St Mark 9: 42 – 49 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. ‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’
Reflection Christmas may seem like a long time ago now. Our celebrations were hampered because of COVID. At my own church our immediate thought was to cancel the nativity. But then we thought about doing it differently. The story was re-told in photographs with some children dressed up in costumes and others recording the different character’s voices and narrating the story. We had a complicated schedule ensuring that the rules at the time were observed and they were genuinely excited to be part of the experience. We were also able to include those isolating at home, with the aid of a green screen. As I sorted through the 250 photographs that were taken it felt very emotional as the young people were central to the story. It was particularly moving at the end when individual characters held the baby Jesus and talked about what his coming meant for them.
It made me think about how we can include children and young people to be part of the whole Gospel story and ‘place into their arms’ the grown up Jesus, so that they can gaze and wonder at him. Few of us would see ourselves as being stumbling-blocks, but do we fully welcome and enable children and young people to be part of the life of our churches? Do we give them a voice, so that we might hear God speaking to us through them? When I was a toddler my grandparents used to take me to church. On Communion Sundays I had to sit at the back with a family friend and simply observe. I am glad that we now welcome all ages to be part of Communion. Just as our young people got to hold the baby Jesus, so they can also hold the adult Jesus as they receive the bread and wine.
Prayer Dear God, We are sorry for the times when we get in the way of others seeing and holding you. Remind us of the privilege it is to be part of your story as each time in communion we are able to hold the bread and wine of your son even though we don’t deserve it. Amen
The Rev’d George Watt, Minister Reigate Park United Reformed Church, Reigate