by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
“Do you promise to gladly surrender your children to the ministry God has in mind for them, even if it might involve going to the ends of the earth?” The question in the Minister’s Manual surprised me, but I liked it and used it in the child dedication service of Caden and Keira, children of Pastor Brian and Jessica Harmon, at First Mennonite Church, Halstead, on Sunday June 29.
Seven-year-old Caden was smartly dressed in a blue dress shirt and tie. His stage presence was proper and polite. Infant Keira was sound asleep in her mother’s arms dressed in a pink frilly dress and head band. They couldn’t have been sweeter. Yet all the cuteness was trumped by this solid missional call, “Will you surrender your children to the ministry God has for them regardless?”
“Yes.” As Christian parents we deeply desire that our children would follow Jesus and be fully engaged in the redemptive mission of God.
Pastor Brian upped the challenge by preaching from Matthew 10:24-29 which includes these disquieting words to parents, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword….Anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” He focused on the life of Tom Fox who left a wife and three children in the United States to serve with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Baghdad, Iraq, advocating for the just treatment of detainees by the coalition forces. Tom was kidnapped on November 26, 2005, by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, and found shot to death on a garbage heap on March 10, 2006. Brian reflected on what this might have been like for the parents of Tom and his immediate family.
Pastor Brian challenged us, “What is your commitment to the shalom-creating mission of God? When the safety of your children is at stake, where does Jesus stack up?”
Earlier Sunday morning in my reading through the New Testament, I had encountered a similar challenge. Joseph and Mary presented Jesus for dedication at the Temple in Jerusalem. The elderly man Simeon proclaimed baby Jesus as God’s “salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all nations” (Luke 2:30-31), but then ended his part in Jesus’ unplanned dedication service with this surprising word to Mary – “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35).
God created families, not only to populate the earth, but to advance God’s global redeeming, reconciling and restoring mission. From Abraham and Sarah to the present we have been blessed with children so that “all peoples on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). “Will you surrender your children to the ministry God has for them regardless the cost?”
(Pastor Brian’s sermon of June 29, 2014, may be seen at http://firstmennonitehalstead.org/video.htm.)