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October 15, 2017

Philippians 4:1-9 Children's Sabbath

Conversation or reflection time:

What do you think is the most important scripture or core of the Bible?

Are there other scriptures that you hold as formational to your life—they inform how you live?

One key passage—When Jesus was asked, what is the greatest commandment, he said: “Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. And the 2nd is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord

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 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clementand the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 

5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Rejoice.
Be gentle.
Don’t worry.
Pray with thanksgiving and let your requests be known.
Think on truth, honor, justice, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent.
Keep doing the good you have learned.

Rejoice. Be gentle.
Don’t worry. Pray.
Think. Keep doing good.

Today is Children’s Sabbath—a day not always focused on, but one that reflects the cultural changes, particularly in labor laws, throughout several hundred years. Although children had been servants and apprentices throughout most of human history, child labor reached new extremes during the Industrial Revolution. Children often worked long hours in dangerous factory conditions for very little money.

Children were useful as laborers because their size allowed them to move in small spaces in factories or mines where adults couldn’t fit; children were easier to manage and control; and perhaps most importantly, children could be paid less than adults. Child laborers often worked to help support their families, and were forced to forgo an education. 

Nineteenth century reformers and labor organizers sought to restrict child labor and improve working conditions, but it took a market crash to finally sway public opinion. During the Great Depression, Americans wanted all available jobs to go to adults rather than children.

The exploitation of children became a social justice issue in the early 20th century; and the poverty that affects children’s ability to thrive and to be educated drives many of our social policies today. And we know that around the world children are exploited yet today.

Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment because someone was wrestling with what was the right thing to do and what should be the impetus for doing it. Paul’s fledgling communities of Jesus’ followers were asking these same questions.

What is the right thing to do and what is our guide in knowing those things? What is most important? What is our core when it comes to our relationship with God and our relationship with our fellow human family?

We can use and abuse the Bible to justify our opinion—it’s been done for century upon century. Slave holders found justification in the Bible to support slavery.

Others found justification in the Bible to support exclusion and hatred and do so yet today. Perhaps it will be when we let go of using the Bible to justify what is not at the core—love of God and love of neighbor—that we will finally be able to see one another as God sees us—with love. I am grateful that someone worked for children’s rights and made it possible for children to be children. I’m grateful for the work of the

Children’s Defense Fund, Unicef, and the United Nations that continue to work on behalf of children around the world. I know that there are still many places where human trafficking targets children for the sex trade.

I know that poverty drives families to make what seem to us horrendous choices. Children in our own community struggle with hunger and poverty and the choices adults in their lives make that leave them vulnerable and sometimes without basic needs or a loving person in their life.

So, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable…think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received from the way Jesus taught and lived.

Go out into the world looking for the goodness of God.
Go out with the courage and faith to trust in God’s goodness.
Go out with an open mind and heart. Go make a difference.

Go forth to be the arms of God’s love for every child. Go forth to extend Christ’s welcome to every child. Go forth to be a voice for justice in the power of the Spirit. May God of love, hope, and justice be with you and each child of God this day and forever more.