May 17, 2014

Dear friends-

Our culture is engaged in a conversation about how we should raise our children. (Maybe we have always been talking about this…) How much should we expect or demand of them? How much effort should we invest in making certain that they know how delightful and special they are? On one side of this conversation are the “Tiger Moms”; the title of a book by a woman who says that a parent needs to be on their children all the time, demanding nothing but the best. (We might fairly ask why it’s Moms who are always the subject of such analysis and scrutiny, but that’s another conversation…) On the other side, we may find the “self-esteem” viewpoint; this voice says the most important thing is to make our children feel treasured, special, and, yes, worthy or praise just for being who they are. The caricature of this viewpoint is the child who gets a blue ribbon for not being a jerk in school…

I’m not sure if this subject was as much of an issue way back when as it is now; my recollection of the books I read from the pioneer days is that children were to be seen and not heard. Children were born into a life of hard work and lots of struggle and sorrow. Their job was to grow up fast, pitch in, and not waste anyone’s time on their emotional ups and downs.. (I’m oversimplifying here, and it’s worth remembering that it’s still this way for many, many of Creation’s children…)

Probably none of us would consciously want to raise a child so addicted to praise and admiration that he or she is unable withstand life’s struggles. And few would support requiring children to grow up feeling crushed by unattainable expectations. We’d likely settle somewhere in the middle, although it’s often interesting to notice how our standards differ – one way or another – for our own children compared to those spoiled brats – or tortured over-achievers - down the street…

In the New Testament, the apostle Peter writes a letter to a group of young churches in Asia Minor. He speaks of Jesus as being “chosen and precious in God's sight.” The Christian tradition thinks of Jesus as being especially so, yet our tradition also seeks to remind us that we are all “chosen and precious” to God. The Sacrament of Baptism, which we will celebrate in worship tomorrow, affirms just this connection between God and God’s children.

So how can we live into the awareness of being chosen and precious without becoming so fixated on our “specialness” that we act as if the universe was created solely for our gratification? This may seem like an absurd question, but we all know someone who lives as if this were true – maybe a bunch of someones… And many religious traditions – including our own - are sometimes guilty of telling their people that they are “chosen by God” to the point where they/we end up worshipping that chosenness in ways that do truly horrible things in the world, and to those that don’t have the good fortune to be so chosen…

This really is a harder question that it seems to be. It’s worth exploring together; worth talking about and praying about. Our time of worship is a time when we are reminded how chosen and precious we are in God’s eyes. And it’s also a time for us to remind those with whom we share life’s journey how chosen and precious they are – even those whom we so easily and frequently don’t even see…

We worship at 10 AM; we’d love to have you be one of us. And you’ll be present for the Sacrament of Baptism. There’s a good reason we call it a sacrament…

Sabbath blessings-
AFP