Saturday, January 1, 2011

Homily on St Nicholas

Homily on St Nicholas ~ December 6, 2010

Mark 10:13-16
People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "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." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Today, Dec. 6, is the official feast day of St. Nicholas.

In yesterday’s children’s sermon,
Paul, or rather “Bishop Nicholas of Myra,” shared his long history –
* his possible presence
at the Council of Nicea,
* how his name Nicholas
was Americanized into Nick Clause,
* his gift money
to three child-brides
with coins which he used to
fill their stockings,
which were apparently hung
by the chimney with care.
In his memory, then,
parents of young children
would later fill stockings with treats.

For the longest time,
I was afraid of children.
Unpredictable, noisy, direct.

When I preached in Corvallis
at the children’s sermon,
the kids would gather around
and I’m sure they could smell my fear. After a three sermons, however,
they transformed me.

I remember one sermon
where my teddy bear
was the focus of comfort
and the honest, direct answers
I received from the children
deepened my comfort with them and helped grow my confidence.

One of my ongoing spiritual practices,
therefore, is to do
as Jesus says in today’s Gospel,
to “let the little children come to me.” Rob and I have talked about
how my challenge to hang
with the youth
raises up my fear
and so is perhaps exactly
where I need to learn.

So it’s no wonder that
I was drawn to pick up
Eugene Peterson’s book
“Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places”
quite “by accident.”

His thesis revolves around a poem:
For Christ plays in ten thousand place,
Lovely in limbs, and
lovely in eyes not his
To the Father
through the features of men’s faces.

The central verb,
catches the essence of children –
how we are called to recognize Emmanuel
in this Advent season.

I love the incarnational essence:
Christ playing out
in our limbs and eyes,
in our feet and speech,
in the faces of men and women we see
all day long.

And it is with some fear and trembling that I am doing “play” church tonight.
But, you know what?
Play is that exuberant,
unpredictable, noisy,
and direct

That kind of play is freedom
Freedom to live beyond mere survival–

Freedom to play with God,
so that all life is,
or can be,

Playful, giving, exuberant, …

We are all reminded
through St. Nick
to play.
To give.

To “let the little children come to you.”


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