The Oasis - June 17, 2020

Author: Pastor Dan Hollis
June 17, 2020

June 17, 2020
by Pastor Dan

     If our buildings were open, this past Sunday would have been Children’s Sunday, a day to celebrate the faith formation our young people have been undergoing all year long as children of God, disciples of Christ, and curious citizens of the world. It’s painful that we can’t be together in worship with the children of First Parish, but we know that doesn’t mean God isn’t still at work in their lives.
     Sure, since our buildings closed, First Parish has been providing video Children’s Messages, Sunday School At Home materials, virtual Youth Groups, and pastoral care to families, but that’s not just what I mean. It may seem counterintuitive for a pastor to say this, but I assure you that faith formation doesn’t need a church to happen. It helps, to be sure, but I hope we have all realized during these last few months that God is not limited by human constructs.
     In Matthew 19:14, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” A relationship with God is always available, no matter your age and no matter the obstacles around you. And that’s what “faith” is: more than believing, more than just trusting, it is a relationship. One that grows and evolves with each new day and each new experience.
     The faith relationship can come to us at any point in our lives, though many of us are blessed to have begun at a young age. The openness, curiosity, and unselfconscious enthusiasm of children allows for a truly robust and profound God-relationship. I’m not talking about how easy it is for them to believe fairy tales about unicorns and flying carpets and bearded men in the sky, I’m talking about their ability to jump in feet-first into whatever it is they’re passionate about. I’m talking about the way they see the world without a tinge of the judgments we layer on as we get older. There’s something about the “as a child”-ness of that kind of faith that we could all learn from, and year after year I am constantly blown away by the depths of wisdom that do—as the cliché goes—come from the mouths of babes.
     At First Parish Church we strive to nurture and spur that exploring, questioning, excited life of faith that we discover in children, and Children’s Sunday or no, this year has been no different. We could all stand to learn something from the youth of this church, and I am lucky that my position allows me the opportunity of doing that all year long. I also learn from the people who teach and care for our youth: the Sunday School teachers and their assistants, the Nursery staff and volunteers, the parents and friends who accompany the littlest and the shyest up for the Children’s Message, the ingenious and dedicated members of the Christian Education Board, our Youth Group overseers and Mission Trip advisors, the Kids’ Camp workers of all ages, and so many others, all the way to Janet Cassidy, Church School Coordinator extraordinaire.
     The 2019-2020 Sunday School season was the last one that we will be blessed to have Janet leading the charge. She has more than earned a much-deserved retirement, even though we know that a spirit like hers won’t let her stay away from supporting the Christian education and faith formation of our church’s young people in the ways that she alone can.
     One of the greatest pleasures of my time in York (more than three years now), has been getting to work with and learn from Janet. The Spirit of God is in her, and she carries with her such wisdom and experience that I’m not surprised our kids have learned so much and become such incredible humans with her influence in their lives. Even when faced with something new, something tricky and outside every box, Janet dives in, with a trust in God to work with her that is so admirable. That’s what faith is about. Working with God to grow ourselves and change the world of others for the better. The young people of this church have for years been blessed with an opportunity not just to learn from Janet directly, but also to benefit from programs and curricula that she has hand-tailored for them and for our bevy of talented teachers. The successes and impacts our church has made in the lives of young people these last years would not have been nearly as effective without her. She answered God’s call, and taught so many others how to do the same. May we learn from her example, and always be striving to see where God needs us most.
     And that starts with faith.
     Under normal circumstances, we would have recognized Janet’s retirement in the church on Children’s Sunday, and likely had cake or something like that at coffee hour or maybe even an ice cream party out on the lawn. Know that even though we can’t be together so closely right now, the church has not forgotten Janet. In the announcements section of this week’s Oasis (and next week’s, for that matter), you’ll find details of an opportunity for all of us to safely celebrate Janet, and it’ll even give you a chance to stretch your legs (and run your car for a little bit so that it doesn’t break down in your driveway after all this inactivity!). Please do take a look!
     May you feel God’s blessings, and look upon God’s works with the open eyes of a child this day and all days.

“Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way. ”Matthew 19:13-15

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