It was the last Sunday of 2023 in this church of disorganized religion to which I belong, and only one child was present. Even on a good day, there are only three. The elders, however, are always there in full force. We are a sea of white heads walking each other home in these desert lands.
But here’s the thing about these elders. They are generally not grumpy. They generally do not grumble about the state of the world today when their needs are not being met. And, though mostly white, they do not flaunt their privilege or decry its loss.
I am sure that everyone here carries their own story of love and loss. I am sure everyone is dealing with significant challenges and frustrations. And I am sure everyone is probably doing their own share of gnashing of teeth over the state of the world today. But as a whole, they are a joyful bunch.
And I think I know why.
They are too busy being the hands and feet of Christ to worry about themselves.
It seems that pretty much everyone I have met here is focused on meeting the needs of others around them. They are hiking into the desert to fill up water stations for migrants, or going to The Wall to provide humanitarian help, or driving to centers in Mexico to teach English. They display a generosity of spirit, and they laugh together vigorously and often.
Like all aging churches, however, there is a longing to have young families be part of the faith community. Actually that has been true for every church I have been part of. And in my experience, attracting young families has often meant finding the best social media campaign or the best curriculum to teach the correct theology or a packaged program that would somehow guarantee that young people would fill the church.
Really, we have none of those things here. But what we do have is a group of folks so focused on love in action that it pours into everything that happens here. And that love spilled over on the last Sunday of 2023 during a children’s moment.
One little girl in her princess dress came forward to sit by the pastor. And he let her know, after first acknowledging her beautiful dress to her delight, how loved she was by this congregation. He let her know what the other two children who couldn’t be here were doing that Sunday, and he shared that he had a gift for her.
We were as spellbound as she was when he opened up a beautiful quilt…not just any quilt, as he explained. It was created with her favorite colors, and it was patterned with rainbows and unicorns and all of her beloved images. A soft pink edge ringed the blanket, which he placed over her shoulders, and when she stood, I think applause came forth.
Then our pastor explained about the other quilts created for the two absent children. Each was also created with favorite colors and images, including one with dinosaurs and a hidden “Woody” from Toy Story. Each could only have been created by quilters who knew what made each child unique.
Our only precious child that day, after receiving her gift, came and sat on grandma’s lap in our row. She beamed shyly at the others sitting next to her. I watched as she pointed out different images on the quilt, wrapped in its warmth.
But really, I think, she was wrapped in love. Love that takes the time to find out what your favorite colors are. Love that knows that rainbows and unicorns are your secret best friends. Love made tangible in a quilt created by artists who sent a message loud and clear.:
We see you. We know you. We treasure you.
Yes, we outnumber the children by about 100 to 1 in this little church in the desert. But the children who are here get to experience first hand what it is like to be loved deeply just for who they are from a group of grandmas and grandpas who have the gift of giving love lavishly to all. No program, no curriculum…just love made visible.
It was that kind of Love that wrapped itself around this child, created stitch by tender stitch.
And it is that kind of Love that is wrapped around each of us by the One who knit us together in the womb and calls us by name.
A love that knows us in the deepest part of our being,
and a Love that will bring us all home.