In the name of Jesus; amen.
In 1985, when I was but 15 years old, a singer by the name of Whitney Houston released a song with these lyrics (perhaps you will recognize them):
I believe that children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone to fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me
I decided long ago
Never to walk in anyone's shadow
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I will live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Chorus:Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
Nice sentiment, especially today as we celebrate the beginning of a week of Vacation Bible School between Immanuel and Salem Churches. Certainly I remember loving the song when it came out, thinking that someone had finally gotten it right. Teach children dignity, teach them to love themselves, teach them to be their own person.
Now, I don’t know if Whitney was the first one to say it, but the line: “The children are our future” has gotten to be well-known. And we have an expectation of our children to live up to it; to be our future. And that gets lived out in several different ways. Anyone here seen the show: “Sports Moms and Dads” on Bravo. It’s a new reality show that follows the children and parents of talented children who play sports. There’s another one like it on TV too called Show Moms and Dads.
I’ve never watched a full episode, but when I’ve seen parts of it or caught a commercial usually some parent is being portrayed pushing their child beyond their limits to succeed, to fulfill a dream of greatness the parents always claim is the child’s, but it is obviously clear that the dream is the parent’s.
“I believe that children are our future.”
It’s a nice sentiment; but I don’t believe it. It’s a beautiful song and I’ve had it stuck in my head for days now; but I don’t believe it. Yes, I agree that children should be taught well, given a sense of pride in themselves. I agree that children should love themselves and be developed into leaders. Children are a gift that should not be mistreated or abused and I will advocate for a child before anyone else, including myself.
But gathered here today as two churches with a history between them and as two churches about to do this great ministry of Vacation Bible School together if we think that anything but Jesus Christ is our future we are in trouble deep.
In today’s second reading Paul brings up all sorts of horrors: hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword. And he quotes Psalm 44 and the Prophet, Zechariah: “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
And it would sound pretty bleak if all we had to go on was our own dignity or our own self-love if this was the life we were up against. But Paul, Paul looks at all these things with the knowledge of an even greater love and makes the claim: “If God is for us, who is against us?” And then later, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Our future as the Church, as members of churches, and as individuals in them, is Christ Jesus and the kingdom of Heaven and nothing can keep us from that future because it has already been laid in front of us, the door wide open with no impediments to keep us from it.
And Jesus, in today’s Gospel, tells us the joy of that Kingdom. It is a small thing that grows beyond our dreams; an ingredient that finishes the recipe; a precious gem worth more than any other; a surprise; and an overabundant fullness.
But even more so, the Kingdom of Heaven, our future, is a thing that God does. It is God who plants, God who leavens the bread, God who finds the treasure and the pearl, God who throws in his net to discover it filled; which means that we are the prize the thing that God desired more than any other, so that he was willing to give away everything he had for us.
Our future has been made by the one “who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us.”
We can celebrate Vacation Bible School today. We can celebrate our two churches coming together to worship and work as a cooperative. We can celebrate the ministry of Camp Calumet and we can celebrate the children for whom all this was done.
But none of those things has determined our future the way that God has determined it.
I believe that Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven is our future, that nothing in this life can separate us from either and for that I can shout Hallelujah!