Sunday, September 27, 2009
The dedication of children may be one of the best things we do in church. Well, maybe not the best, but certainly one of the best.
It always gets me. I’ve been sentimental all my life. I got it from my mother. Come to think of it, my Dad, too. As I picture my Dad choking up over one of those touching moments, I guess I would have to say – he got it from Mom, too. It’s why he picked her way back when. She’s got heart.
Baby dedications do it to me. Like this Sunday morning this week. Moms and dads file up onto the platform as music sets the mood. The kids aren’t quite sure why they are there. They are groomed and polished. You can tell just looking at them all, this event has been eagerly anticipated.
In our church, we repeat a certain series of presets. You might call it tradition. But even though it is all entirely predictable, it still gets me. Every time.
First, our children’s pastor introduces the parents and the children. She says something about what a privilege it is to work with these families and the staff that prepares and welcomes and cares for the kids week after week. You can tell, they all like coming here as a family. They may not be accustomed to the bright lights or the big crowd or the live feed that puts their bright faces up on the video screens. But Pastor Lauren holds the mike and greets them all warmly. The infants are oblivious. But even the toddlers, well, they reach up for daddy’s strong hand. They seem to know this is a big deal.
Especially when Lauren hands the mike over the Pastor Matthew, and he summarizes the purpose of the affair. Together as a church family, we officially welcome these new children as a gift from a loving God who does all things well. He congratulates the young parents, who really are not quite sure what happened to them. They fell in love. Made a promise. Dreamed some big dreams, and now they are no longer just two. They are three, or four or more. And they look at each other, husband and wife who are now transformed into Dad and Mom and they are smiling broadly. There is a sense of accomplishment that passes understanding. A brand new capacity for love and generosity and giving was born in them along with the birth of that little one. You can see it on their faces and right there in that bundle of blankets.
Matthew connects with their new life stage, mainly because he’s a Dad himself. He challenges those new parents to teach their children about the God who made them and loves them and sent his son to redeem them. And then he turns to us and invites us to express our commitment to these new parents and these little children to be an assist. In whatever ways we can we will stand with these young parents as an intentional part of the growth and development of these families. Especially the kids.
We all answer in unison. “We will.” And we do, because we all share this strong conviction that this is really big. It is among our primary reasons for being. As we watch those new families, we remember when we were there with our little ones and now look what happened since. And thankfully a likeminded community was there to help us, too.
Following a well-established protocol, Matthew invites all the extended family members who are in attendance to stand up so we can see them, and up around the front, a surprising number of aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas and cousins and brothers and sisters all take to their feet as though they were hoping the pastor would notice. Then Matthew tells them that they have his full permission to take pictures and video and he doesn’t blame them at all because this is a moment worth remembering and every one of them has good reason to be very proud. They all are.
A bunch of them take advantage and step into the aisle with all manner of digital recording devices and move toward the front for the best possible angle, flashes popping.
Then we pray. Matthew goes down the row, eyes wide open, laying his gentle hand on the little ones, naming each child, each mom and dad, in a prayer of thanksgiving and challenge and dedication. There is a warmth and a love that permeates the big room that you can feel. A good wordsmith would call it palpable.
And that’s when I lose it. Every time. My eyes are open, too. Don’t get me wrong. I’m tuned into the prayer. I’m listening. I’m watching those parents, those children, that pastor. I know what’s coming next. No surprises. Step by step. Down the row. And it still gets me. A warm, moist swelling in my throat and around my eyes. I know it is biology and chemistry at work, but that does not come close to explaining it. This is big.
And then as the prayer comes to an end, we all speak, one more time, in unison. We say it together. “Amen!”
So may it ever be.
This is one tradition I hope we never change.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2009