Children hold a special place in God’s Kingdom reality. Jesus made that abundantly clear the day people were bringing children to him so that he might bless them. His disciples, thinking he was too busy for that nonsense, were shooing them away. And Jesus responded, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Mark 10:14)
As Christ’s followers, we seek to value and nurture what Christ values and nurtures. That means that we hold children in high esteem at Suntree UMC. That is why we have spent the last two months hosting ministries designed to nurture and love on the children that God loves and has placed in our path for mission and ministry. MADD Camp, VBS, Brevard Mission Week, Student Mission Trips, Student Life Camp and Warren Willis Camp are all opportunities for us to fulfill the Kingdom mandate to invite children to come to know Jesus and the love God has for them through Jesus. If you add up all the resources it took to carry out all those ministries (the human resources of both staff and lay servants, the financial resources, the wear and tear on our buildings) it’s a huge investment! But I’m convinced there is hardly a greater investment in Kingdom terms. Each one of the hundreds of children and students who have come through our doors for those programs is a precious child of God who holds within them the potential to change their own little corner of the world because they know the love of God in their hearts. Our future depends on these little ones. And I want to do all I can to invest in that future now by investing in them. It is a joy and a privilege to be a part of their journeys!
And we aren’t finished yet. Our ministry to children is not limited to those who find a way through our doors. We can’t bring every child to Suntree UMC. But we can take the love of Jesus for every child out into the community. That is what our Harbor City Elementary (HCE) School Partnership is about. It is one way that we can live into our call to welcome and nurture children beyond the walls of our church.
We are excited to kick off another year in that partnership with another backpack drive. This Sunday we will be distributing 360 school backpacks with supply lists from the teachers at HCE. Our goal is to have each one of these back packs taken, filled with the specific supplies that are on the lists, and then returned to the church by Sunday, August 4. If you can’t take a backpack and fill it yourself, you can write a check that will cover the cost of the supplies and volunteers we shop for the supplies for you. Just put HCE Backpacks in the subject line of your check.
Last year, we received hundreds of thank you notes from the children at HCE. Parents cried with gratitude when they came to orientation and discovered that their children’s backpacks and school supplies were being provided. What a gift to give a child everything that they need to start the school year right. What a beautiful way to let children in our wider community know that they are loved and cared for by Suntree UMC because they are loved and cared for by God.
So, come prepared this Sunday to pick up a backpack at one of the tables outside the Sanctuary and Worship Center. It’s a huge goal: 360 filled backpacks. But I know with the love of Jesus in us, we can do it.
On another note, some folks have asked what we can do as a church in response to the migrant crisis at our borders. Obviously, the issue of immigration is complex. Clearly, we are in a place where our current policies are not working and in need of reform. But rather than speak into the politics of this situation, I simply want to remind us of some of the commitments of the UM church concerning immigration.
Our UM Book of Resolutions contains a resolution titled Global Migration and the Quest for Justice, which affirms, “Christians do not approach the issue of migration from the perspective of tribe or nation, but from within a faith community of love and welcome, a community that teaches and expects hospitality to the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed,” an echo of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
Another resolution titled Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S. reads, “Welcoming the migrant is not only an act of mission; it is an opportunity to receive God’s grace.” This reflects what we are taught in the book of Hebrews, “Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2 CEB).
It’s easy in the face of the complexity and political rancor around this crisis to think there is nothing that we can do. But there are ways we can seek to be instruments of peace and justice as we stand with the most vulnerable in our world.
We can pray that God will be at work in us and in our leaders to bring peace and justice for all people.
We can be advocates for legislation that is humane and upholds the dignity and worth of all God’s children. Calling or writing your elected representatives makes your voice and concerns heard. Wherever we find ourselves personally in this debate, we can ask our representatives to introduce new legislation to make immigration, refugee and asylum processes just and efficient and to support policies that are hospitable to refugees and immigrants.
We can give to organizations like Justice for Our Neighbors, a ministry of the United Methodist Church that provides free, immigration legal aid to those in need of legal representation. You can give to the Florida Justice for our Neighbors at www.fljfon.org. You can also give to other branches of JFON in other states through www.njfon.org.
The call of Christ again and again is to stand with, care for and protect the most vulnerable and those at the margins in our society: children, the elderly, the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the refugee, the mentally ill. Because it is Christ’s call, it is our call. What a joy it is to be part of a church that is heeding that call in so many ways in our mission and ministry. Thank you for your faithfulness in answering that call.
See you in worship Sunday as we continue in our “Recalculating” message series, where we will reflect on the story of the prophet Samuel as God calls him to follow a “New Traffic Pattern Ahead” sign and anoint a new King for Israel. The story is found in I Samuel 16: 1-13, and I encourage you to read and reflect on it before worship.
Grace and Peace,
PS. A huge thank you to our amazing facilities team, Dominic Lies, Jack McGinley, Herb Jordan and Matt Gould for all their patience and hard work in the set up and the cleanup in the midst of all these special summer events. You are awesome!