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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, November 21, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 18:1–9              

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “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 fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes! “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire. (NRSV)

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

When my brother, Teddy, was a toddler, we started attending a new church. It’s not easy to bring a young child to worship, and my mom was nervous about disturbing others when Teddy was a bit noisy. All of that worry disappeared when our pastor preached on Matthew 19:14 (but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me . . .”) and welcoming children and valuing their presence in our lives and in our worship spaces.

That sermon prompted one of the senior members of the church, a man named Art Watson, to ask my mom if she thought Teddy would give him a hug. My mom responded that Teddy probably would, because he was missing his best friend since our grandpa had just recently passed away. From the moment he took Teddy into his arms, Art became our adopted grandpa and was renamed “Papa Art.” He welcomed us not just into the church family but also into his own. He gave Teddy tips on how to sneak out of the pew, treated us to Sunday breakfasts, and was there for every important moment and every hardship of our lives.

Papa Art passed away four years ago. Teddy had his Confirmation not long after that. Papa Art couldn’t be physically with him, but Teddy shared that he could feel his presence hugging him as Teddy read his faith statement aloud in front of the congregation.

That’s the good news for me in this passage: we can all be that welcoming presence. It only takes a small gesture to have a huge impact.

Dear God, I give you thanks for the family I have in you. Help me to be that welcoming presence for others. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Written by Katrina Buchanan, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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