Standing In God's Smile
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
"Standing In God's Smile"
(1 John 4:7-12)
A Small boy stood in a little stream of sunlight in a darkened room, where a tiny hole in the heavy curtains permitted a bit of light to pour down and spread out onto the carpet. When his mother looked in to check on him, the little boy giggled and said, "Look, Mommy! I'm standing in God's smile."
I really like that little story. Light in the midst of darkness called God's smile. Only a child in all their innocence could make such an astute observation. As the scripture says, "God is love." And through children, God's love is made touchable and tangible. But then children have always been God's special messengers. David was still a young boy when God called him to fight Goliath. Samuel was just a boy when God called him to be a prophet. And God sent his own son, our Savior, to be born into our world as a baby; an infant, helpless, powerless, completely dependent like any other infant.
I. CHILDREN ARE SPECIAL TO GOD:
Children have a very special place in ministry and in the Church. To me, when we're in their presence, we're standing in God's smile. I know it sounds sentimental but that's how I feel about children.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not naive. I don't view children through rose colored glasses. Just as they can be reflections of God's light and love, they can be little monsters, too. I've got two boys and I've witnessed the full moon coming out right in broad daylight. I've seen their fangs and claws and tail as they become the unspeakable horror that even the bogie man runs from. I've seen those times when they give both Jason and Freddie nightmares.
But everybody has their bad days. We've all acted like monsters at some point in time. But in spite of that or maybe because of it, children are special.
II. THEY MINISTER TO US:
A. Children have a very sacred role in the Church. They minister to us. Children are the most powerful symbol of hope in the universe. They bring hope. What more beautiful picture of hope is there than a young mother with a newborn? No wonder the Messiah, the Savior of the world came as an infant, first.
Every infant, every child, every teenager in our midst brings that hope to life. Every time one of them wiggles or giggles or cries or kicks the chair in front of them; it's the sound of hope; it's the sound of the future making itself known in the present. Sure, sometimes we hope they don't make too much sound. And we hope that during worship the future doesn't make itself too well known, but they are symbols of hope.
B. Children also teach us and show us how to love. they have the power to evoke tenderness and joy from biggest, meanest, toughest hombres around. They bring the gift of love to us.
There's an old Dennis the Menace cartoon. Dennis is on his back, arms folded behind his head, snuggled down between Mom and Dad who are about half asleep. Dennis has a satisfied grin on his face and says, "You know what? I love us!" Our children teach us about love.
C. They also teach us about faith. During one of our Super Sundays, the children were asked: "Where would you take Jesus if he were here in person?" They answered by drawing chalk pictures out in the circle drive. They were great. Listen to some of the descriptions or the drawings our kids made. There was Jesus on a roller coaster with Nathan and with Clayton at Six Flags. There was a picture of Jesus with Ellen on a boat in the water. There was a picture of Jesus with Kristy and an alien. Thomas and Dylan would bring Jesus to Church. Stacy would take Jesus to the Zoo. Emily would take Jesus to see the animals in her bed. Brett would take Jesus to Six Flags and then home to watch TV. Jessica would take Jesus home to see Mom. And my favorite was a picture of Shannon and Jesus riding on a rainbow. That is such a wonderful witness to God's love. And to the love God has for us. That witness comes though the faith expressed by our children.
We've even got one little boy who wouldn't go home a couple of Sunday's ago, until he got to come in annd sit in Church.
In a children's sermon, I once used a picture of a three or four year old little girl, who was holding a mirror. She could see her reflection in the mirror and you could tell she was pleased with what she saw. I asked them what they thought the picture meant. One little girl, who was always trying to outguess me. said, "I think I know why you're showing us that picture. Because Jesus died for our sins and rose again, we can look in the mirror and smile!"
She didn't even know how much of a profound theological statement she had made. She summed up a couple of hundred years of theological debate in just a couple of words. In her own words, she said what John was saying in this letter
"God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins."
Because of the grace of God, we CAN look in the mirror and smile, without shame or remorse. We can smile with joy at being new creations, forgiven through Christ Jesus, our Lord. We can smile and stand in God's smile.
III. MINISTER TO THEM:
Our children minister to us, and we're called to minister to them as good parents, teachers, friends, but mostly by simply being good Christians. We're called to live in the light of God's smile, too. We're called to let the love of God shine down upon us and be the guiding light of our lives.
Jim Moore tells the story of a man who set up Donatello's statue of a boy. (This isn't the Donatello of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fame, this is Donatello the artist.) The man wanted to put light on the statue for special effect, so he placed some lights on the floor. But with the light shining from below, the boy's face looked horrible, grotesque, even evil. The man tried every possible position but nothing worked. Finally, he put the lights OVER the statue and let the light shine down from above. When he stepped back and looked, he was amazed, the lights shining from above made the boy look beautiful, attractive, like an angel. (1)
Our children can be attracted to both kinds of light. The light from above and the light from below. Both kinds of light illuminate but only one brings out the best, the love of God. Our responsibility as adults, is to help them be illuminated by the light from above, the light of God. We're called to help them stand in God's smile.
And we can't do that just with words. Our children see the reflection of what is most important in our lives by how we act and talk and treat one another. We can help them stand in God's smile by standing there ourselves and letting the love of God guide our lives and our relationships with others.
When we're faithful to our calling to minister to our children and let our children minister to us, then the child within us can be unleashed and freed to live and love as Christ intended. You see, I believe there's a little bit of the child in all of us. Some say it's a little bit of Peter Pan or just a hold over from a more naive age. I believe it's the image of God. There is a little bit of the wide-eyed innocent child underneath all of our rough worldly exteriors, that is trying to escape. There's a little bit of the child that would like to be loved and to love with faithfulness. All of us still have a little bit or a lot of the child still in us. Me, I'm still a big kid, just ask Mary. Maybe I'll grow up someday, but I hope not. Because I think that child-like
outlook is what enables me to preach. It enables me to laugh with others and laugh at myself. It keeps me in God's smile. It allows the children to minister to me and give me hope.
John wrote, "let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." I believe that includes our children. When we let our children minister to us and we minister to them, then through God's love, we can all stand in God's smile.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. James Moore, When All Else Fails, Read the Instructions, (Dimensions Fro Living, Nashville, 1993) pp. 128-129.