Gray's sermon on Sunday on the radical hospitality of welcoming children reminded me of an inspiring letter from advice columnist Erma Bombeck entitled "On Smiling in Church":
In church the other Sunday, I was intent on a small child who was turning around smiling at everyone. He wasn't gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnals, or rummaging through his mother's handbag. He was just smiling.
Finally his mother jerked him about, and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theater off Broadway said: "Stop that grinning. You're in church." With that she gave him a belt on the behind and as tears rolled down his cheeks added, "That's better," and returned to her prayers.
Suddenly I was angry. It occurred to me the entire world is in tears, and if you're not you'd better get with it. I wanted to grab this child with the tear-stained face and tell him about my God. The happy God. The loving God. The God with a sense of humor to have created the likes of us.
I wanted to tell him he is an understanding God. One who understands little children who pick their noses in church because they are bored. He understands the man in the parking lot who reads the paper while his wife is in the church. He even understands my shallow prayers that implore, "If you can't make me thin, then make my friends look fat."
I wanted to tell him I've taken a few lumps from daring to smile in church. By tradition one wears faith with the solemnity of a mourner, the gravity of a mask of tragedy, and the dedication of a Rotary badge.
What a fool, I thought. Here a woman sitting next to the only light left in our civilization, the only hope, a miracle. If he couldn't smile in church, where was there left to go?
May our radical hospitality at church and in our homes always include welcoming children...and smiling!
Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it. -Mark 10:14,15
Prayer for Today
O God, we thank you for our kids and for the wonderful privilege it is to share our faith with them. Amen.