For almost as long as Seaside United Methodist Church has been in existence, the Children’s Defense Fund has sponsored a nationwide, interfaith observance of The Children’s Sabbath. The central, driving force for the Children’s Sabbath is the recognition that children are a gift of God but that they are among the most vulnerable in our human society. The Rev. Mark Bozzutti-Jones observes:
“If we watch children closely, we can learn many things about them. We learn how children respond to life, we become aware of their needs, we learn what hurts them and we learn how they mirror God’s love. Children have many qualities that can be overlooked unless adults take the time to notice, to learn, to welcome them, and to listen to them.
A wonderfully characteristic trait of children is persistence. Children almost never give up. They can laugh forever, talk forever, question forever, and, yes, hurt forever. Children persist in making us think about our lives, our priorities, our hopes, our dreams, and our loves.
Children also invite us, persistently, to think about the mystery of life and the mystery of the reign of God. It was the children’s persistence, their unwillingness to listen to the disciples, that caught the attention of Jesus and that led him to say to the disciples, “Let the children come to me.”
Persistence of this kind is a necessary part of a faithful life. We struggle with our moral and ethical decisions, we struggle to discipline our lives, and we struggle to achieve justice and a better world. We struggle to give love and peace the upper hand, we struggle to preserve the works of mercy, and we even struggle to remain Christian. Perhaps without realizing it as such, we struggle daily to ensure that our children are safe, protected, loved, educated and prepared to live fulfilling lives in the world.
In the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with an angel, Jacob refuses to let go until the angel blesses him. Jacob wanted to be blessed because he saw the importance of it, not just for himself, but for his family and nation.
We need an attitude like that of Jacob. We need a disposition to see the blessing of our children as gifts worth wrestling over, not just for ourselves, but for the whole nation, the whole family of God.
If adults persisted in loving, praying, asking the right questions, advocating on behalf of children, and ensuring that the world was a safe and holy place for children, we would all become more aware of God’s love and peace.
The sad truth, though, is that while we may have moved heaven and earth for our own children and grandchildren, it is far too easy to ignore the needs of our community’s children—especially those who are out of our sight. Many of these children who need our help are sick, abandoned, imprisoned, hungry, enslaved, uneducated and abused. As Christians we must persist in a struggle for a better life for all our children, we cannot give up.
Throughout the month of February, the Christian Formation Committee will be highlighting the call to prayer and action that is the “Children’s Sabbath.” As we pray and work, may Jacob’s struggle for God’s blessing encourage us. May the examples and lessons of persistence in our children give us strength to persevere as we care for all of God’s children.