A (short) message given on Children’s Day
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Asbury UMC
Rev. Scott Summerville

Luke 7:36-507:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 7:37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 7:38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner.” 7:40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.”7:41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 7:42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 7:43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”…..

This is a happy occasion. In this hour a child will be baptized. The child is only six months old, a brand-new citizen of planet Earth, this day to be recognized as a living part of the body of Christ, even though he will have no idea what any of this means.

In this hour we will name and to give recognition to the children and youth of our Sunday school program. There is a quiet undercurrent of love for the younger generation on the part of the older generation that holds the church together. Beneath the words and rituals of this day is that quiet undercurrent of love; a love greater than the young now understand. This love gives this day a special joy.

In this hour we will name and give recognition to those who teach among us and lead in ministries with young people.

In the gospel lesson today we hear the voice of Jesus, speaking as teacher, speaking as Rabbi. If I were giving a full-length message today, I would have a great deal to say about this story from the gospel of Luke. But since we have so many things to celebrate, I want to mention just one thing about this story, and I draw your attention to it: it is the tone of Jesus’ voice. Jesus speaks as a teacher, and what he has to say is very challenging and may even be painful to those he is teaching, but the tone in which he speaks is a tone of great gentleness. Hear him speak:

Luke 7:44-48
….Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 7:45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 7:46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 7:48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

We are blessed in this church with teachers whose voices, whose words, and whose gentleness is a reflection of Jesus’ gentleness and wisdom. The fact that we have such teachers among us is part of what makes this day such a happy occasion.

This is also Father’s Day; Jesus’ voice today speaks to men and to fathers in particular. We as fathers struggle to maintain that balance between forcefulness and gentleness and that balance of holding out high expectations for our children while conveying to them our unconditional love and support. We as fathers struggle to maintain our gentleness, when we ourselves coping with all the stresses and demands of life. In Jesus we find a way of being as men that his both forceful and gentle.

Finally today we have a happy opportunity to congratulate and to bless young people who are completing important milestones in their studies. Our love for them, the pride we feel in them, and the joy of these accomplishments are tinged with some sadness. With graduation often comes separation, and some of our graduates today will soon be heading off to new places. As we bless them today, we may shed a few tears as well.

This is a happy occasion, even if there is a touch of sadness.
We have so much to be grateful for this day.
Praise and thanks be to God for these gifts, and let the celebrations begin!