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Welcome to Sunshine Cathedral. This is a house of prayer for all people. All are welcome here. Whoever you are and where ever you are on your spiritual journey you bring special gifts to share. And we pray that you will find spiritual nourishment for your journey here.
Call to Worship
The theme of our worship today is centered on God’s love for the least of us, the children, the infirm, those who are outcast, and St. Francis of Assisi’s love of animals.
Please join me in our call to worship.
Let us worship God as children...with wonder and awe.
ALL: Let us worship God as youth...with questions and eager hearts.
Let us worship God as adults...with gratitude and praise.
ALL: Let us worship God as elders...with wisdom and hope.
Let the Body of Christ sing praises to God,
ALL: from whom all blessings flow.
“Blessed are you, O God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless all the animals that make our lives special. Bless our pets and open our hearts that they may teach us the power of unconditional love. By the power of your love, enable us to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation.Blessed are you, O God, in all your creatures! Amen.”
Based on a prayer here: (http://www.ecfvp.org/files/uploads/Pet_Blessing_Resource.pdf)
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk… now that you have tasted that God is good.
The Wisdom of Frederick Douglass
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken [adults].
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to bless them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the realm of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the realm of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Click on the audio bar below to hear the audio.
“Bring the Childre to Me”
Our readings today have been a great source of reflection for me this week. I often review the readings early in my preparation and then just go on about my regular work and responsibilities while the words percolate through my subconscious. The first reading for this week is one that is very familiar to me from my childhood. It’s sometimes difficult for me to get outside of the readings when they are very familiar to me.
The phrase “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk…” has always been fascinating to me. The word crave is so interesting here. Crave is a verb that means “feel a powerful desire for (something).” I’ve always read this passage as if we are somehow supposed to spontaneously crave this pure spiritual milk. And I’ll be honest this passage has always “convicted” me as we used to say in the Baptist church. As a young person I couldn’t understand why I sometimes didn’t have this spontaneous craving. I thought there was something wrong with me because I sometimes was more concerned with my physical well being than my spiritual health. In my mind it was an either/or paradigm.
But as I prepared for this week I had an epiphany about this verse. In 12 step rooms I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve learned things like “what other people think of me is none of my business,” “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got,” and many more pearls of wisdom. Somehow this week I realized that I can’t create a craving. A craving may be connected to some behavior of mine but I can’t will myself to crave something.
When we read this first reading through a lens of Greek dualism it sounds like we either crave the physical world or we crave the spiritual. But as I read it this week I realized that the way it is written is actually encouraging us in the opposite. We are given an example here of newborn babies craving milk, craving food to stay alive. This is something that is placed within us when we are born into physical life. It is an instinct that causes us to seek nourishment in order to survive.
I realized that a craving is the result of enjoying something. I can’t crave something that I don’t know. I crave foods that taste good. I get a “rush” that we are often taught is not good for us. So I began to read this passage not as a dichotomy but a bringing together of both the physical and the spiritual. We have to exercise our spiritual muscle in order to grow. We do that by choosing to “taste” the spiritual food that nourishes us. The phrase “taste and see” sounds like a mixed metaphor. How can we see something that we taste? What I think is going on here is that we are encouraged to fully engage our senses in cultivating our spiritual life.
I have a framed quote on the wall of my home by Goethe that says, “A person should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture everyday in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” We must taste food that allows us to see our true potential…
Our second reading speaks about the importance of building a strong base being easier than trying to “fix” something after it is fully formed. Our intellect is important. Not something that we ought to set aside when we come to our faith community. And it is true that our intellect can be a liability if it tells us that we don’t need to pay attention to our spiritual health.
Our gospel reading today is the story of people trying to keep children from coming to Jesus. This is an image of people in power trying to keep those who appear to be unworthy from coming to spiritual awareness. But Jesus says bring the children to me and learn from them. Unless you become like children, searching, teachable, trusting, you will not know the realm of God.
It seems particularly appropriate that today we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the one who loved the animals and all of creation. Our gospel story portrays children as the least, the ones who cannot understand. The animals around us that share our lives as pets are also often referred to as unworthy of the love we share with them.
But lest we become smug about our holiness, we have the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States to ground us in reality. Many of us reveled in the week of spiritual awareness and good will that accompanied that visit. And then this week we learned that the Pope met with Kim Davis and our hearts sank. Still later we learned that he also met with a transgender man and with a gay couple.
This is the spirit that Jesus is teaching us. Meet with everyone. Love all. See the light of God in everyone. Model what Jesus teaches. As we look at the world this week let us ask ourselves what would Jesus do? As we see the refugees, those living in war and violence, those who are murdered and abused, may we remember the words of our text this week, “And [Jesus] took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.“ Amen.