I want the congregation I serve to be a community in which young children are encouraged to be present in worship. I understand that this summer two different young families left a worship service after others made them feel decidedly not welcome with their children. I understand the frustration of trying to focus during the Divine Service while distractions swirl in the noise scape. I think though that if a young mother is approached about her child being too noisy, the effort should be aimed towards help and aid. If a young mother leaves the worship service in tears and anger then something has decidedly gone wrong.
So this Sunday I used the occasion of the gospel text being Matthew 18 to preach about how our community of believers must be built on the foundation of the love of Christ. The sermon was heavy on the law. I do not think I brought the healing and strengthening and transforming gospel well enough forward in the sermon.
I began the sermon talking about how we have been created for community in the very ordering of creation. We have been made male and female; we have been made to be in relationship with others. Relationships become broken because of sin. When we attempt to rebuild relationships to have them center around ourselves, these sorts of relationships cannot stand for long. The tower of Babel in Genesis 11 is an example of people failing to build community because they sought to make a name for themselves instead of seeking to honor God. Relationships that are built on selfish pursuits instead of seeking the strength of the other are scattered by God.
God, in His mercy, seeks to bring healing to our broken relationships. Jesus Christ has come so that we might be reconciled to God and so that we might be reconciled to one other. While we ruin our relationship with God and with one another through our vain selfishness, God restores us to a right relationship through the self-sacrifice love of our savior Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 3:10-14 I am reminded of the danger of starting to build our community on Christ but then setting aside His love to finish the task of building using our own vanity. St. Paul points out that anyone who builds on Christ with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw will be found to be a fraud on the day of judgment. We are called to build on Christ and continue to daily build our lives on the forgiving love of Christ. When we use the love of Christ for the weak and struggling among us we will find that the big bad wolf can huff and puff but he cannot blow our house down. We must build and continually seek to build our community of faith through the love of Christ. When another among us is weak or hurting our aim is to restore him or her.
Thinking of how a community of people building on the love of Christ should respond to a mother struggling with her young children in the worship service, I ask that we consider how our response could help to build that mother up or tear her down. I hope we can build up young families by building them up in the love of Christ.