By: Emma Northcott
Readings: 2 Samuel 7:18-22 Galatians 4:1-7 Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
These three readings cast us – the people of God – as servants, children, and a flock longing for salvation of the great Shepherd. It is not difficult to imagine the longings of children, in particular. From our own experiences, we know those longings can be loud. Sometimes they’re expressed as spaghetti sauce flung against a wall. Other times they’re written neatly on a list for Santa, visible in eyes that widen at the sight of a superhero on screen, or tenderly posed as a question like “will you read me a bedtime story?” Children want to show and tell. They want to wonder and wander and marvel at creation. They also want to grow up. They want to be taken seriously. They want to be heard. The incessant chirps of “why?” in a grocery store aisle or back seat of a car are really pleas for a beloved guardian to pay attention to them, share wisdom, tell a story, offer reassurance, and make them feel safe.
The longings of children can also be radical. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their peers from all over the country marched to tell us that they want to live free of fear from gun violence. Greta Thunberg, Autumn Peltier, Mari Copeny, Isra Hirsi, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and other climate activists confront politicians and protect water rights to demonstrate their longing to live in an Earth cared for as God commanded. Children at Luther Place Memorial Church stood before the congregation on Reformation Sunday, holding up signs with statements of longing for an end to gun violence, better pay for teachers, stewardship over the environment, and release of children in cages.
Children, servants, and marginalized members of our flock remind us that in God’s kin-dom there is room for the deepest longings, the wildest dreams, the hope for salvation amid the most desperate of circumstances. After all, God sent a child to save a world that was yearning for peace and justice. On one of the longest nights of the year, God prefigured that hope and longing in the birth of God’s son to Mary, a womanist theologian who was not far removed from childhood herself. We need not look far for examples of bravery and action within and beside the sometimes sorrowful yearning for a better future. Young and old, they (and we) are reminders that the God of our weary years has brought us far along the way.
Guardian in the longest nights and the deepest darkness, help us move beyond complacence in our longing by helping us stand with people in the world as it is while imagining the world as it should be.