Like many of you, I grew up singing the song, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world” (“brown” has been added to the original). Later I learned that there is an additional refrain: “Jesus died for all the children…” We didn’t sing those words, but the message of Christ’s willing sacrifice is crucial to understanding his love.
The song’s familiar tune, “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” was written during the American Civil War as a marching tune (with different words) for the U.S. troops. The words of “Jesus Loves the Little Children” were written later, in the 1880’s, perhaps as a response to the utter failure in this country to love all the children of God during the era of Jim Crow. Out of the mouths of babes, we may hear this as a song about justice and equity. Jesus loves ALL the little children with the same love.
The song connects to many things we are marking this week and next. This Memorial Day weekend, we remember the sacrificial love of military service members who have tramp, tramp, tramped and died in the service of freedom. We also remember that our nation has failed many times to live up to the ideal of liberty and justice for all. As we mark the one-year anniversary of the public murder of a citizen by an officer of the law, we respond to the lamentation and renewed cries for justice that were lifted up after George Floyd’s death. We commit to do much more work to share the love of Christ so that “Red, Brown, Yellow, and Black” lives matter as much as those who have been called “white” (see note below about the racial justice study from the Episcopal Church). As we approach the month of June, we lift up all the colors of the rainbow as a sign of welcome and pride in all God’s beloved children who are LGBTQ+ (see announcement below). It’s also Trinity Sunday this weekend. God exists as unity in diversity, three and one, and the love of Jesus is also the love of God in the Holy Spirit.
As followers of Jesus, we strive to love every child of God just as he did. We are willing to make sacrifices for each other, just as he did. As another old hymn says, “This is our story. This is our song. Praising our Savior all the day long.”
Your rector and brother in Christ,