Welcoming Children

In the mchildren's sermon world communion 2016onth of August, the attention of parents of
school aged children (like myself) is turned to preparations
for the school-year. Since University UMC is situated where it
is, this is typically one of the “high holy seasons” of our particular
church, and I’m excited that with a rehabilitated
courtyard, some of our practices we do excellently, like offer
coffee to passers-by and fun spontaneous things happening
in this beautiful part of our church, are able to happen as
students are arriving on campus again.
With my recent marriage, I have four school-aged
children to prepare for the academic year now instead of
two, so preparations for this season occupy even more real
estate in my mind. It sometimes seems I’m beset on all sides
on children-one for every direction of the wind. This past
Sunday when we had a boisterous dozen kids in the children’s
sermon who seemed intent on hijacking the carefully
constructed sermon snippet I had constructed in my mind, I
was reminded of that hilarious and insightful interaction between
Jesus and his disciples. Mark, Matthew, and Luke all
agree that the disciples “rebuked” those who were bringing
their children to Jesus. (Mt 19: 13-14, Mk 10: 13-16, Lk 18:
15-17).
They were obviously annoyed. Perhaps they were
stymied in their efforts to have an “adult conversation with
Jesus.” Perhaps they were thinking about all the needs of
children and how they can’t see to those needs themselves.
Maybe the children were running around under everyone’s
feet and distracting Jesus from his teaching. They were likely
missing the point, dwelling on unintended parts of his
teaching: “camel through the eye of a needle? I like camels,
one time I got to ride a camel at the marketplace! It spit at
Joseph the fruit guy. I laughed and laughed. I like apples the
best, they are crunchy. It’s crunchy when I walk on the road.
It hurts my feet, can you heal this spot where I stepped on a
rock. Jesus?”
I’m reminded of the frequent “interruptions”
that children present. In the 20 minutes I tried to
carve out to write this newsletter article, the children
in my own life (who woke up early despite my efforts
to keep them asleep so I could get some work done
on a kid-filled day) talked too loudly next to Wesley’s
new barn door (he’s still asleep of course),
called out for Myranda next to the barn door, had
their iPad volume jacked up so the sound of model
trains was too loud next to the barn door (hmm,
maybe I should move myself away from the barn
door, and the early risers will follow me like the pied
piper.), had a tummy ache, wanted pancakes, etc.
etc.
Jesus seems to be pretty insistent
(“indignant”says Mark, who never masks Jesus’ frustration
with his disciples) that children and all their
distractions are a necessary component of the spiritual
life. We can’t just dismiss life’s interruptions.
We must deal with them. And sometimes, if we open
our mind, heart, soul, and strength to attending to
those interruptions with loving-kindness (like Jesus
is shown, “holding them in his arms,”) we’ll discover
the gifts they bring. John doesn’t relay the same story
I recounted above from the synoptic gospels, but
he is the lone Gospel writer that identifies the source
of the five loaves and two fish—it is “a boy,” one of
those perhaps tagging along despite the protestations
of the disciples. That’s how the 5000 get fed.
Because a boy offers his lunch with wide eyed wonder
to the miracle maker. May we approach this holy
season in the life of our church with a light-hearted
reverence—one that is hospitable to children and all
their distractions. Now it’s time to make some pancakes.

Port, not a Fort

I was looking back on some past Pastor’s Perspectives, and this one from 5 years ago seemed to speak to me again for this time of year. I hope it has fresh meaning for you too!   In my recent letter of transfer to notify Galloway United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi of the Oertel…

Sexuality, Grace, Acceptance, and Leadership.

[News was just released that the Judicial Council found Bishop Karen Oliveto’s consecration as Bishop to be against church law, but refrained from any consequence of that “breach” of law. She remains in good standing. I haven’t yet processed what that means, but meanwhile, I’ll go ahead and publish what I wrote earlier this week…

Where God Lives

A couple Sundays ago, I placed a picture I had taken in 2003 on the communion table face up but unseen by the congregation. I used the picture as an illustration for Scott Bruner and Cindy Hartman, whom I had invited to “come and see” where God lived. I had been preaching on the last…

Time for Interfaith Hospitality

Pastor’s Perspective For some time, I’ve envisioned our church as being well situated to be instrumental in projects and               conversations that promote greater interfaith understanding. Perhaps we could even be the United Methodist “banner carrier” for this endeavor in the    Tulsa area. I have been especially proud of some of our opportunities we’ve had this…

An Expansive Thankfulness

As we make plans to be in the company of family and friends, or perhaps taking a day to volunteer so that others may know the blessings of this holiday more fully, I am reminded of a little tidbit from John Calvin’s Institutes that I read recently at the “Lunch with Calvin” study I frequent…

Civility, Humility, and Politics

This November, I’ll have been voting for 20 years. That first year I voted was when I was 18, and it was the election of 1996. My interest in our political process had been active since I was a child, but was particularly ignited when in 1992 my state’s governor ran for President of the United…

A Prayer for the “Oilfield.”

Gov. Fallin designated Oct. 13 as the Day of Prayer for the Oilfields, so here’s my prayer. O Lord of All things on the earth, above the earth, and in the earth, We have heard your apostle say to the Romans that the “Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how…

Achieving Justice

I was struck by the headline of the Tulsa World this morning, echoing Police Chief Jordan’s words following the killing of Terence Crutcher by a Tulsa Police officer. “We will achieve justice in this case.” Perhaps it was just a turn of phrase that is more commonly rendered by public officials in the too common…

My Conception of the activity of the Holy Spirit

Several things: approving the ministry candidacy of Dan Gibbens-Rickman along with the called charge conference on Aug. 17, the current sermon series on “The wisdom of sensuality” focusing on the bodily knowledge of God, and a podcast that a church member shared with me recently, have brought to mind the glimmer of a memory of one…

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