In a tiny church plant in the heart of the hills, a motley group of people gathered on Saturday afternoons to worship the Lord. The building had been built more than 100 years before as a small, stone, one-room schoolhouse with a metal roof. In summer, heat pounded in, and the wasp infestation was a challenge to the worshippers, who occasionally got stung.
On one such hot, sweltering summer day, the lay leader and the one new church member gathered with those who showed up: an alcoholic, a drug addict, a schizophrenic, two wife abusers with wives and children, a child with mental retardation, and a few others. Money was scarce. Poverty was no stranger.
The pastor served multiple congregations, but by meeting in the afternoon, he was usually able to preach at the worship service after Sabbath school was over. When he occasionally arrived earlier, he would sit on the front row nodding, smiling, and affirming whoever was up front at the moment. He was an outstanding encourager, with the gift of growing the talents of those in the congregation.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
Two of the regular attendees cared for their granddaughter, the child of their unwed daughter. They were not proud of the situation, but they did what they saw as their duty. Fortunately, their daughter had moved to the city and lived many miles away. Without much pleasure they learned she would be visiting, and that she would be bringing her next child with her. She was still not married, and the second child was no accident.
It seemed as if the grandparents wished their daughter would stay away. But she had come for a visit. And what’s more, she insisted on coming to the little church that afternoon with them. And as if that were not enough, she also insisted on wearing hot-pink short shorts and a T-shirt while carrying her new baby.
Rarely did we have more than 20 gather. Several dressed casually in jeans, but we never had anyone show up in shorts before, particularly not females in hot-pink short shorts.
We had Sabbath school. Then, as we waited for the arrival of the pastor, we took a brief break. Some of us went outside, including the mother and her baby. I talked with her and held her baby. I honestly can’t recall how the subject came up, but the young woman told me that she wished that she could have her baby dedicated to the Lord, but that she couldn’t.
Shocked, I asked, “Why not?”
“Oh, my mom said the baby could not be dedicated because she’s illegitimate.”
“Really? I don’t believe that at all. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ Wait here. The pastor is driving in, and I want to talk with him,” I said as I handed the baby back and walked to the car being parked.
When the pastor got out, I explained the situation. He was indignant. “Of course we can dedicate the baby, if that’s what the mother wants,” he said.
With that he took over, spoke with the young mother, held the baby, and made plans to have a baby dedication at the beginning of the worship service.
And that’s exactly what happened. The mother, wearing bright-pink short shorts and a T-shirt, brought her baby forward when the pastor called her. She stood there, shyly, hesitantly, in front of the small group.
Mentally, I noted that it was a rare thing to see a woman in hot-pink short shorts standing at the front of a church offering her child to Jesus while the mother herself did not profess to be a Christian.
To my surprise, the pastor insisted that grandma and grandpa also come and stand in front to be part of the dedication. More reluctant grandparents I’ve never seen in my life, but they came to the front.
The baby was dedicated to Jesus. The mother, baby, and grandparents went back to sit in the congregation. The pastor went on with the worship service.
I put the memory in a treasure chest in my heart. I was so proud of my pastor for blessing that precious baby and comforting the heart of the mother who was taking a faltering step toward Jesus. The mother, dressed as she was, desired a blessing for her child and, I believe, a blessing for herself.