Planning a New Day: For Our Children 6-9-13

Luke 7:11-17  Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

June 9, 2013

Planning a New Day: For Our Children 

My son graduates from Germantown Friends School on Friday. I am very pleased. He graduates by the skin of his teeth and we’re still not totally sure about what comes next. We only know that its going to cost lots of money, and that we will pay it gladly on some kind of faith, a wing and a prayer that whatever those next steps are will help him build on the foundation he hardly knows he has, to make a good life for himself.
To the tell you the truth, I don’t feel worthy to speak to you this morning about planning for the future for our children here at St Luke. With the future of my dear boy so unclear at a time when his classmates are all going off to Yale and Penn and other cool sounding places, I feel more nervous than usual about my inadequacies as a parent.
Maybe I do have some wisdom to share though, from this somewhat vulnerable perspective. Obviously, one insight is that success cannot be measured by whether our children go to Yale or Penn! Everybody knows that! Success cannot be measured by whether our children go to college. Success can only be measured for each individual child in relation to their own particular abilities and challenges. We know that! And each year we look around at the accomplishments of other people and their children and we wonder why we didn’t do that.
Why didn’t my kid run a marathon, build a school in Nicaragua, strike out five people in a championship baseball game?
Oh, wait a minute, my kid did do that!
Anyway, you get my point. We value each child as God values them, for their own unique gifts and talents. We love them as they are and keep on holding out God’s expectations and hopes for their lives.
Our readings today both tell the stories of times when God comes through for the children of people who find themselves in almost impossible situations.  In the first reading, a widow has no food left for her son, when the prophet Elijah (no relation) goes to her and asks her for food. She answers him in despair. In this drought with this last bit of flour I was just going to make one last biscuit for my son and then we will die. Elijah tells her to make the biscuit and give it to him. He promises that God will take care of her until the drought ends, that the flour and oil will be replenished in their jars until she can get other food.
In the gospel reading, A widow, the widow of Nain, is crying in despair at the funeral for her only son. There is even less that she can do than the widow in the first story who can at least make her son a biscuit. Jesus hears her crying and brings the young man back to life.

Early in my son’s life, someone gave me a piece of wisdom that I have never forgotten. They said that raising your child is a constant process of letting go. From the very beginning, you start to let them go and it continues all through your lives together. You hope that never extends to losing them to death as in this passage and as has happened to some in our midst, but scripture assures us that even then, God is with them and they are with God.
Our readings this morning tell stories of the very hardest situations of parenting – not having enough food for a child and losing a child to death. I guarantee you that any parent in situations like those will be hoping for the kinds of miracles our readings portray. But if we cling to the vision that miracles happen only like these in the Bible, we risk missing the smaller miracle moments in which God’s compassion can enter into our upside-down world, touch our most pain-filled places, and restore our shattered hearts. (M. Jan Holton, p. 116, Feasting on the Word)
There are many situations where we desperately hope for an outright miracle for our children, where we find we have to settle for a less dramatic turn-around – illness, financial difficulties, chronic pain, divorce, addiction, injury, violence and abuse, trauma – any of these situations would seem to need an out and out miracle to help us feel the world is really in God’s hands.

Parents however, learn to watch for the smaller miracle, to see God’s presence and compassion in the messy unfinished edges of our lives. Miracles sometimes come in less dazzling forms. As I told you already, my son is graduating from high school this Friday!
One of the best things church does for us is to help us recognize God’s hand in these less dazzling forms of miracle – in the child who says “I love you” after months or years of alienation and hurt, in the young person who speaks in front of a crowd with her knees shaking in fear, in the young person who starts to make decisions for themselves that recognize their limitations and their need for help.
I see God’s power and God’s presence in events like these as clearly as in the miracle stories in the Bible. Our vision for the future of our children’s program at St. Luke is that we will nurture dozens of children and youth to have a healthy spiritual life, to help them grow into fulfilled, creative, loving adults of faith. We plan at the same time and just as importantly to support parents to recognize the small miracles in the lives of their families and their children’s lives.
We try to provide opportunities for our children and parents to sense God’s presence and compassion in their lives in all kinds of situations, to hear God’s calling in their lives. We support each other to know that you are never too young to hear God’s calling to do important work, to be part of what God is doing in the world.
We will not abandon our children to adver