If I say the words “kids’ table,” I bet you can picture what I mean. Holidays at the family homestead with the adult table and the kids relegated to a card table that was sometimes set up in the dining room but usually in a different room altogether. Right? I mean, your experience may be different, but the term is ubiquitous and depending on your history with it, can fill you with dread, ambivalence, animosity, or excitement. Sometimes being at the kids table means that you can get away with whatever because the adults are otherwise engaged. For me, it was mostly annoyance at being separated. I once stood up and announced that at my next birthday, I would no longer sit at the kids table, and this was met with knowing laughter from the adults.
I did eventually “graduate” to the adult table, but as the youngest family member of my generation, it was too little too late. As I developed in my faith, I loved hearing stories about how Jesus welcomed the children.
Then the people brought their little children to Jesus so he could put his hands on them and pray for them. His followers told them to stop, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children.”
I told my grandparents, “Jesus would have let me sit at the adult table.” My grandpa looked at me and shook his head in exasperation. As a kid, this explanation made sense to me. Jesus would have let me sit at the adult table. But now I see the error in that.
Jesus would not have separate tables.
When we celebrate with Jesus, we are all at one table. One table for all the believers. One table. One huge, glorious table. With adults, children, elders, neighbors, and all hosts of others. And think of the beauty in that. When we are at one table with people who are our spiritual mentors, we get the opportunity to learn from them. At a table with people who are just starting out in their faith journeys, we get the chance to mentor them and lead them along the path. At a big table there is room for everyone, regardless of where their faith has taken them or will take them.
I think of this sometimes when I see children in worship on Sundays. To me it is such a beautiful expression of the family of God. Children learn to worship by watching their parents worship. They see how other people interact with the gospel lesson, and it becomes part of their own story. They learn to have a personal faith by seeing others live out their personal faith.
Think about it, if your child does not have good table manners at meals, you don’t shoo them away and tell them to eat on the floor. (Unless you do, in which case this story will not connect with you.) Instead, you sit them at the table with you and insist they keep trying until they learn how to sit at the table. It’s the same way with worship. We cannot expect children to understand how to worship, how to approach their faith, or even how to “behave” in church, if we do not include them in the services, sacraments, and life of the church.
So maybe we should do away with the idea of a kids table at church. Worship with the children. Worship with the elderly. Worship with the new members. Worship with the strangers. We are all here for the same thing. We will all feast at the same table in the end, so why not start now?
Pastor Erdos’ writings on change stirred up some thoughts for me. I like routine and order in my life, probably to a fault. And it’s easy to stay where you are, doing what you’re doing, day after day because you know what to expect. That is one of my biggest things - expectation. When what I expected that thing to look like, sound like, feel like, taste like, be like isn’t met, oh Lord do I struggle. Jesus take the wheel when that happens because I will not be driving until I can reconcile my expectations to this new reality. I hope I’m not alone in this.
And yet, here I am in the midst of all my change. Because, like Pastor Erdos said, “Jesus promises to be with us no matter where we are, no matter what happens and no matter what goes on in the world. Jesus’s promise is that he makes and ever-changing world safe because he is there to go through the change with us.” I’d like to just stop here and deconstruct this a little bit.
"No matter where we are." When we’re children, it’s easy to understand this as where we are on Earth. Where we are geographically. But it’s deeper than that, and we have to help our children understand this and internalize this. That Jesus is with us no matter where we are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and yes, physically. When our children go to the depths of their emotions because of something that happened to them at school, something that was said to them, or something that they thought about a little too much, Jesus is there. And Jesus is more than just there, he is actively going through it with us, and has already gone through it. One of the best things about having a Savior who was truly God and truly human is that He understands the depth of humanity. He has suffered, cried, hurt, celebrated, and cheered.
So when we say that Jesus promises to be with us, let’s remember that it’s more than just, “Oh Jesus is with me while I grocery shop.” Let’s remember that Jesus is with us when we’re hurting. When we’re doubting. When we’re wondering what the point is. And he’s also with us when we’re overjoyed. When we’re excited about what’s to come. I think that’s one of the things I struggled with the most - understanding that Jesus is with me no matter where I am in my head. I went through the typical high school experiences and at times thought I was alone in them. How refreshing it would have been to hear that Jesus is with me and have it explained to be by someone who was also content to just be with me.
May we all strive to remember and reflect and extend the knowledge that Jesus is with all of us through all of our change, through all of our emotions, and no matter where we go.
Do you have a favorite hymn or piece of music that makes you feel close to God? I have so many, and they’re usually tied to specific memories that are touchstones along my personal faith journey. For example, when I was working on the Navajo Reservation, the pastor at the local church adored “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” so now whenever I hear that I can picture Pastor Davis and smell the Arizona air and see in vivid detail the intricacies of the church where I spent so much of my time.
Lately I’ve been singing and humming “It is Well with My Soul” as I settle into the new year. (That’s hymn number 785 in our red books, in case you’re curious.) This year is only a few weeks old, but it’s been full of changes for me. I started here at Trinity on the 2nd, which has meant a lot of change to the routine my husband and I have had since we were married. It’s meant changing my whole morning routine, not to mention my evening and weekend routine. And through it all, I’m reminding myself that it is well with my soul.
No matter my season, your season, Trinity English’s season, Fort Wayne’s season...It is well. It is well as we start a new year. It is well as kids go back to school. It is well as we consider what steps to take in the direction of a family ministry that truly supports children and families as they learn to be disciples of Jesus and live a life that exemplifies this. There will be times where it is peaceful like a river. And there will be times when sea billows roll. And how amazing to think that through it all we can look up and say "It is well."
My role here at Trinity is to find a way to support the kind of faith that enables our young people to celebrate the peace and weather the sea billows and still look up and say “it is well.” A faith that can be tested and remain. I’m here, as are all of Trinity’s staff, to enrich and support your faith journey as a family - children, youth, adults, and comprehensive family unit. I hope to open the door to some new things and maybe reinvent some old things. I’m not entirely sure what that will look like, but I pray you’ll take the chance and come through the door, come along for the ride and maybe sometimes remind me that it is well.