SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN…..

 

The Gospel according to Saint Mark:  the Tenth Chapter, Beginning at the Thirteenth Verse:

13 And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them. “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.

Today was a special day because it was Thursday and because it was the Feast of Saint Columba, the Apostle to the Picts.  No, not picks, Picts who were a sort of Scottish tribe known for their fierceness and for having given the Romans fits during their occupation of Britain.  If memory serves Hadrian’s Wall came about because of the Picts.  The Romans developed the rationale that folks like that were best left alone. But Saint Columba adopted them as his own and from his monastery on the Isle of Iona ministered to them, preached to them, baptized them and steadily brought them into the mainstream of the Catholic Faith.

Saint Columba Apostle to the Picts

So back to Thursday:  I attended the Morning Office officiated by a dear friend who found the lectionary prescribed readings distasteful so he substituted his own.As he read the scripture I struggled to find the passages in the back of my Daily Office book but to no avail.  I then turned to the lectionary in the back of the Prayer Book, nope not those,  so when in doubt go with the flow.   He confessed to me later he didn’t much like the book of Ecclesiastes, as prescribed by the lectionary, and decided upon some passages from First Kings.  Knowing my friend to be a rather astute biblical scholar I certainly had no objection though it was good that the PIC (priest in charge) was not about or worse one of our parishioners who like to hear the progression of the readings as set out in the lectionary.

My Officiant friend allowed me to read as a brief homily the biography of Saint Columba from Lesser Feasts and Fasts along with a passage from Adomnán, Columba’s chief biographer, concerning the circumstances surrounding his death.  I will quote it as the language fits the photograph which follows it and which I took one morning in the Seibels Chapel quite by accident.  If you ever wondered if Churches and Chapels are mystical places this photo should remove all doubt especially when combined with Adomnán’s writing:

And when the bell strikes midnight, Columba goes to the church and kneels beside the altar. His attendant witnesses heavenly light in the direction of Columba, and Holy angels join the saint in his passage to the Lord:

Trinity 3

After the Office my friend and I did our usual Thursday morning thing as we meandered through the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse until we arrived at our destination which was a coffee shop aptly named “The Immaculate Consumption”.  In the process of our meandering I noticed two things.  First there was a young mother with her young son hunched into an almost sitting position and taking a picture of the Statehouse.  It was remarkable the way she was able to  manage the cell phone-camera and the five year old at the same time with one hand.  I almost offered to help but realized that might not have been appreciated.  But all turned out well and I was inspired to take the picture below.  Isn’t it interesting how civil authority in whatever form always presents a very grandiose facade portending to almighty power only to take on the mantel of total helplessness when real people have real problems?

 

Statehouse

 

Second, I seem to have noticed for the first time a large statue of Strom Thurmond.  If there was ever an iconographic statement for South Carolina it is, or was, Strom Thurmond!  Don’t get me wrong.  I have not come to bury Senator Thurmond but rather to praise him.  I was never so proud of Senator Thurmond and what I see as South Carolina values as when I saw a photograph of the procession of President Clinton (a true Arkansas icon) into the House of Representatives chamber on his way to deliver the State of the Union address.  Almost everyone in the chamber including Senator Thurmond were standing in recognition that this was the President and regardless of whatever differences you might have with him, chivalry,  and particularly southern chivalry,  or what my grandmother would call simply good manners, demanded that you stand in recognition.  But alas and alack three Senators from our sister states of Tennessee and Alabama were “sitting” not standing with obvious grimaces on their faces expressing with their most serious expressions total and complete disapproval of the President.  Senator Thurmond, on the other hand, stood ramrod straight right beside them serving to highlight not their disapproval but  rather their silly pettiness as a result of their rude behavior. We will name no names but one was a actor for a time who played a DA on television series Law and Order.  For shame! However, from that day forward I began to view Senator Thurmond in a much different light.  No longer did I see him as the epitome of the evil segregationist but rather as a very decedent man, at his core, and who, I discovered, would not rest until he found a solution for a constituent’s problem no matter how long it took.  Yes, he supported segregation, and was wrong to do so, but he found the light and stayed in it for the rest of his life.  It is fitting that his statue be where it is just as it is fitting that the Confederate battle flag has now taken its place among the other relics of history and heritage in a museum. It would nice to see a statue of Judge Matthew Perry to complement that of Senator Thurmond as he was another decedent honorable man in the finest South Carolina and Southern traditions.

 

Thurmond

 

At “Consumption” my friend and I played at theology. We explored the twisted and complex pathways of the writings of such men as Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Athanasius, Saint Hilarius (a real Saint) William Tyndale, and even Freidrich Schleiermacher.  Oh, and don’t forget, Saint Augustine upon whose writings much of our modern theology is built.  In between twists and turns we sipped our coffee and ate our scones, and all was well and right with the world. But something was missing and my mind remained uneasy.

As we finished our coffee we resumed our matriculation through the Statehouse grounds and found ourselves walking on the Senate Street side of Trinity Cathedral.  As we passed the furthest reaches of the Parish House and turned to go into the back parking lot we were greeted with the most delightful sight:  “The Jesus Loves Me Train”.  The attenders at the Trinity vacation bible school  were enjoying a train ride[1] around the parking lot while the venerable hymn “Yes Jesus Loves Me” played through the loudspeakers on the train.  It was at that moment that the fog lifted and a light like the one that had accompanied the departure of Saint Columba shown bright.  Here I had been enamored with the life of Saint Columba with the visions of blinding light leading him with the accompaniment of angels into heaven, with the vagaries of what lessons should and should not be read during the Morning Office, and with the esoteric theology involving the writings of great theologians but here in front of me was the true faith in the flesh as exhibited by loving, accepting children who know nothing of the complexities of ritual or theology but who innately love the Lord.   The kingdom of heaven was made manifest in these loving children who in their innocence and open hearts readily accept the kingdom of heaven willingly and without long intellectual discourses.  And, as I stood watching the “Jesus Loves Me Train” the scriptural passage from Mark[2] bubbled up in my mind like a float which had been held under the water until released.  It is seems so simple, so easy, I thought.  As one preacher once asked “can it really be that simple”?

 

 

Yes, I think it can, and is.  God loves us. It is we who refuse to love him back.  We find it so hard to be like a child and simply accept love without question.  My mind wants to rationalize it, think it, when what I need to do is “feel” it.

Don’t get me wrong folks as I remain a steadfast Episcopalian who will go on reading the Prayer Book and waiving incense about causing respiratory distress and consternation to many.  But, along with that, I hope to “feel it” much more often. Next time you see a group of young children playing observe them carefully and  “suffer them” to come into your heart. Amen

 

[1] The picture of the train cost me a commitment to mention the vendor by name and to receive his card:  If you need a train for the kids contact Ride Trains for Fun, http://www.ridetrains4fun.com    or call 864-923-1444 and ask for Joe Fuller.  Now that I think about it I should have charged for this.

 

[2] If I am correct each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) each contains similar passages with slightly different wordings.

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