessed it.  The preachers name was Jesus.  I just told you a fictional story built around a something that really did happen in Scripture.  The disciples really did try to shoo away some mothers who were bringing their babies to have Jesus bless them.  Jesus really did intervene.  He really did invite the mothers and their babies forward. 

There is another true aspect to the story I told.  It’s absolutely true – I was once a crying baby in church.  In fact, I think it’s a pretty safe bet, that all of us who were raised in the church were at one time crying babies in church.  It’s what babies do.  Babies get hungry and they cry.  Their diapers get soiled and they cry.  The get tired and they cry.  Sometimes they cry and nobody know why.   I don’t really know what my mom did when I cried in church.  When I was little our church didn’t have a nursery.  There was no cry room.  I am sure she or dad took me out to get me to calm down.  But the only place they had to take me was a narthex that was only a hallway at the back of the church.  With my loud voice, I am pretty sure people could still hear me. 

One thing I do know however.  I am so thankful to God that my mom and dad took me to church.  They brought me to Jesus to have Him bless me.  They lived through the time when I was a crying baby because teaching me about Jesus, was so very important to them.  And God used all of that.  He blessed me with His grace.  In baptism, He adopted me as His child.  In worship, in Sunday school, in VBS, in confirmation and at home, I was taught about Jesus.  Jesus used all sorts of people to bless me – Pastors, Sunday School teachers, parents and others.  I know Jesus and believe in Him… I am a pastor today because my parents took me and the church welcomed me – a crying baby in Church.

Truthfully, that’s why I am writing this.    How you and I as believers react to and care for crying little babies and their families is so important.  I know of moms who regularly avoid bringing their little babies because they are afraid of being judged by others.  That should not be the case.   Pastor Miles taught a lesson in my confirmation class that I will never forget.  He said, “If I hear a crying baby in church and see any of you turn around to look at that mom and baby, you will have to deal with me.  That baby and that mom (or dad) has as much right to be in church as you do.”  To this day if I hear a crying baby in church I will purposefully look the other way. I know Pastor Miles is still watching. 

What should we do when we hear a crying baby?  Rejoice!  Rejoice that there are moms and dads bringing their babies to your church.  Rejoice, because their presence will give Jesus the opportunity to bless those little babies and their families.  If you have a chance get to know those families.  Befriend them.  Offer to take a turn manning the nursery so that if the parents wish, they can bring their child to the nursery.  If they are new, welcome them and give them a tour.  Ask them if there is anything you can do for them.  Always remember that places like cry rooms and nurseries are not there for us to send parents and babies to. They are there if the parents decide to use them. 

Before you get annoyed by a crying baby – stop yourself.  Remember that like me, you were most likely once a crying baby in church.  Then thank God that your parents brought you and that the church welcomes you.  You are in church today in part because of how Jesus blessed you when you were a crying baby.  Then pray for those families and pray that God would make you to be His living breathing invitation to all with crying babies – “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belong the kingdom of God.”  Amen.