By Fred Craddock (1928-2015), Craddock Stories, ed. by Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward, 2001, Chalice Press, pages 23-24.
When I was pastoring in Tennessee, there was a girl about seven years old who came to our church regularly for Sunday school, and sometimes her parents let her stay for the worship service. They didn’t come. We had a circular drive at that church. It was built for people who let their children off and drove on. We didn’t want to inconvenience them, so we had a circular drive. But they were very faithful, Mom and Dad. They had moved from New Jersey with the new chemical plant. He was upwardly mobile; they were both very ambitious; and they didn’t come to church. There wasn’t really any need for that, I guess.
But on Saturday nights, the whole town knew of their parties. They gave parties, not for entertainment, but as part of the upwardly mobile thing. That determined who was invited: the right people, the one just above him at work, and all the way on up to the boss. And those parties were full of drinking and wild and vulgar things. Everybody knew.
But there was their beautiful girl every Sunday.
One Sunday morning I looked out, and she was there. I thought, “Well, she’s with her friends,” but it was her Mom and Dad. After the sermon, at the close of the service, as is the custom at my church, came an invitation to discipleship, and Mr. and Mrs. Mom and Dad came to the front. They confessed faith in Christ. Afterward I asked, “What prompted this?”
They said, “Well, do you know about our parties?”
And I said, “Yeah, I have heard about your parties.”
They said, “Well, we had one last night again, and it got a little loud, it got a little rough, and there was too much drinking. All the noise woke our daughter, and she came downstairs to about the third step. She saw that we were eating and drinking, and she said, ‘Oh, can I say the blessing? God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. Good-night, everybody.’ She went back upstairs. It was quiet. Then somebody said ‘Oh, my land, it’s time to go, we’ve got to be going.’ And someone else said, ‘We’ve stayed way too long.’ Within two minutes the room was empty.”
Mr. and Mrs. Mom and Dad began cleaning up, picking up crumpled napkins and wasted and spilled peanuts and half sandwiches, and taking empty glasses on trays to the kitchen. And with two trays, he and she met on either side of the sink, they looked at each other, and he expressed what both were thinking: “Where do we think we’re going?”
The moment of truth.
Isaiah 11:6b — …A little child will lead them.
Matthew 18:1-5 — At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Mark 10:13-15 — People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Almighty God, give me grace to trust to Thy never-failing care and love those who are dear to me, for this life and the life to come; knowing that Thou art doing for them better things than I can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Charles Lewis Slattery (1867-1930), Episcopal Bishop, Boston