Last night I sat in the rear of the sanctuary as Rev. John Schweibert preached during the Jazz Service. I had heard his sermon three times already during the day – it was well worth hearing the fourth time!! I wanted to experience worship from the rear of the sanctuary (as we are definitely “upper front right-siders” in our seating score on the LPSI – (Lutheran Pew Selection Inventory) – which connotes comfortable, life-long Lutherans with moderate hearing loss who need to be closer to the speaker but whose vanity won’t permit them a first or second pew position). I was struck by the simple beauty of Augustana’s Sanctuary – classic, timeless, simple lines which seem to funnel all sight to the Chancel (where the action is). The Chancel area is deep and it reminded me of the depth of the mystery of our faith. The mystery proclaimed regularly that “God Comes Down”. An ancient spatial thought, yes – but one that speaks of the depth of God’s commitment to this Earth and its inhabitants. God, in Christ, leaves it all behind and enters our existence to reveal God’s essence to us.
John got to the part in the sermon where Jesus takes a child and brings it into the circle of the disciples to demonstrate that the community he is forming will be a servant community, seeing to the needs of the weak ones and powerless ones (a community that models what God does in the Incarnation – coming “down” to the aid of a broken humanity which is unable to “get it right”). For whatever reason, as he got to that point in the sermon, I was looking at the stained glass panel of Jesus and the children – located on the south wall, towards the rear. The image was darkened a bit, as the sun had moved westward, but the image stood out nonetheless. Jesus and the children were illustrating the point of the sermon to me. I’ve known that Jesus welcomes children all of my life, indeed, I believe that Jesus welcomed me into the family of God as an infant almost 58 years ago now. It is the notion of that gracious and unconditional welcome which has sustained my faith all these years. And yet, in the dimming light of a mid-September evening, in the rear of Augustana’s sanctuary, I “got it”!! The window spoke it to me – louder than John’s meaningful words.
I believe it is the Masai people of Africa who, upon meeting another Masai, greet one another with the words, “and how are the children?” It is a ritual greeting, to be sure, but they know that the health of their communities can be measured by the well-being of the children. They know well that a healthy village will raise healthy children – they know that, “as fare the children, so fares the community and its future.”
The Oregonian on Friday had an article that said there are 18,000 children attending school in our state that have no home of their own --. As I write this, my gut aches, and I want to weep.