In the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus performs miracle healings, and his popularity skyrockets. The disciples come looking for him. “Everyone is searching for you,” they say.
What is this word, everyone? Some Bible translations translate this word as all. If everyone was looking for Jesus, there were none who were not looking. What a thing to consider!
I remember being a kid growing up on Vancouver Island. It was a big deal to go to swimming on a Friday night. So many people wanted to go that they had to make an “everyone is welcome” swim at the recreation centre. The pool was the place where anyone could wash off the worries of the week. There was so much demand for a good swim that they had to welcome everyone.
Just like in Mark, when everyone was searching for Jesus, despite their age, despite their background, and despite their ability. They were all seeking Jesus. Why? So many reasons, and at the root of so many of those reasons was love.
Christ Jesus came into the world because God loved the world.
The love of God is made for everyone. It fits all sizes, appeals to all methods of understanding. Some say love is all we need. So we search for it. Everyone searches for it in some way or another.
And that is why the churches are here. To make love accessible—to everyone: old, young, poor, rich, exhausted, fulfilled, lonely, confused, learned, helpful, challenging. Accessibility is not simple. To be part of an accessible community involves taking on another’s perspective, trying to understand why they do what they do, and loving them no matter what.
Why does that young family come late? Don’t they know that church starts at 10 o’clock? Why does that single dad not brush his child’s hair? Why is that one year-old running in the aisles? Can’t we teach the little ones to be quiet while we pray? Why do families in church do what they do in church?
There are so many reasons. People are complex.
The social reality of most families in Canada has changed vastly in the last 15 years. The high price of real estate in many areas of Canada has changed the amount of time families can spend with one another. Many parents must work longer hours in order to afford to live. Time with their children is a luxury. Yet despite the rush of constant work, many families still make the effort to come to church on the Sunday morning. Likely they’re a little disheveled. But they are there.
More and more families share their lives with a little one who has differing abilities. Children are complex little beings whose parents sometimes struggle to make sense of. Any parent making the choice to enter a new community does so with the hopes that the new community will approach their child with at least some of the care that they do. Nobody said it would be easy.
Followed by crowds of needy people, Jesus must have wondered about some of the things done by those who looked for him. But when the disciples came to Jesus and told Jesus that everyone was searching for him, how did Jesus respond? He said, “let’s go to more towns and find more of those needy people who search for me.” Why?
Perhaps because, as Luke writes, God knows the heart (Luke 15:16). And children are all about heart. As churchgoers, we are the custodians of God’s goodness and love. How do we share it with children and families?