Reflections to start the week
Monday, July 21, 2014
Suffer the little children.
Several years ago, my wife and I had the privilege of visiting Holy Cross Monastery in Grahamstown, South Africa, founded in response to a request in the late 1990′s that the monks come to that divided nation to model community. Several monks answered that call. They went, in the spirit of Abraham and Sarah in the Bible, not knowing where they were going or what they were meant to do once they got there. They went, and did what they knew to do, which was to say their prayers, confident that the Holy Spirit would show them the way.
It was not long after they had arrived that their mission became clear. Three young boys, who lived near the monastery had been left unattended one day, because the mothers had to work and could not afford child care. The boys were playing on railroad tracks nearby the monastery. An oncoming train hit them. Two of them died. The monks not only offered comfort, not only arranged for funeral and burial. They also discerned their call, which had to do with the local children who began to make their way down the long dirt road to the monastery. The monks began a scholarship fund to help these young people go to school. They founded a school on site for the children who lived in the area and in the local impoverished townships. The monks set a goal of providing an education as good as the best private schools in South Africa, making it accessible to people who never dreamed they could afford it. They found their vocation. It was about the children.
My ministry has offered the privilege of traveling to places where God’s love shines through with beauty and grace, even in most desperate and deprived settings. Grahamstown is one for sure. Another is Honduras, where I have traveled a number of times. I haven’t taken groups there in two or three years because we’ve been told it’s too dangerous. On one of my last visits, I visited an AIDS clinic in San Pedro Sula, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. I stepped outside the clinic to take a phone call, just on the sidewalk. The staff urgently pulled me back through the open front door. It was not safe to stand on the sidewalk, even in the middle of the day, just a few feet from the door. Since that time, the clinic has been robbed several times. Employees have been beaten up. Two have been murdered.
This Monday morning, I’m mindful of those children who have made their way to the southern border of our nation, from places like Honduras and other neighboring countries. I remember the children I met in Honduras, who look so much like that 8 year old boy I saw in a news photo this week, standing in front of U.S. border agent, showing the policeman his birth certificate, the only thing he brought with him besides the clothes he was wearing. 8 years old.
This Monday morning, I’m mindful of four boys playing soccer on the beach in Gaza who lost their lives when a missile ended their game.
This Monday morning, I’m mindful of infants sitting on parents’ laps on a plane shot down over eastern Ukraine. Those infants had nothing to do with the conflict that raged beneath the jet they boarded.
Each of these situations suggests political challenges that defy solution, broken human relationships that defy mending. No one politician or policy will solve them. Apparently, no one knows what to do about them. I have neither inclination or aptitude to weigh in with answers. All I know is this Monday morning, my heart is heavy with the brokenness of the world, and with the realization that children seem to bear the brunt. So maybe this Monday we mimic those monks, and we stop right now and pray for all God’s children, and for what God would have us do. If you’re not sure what to pray, you’re not alone. You could start with the prayer for the human family from our Prayer Book. And perhaps, in some way, prayers can be offered not only with our lips but with our lives
- Jay Sidebotham
But Jesus said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 19:14 (King James Version)
But Jesus said, Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” -Matthew 19:14 (New Revised Standard Version)
A prayer for the human family from the Book of Common Prayer, page 815:
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.