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Answering God – Day 18

Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Day 18 – Tuesday after 3rd Sunday of Lent

 

A&Q sidewaysTo Read: 

Rejoice in the presence of children and young people in your meeting and recognise the gifts they bring.
Remember that the meeting as a whole shares a responsibility for every child in its care.
Seek for them as for yourself a full development of God’s gifts and the abundant life Jesus tells us can be ours.
How do you share your deepest beliefs with them, while leaving them free to develop as the spirit of God may lead them?
Do you invite them to share their insights with you?
Are you ready both to learn from them and to accept your responsibilities towards them?
(Advices & Queries #19)

From the Scriptures:

O Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
    to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?         (Psalm 8v1-4)

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To Reflect:

Look up the meaning of the aphorism ‘Out of the mouth of babes’ in most dictionaries and it will say it describes a moment when a child says something especially cute, brutally (yet innocently) honest, or unsurprisingly wise.  Many authors connect it to the verses from Psalm 8 above but they bear no similarity in meaning.

The Psalmist expects the praises of God to be heard from the mouth of babes and out of the mouths of babesinfants, society still seems to expect ‘children to be seen and not heard.’  Else why are people surprised when a child demonstrates wisdom?

Our Advice today calls us to cherish children not simply because we are called to be a society in which it is safe for them to flourish.  Nor only be happy that children are present (still it seems there are faithful worshippers who find this difficult).  We are to recognise the gifts they bring to our common life.

Rejoice in the presence of children and young people in your meeting and recognise the gifts they bring.

In our parish we are blessed with several children who bring laughter, as well as a modicum of bearable disruption, to our weekly Choral Eucharist and we are saddened when they are not able to be present to share these ‘gifts’.  One of them has the air of an ingénue about her.  Wise far beyond her years, she has a way of giving people her full attention, care, and sympathy that melts hearts and encourages us to be better people.

Our challenge with the young in our churches, according to the Advices, is do we encourage them to slavishly imitate our faith or do we give them the room to blossom into a faith of their own?

How do you share your deepest beliefs with them, while leaving them free to develop as the spirit of God may lead them?

Young asian mother helping her daughter to wash hands

It would certainly be easier to get the big Bible stick out and misread, Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not strayto mean that parenting is all about making clones of ourselves or Mini-Meswho have no voice of their own apart from an occasional frightened scream.

The Advices are a challenge to us when it comes to children.  It would be easy to simply encourage them to mimic us and stay on the familiar ground of our own experience.  This is the problem with our faith, especially our deepest beliefs, it becomes so precious, and so imperative to propagate, that we cannot permit any other expressions of it.

When this happens we quench the Spirit’s work in our little ones and become incapable of learning from them and listening to their insights.  And if we persist in this even our own faith will die as we will have no one to carry it forward.

We have a responsibility to the young in our community to make our times of meeting and worship safe spaces where they find the freedom to become who they are, unique and deeply loved children of God.  Places that will allow them to leave handprints on our hearts as their faith transforms and enriches our own.

Sadly, church has not always proven to be a safe place for the young and the let little childrenvulnerable.  For this reason the care of children is the responsibility of everyone, not only the Sunday School Teacher, or the Minister, or the Safeguarding Officer.  It is a disgrace that the faith whose founder said. ‘Suffer, the little children to come unto me’ has too often brought just suffering…

We must repent of our neglect of the little ones in our care and, where we can, repair the damage done.  We have allowed young flowers to be trampled on and too often believed the adult instead of the young person.  We have too often presumed that everything that has come ‘out of the mouths of babes’ has been imagined, over dramatised, or a lie.  When we refuse to listen and learn from our children the faith in them is still-born and we must weep at the abuse that we have allowed to happen.

Children, when cherished and given space to bloom, bring life to everything they touch.  We should be humbled that we have the privilege of learning our faith at their feet and devote ourselves to their well-being for when they thrive the whole church prospers.

 

To Pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
Good Shepherd of the sheep,
You gather the lambs in your arms
And carry them in your bosom.
We commend to your loving care our children,
Guard them from all danger,
Endow them with your gifts of gladness and strength,
And lead them to a life of service to you.
(Anonymous)

To Do:

1)  Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2)  Think of an adult in your own childhood who gave you space for you to be ‘you’ and, if you are able, thank them.

 

Acknowledgements:

Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright  © Becca Anderson 2017

These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged

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