Sermon Date: October 3, 2021
By Pastor Elaine Boone
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
Why were the people bringing the children to Jesus? Was this really the time or the place to be trotting out the children? Yes. It was. Mark is drawing a parallel between temple life and life with Jesus. Children were brought to the rabbis for blessings on the eve of Yom Kippur. Mark wants his listeners, his readers to see Jesus in that role. Blessing the children.
Our reading today from the Gospel of Mark asks us what does it mean to approach the kingdom of heaven like a child? Jesus tells us in this passage that we must come like children or we will not enter. And that would be a bad thing!
What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God as a child does?
For Jesus it means - it meant that women and children are accepted & valued. Not dismissed as inferior to adult men. God’s kingdom belongs to its weakest members. Let the children come to me and do not stop them. Christ invites every little and belittled one into his arms. Do not stop them, let them come.
Two weeks ago at our first in person worship service we had children in Church! A family was visiting, children, parents & grandparents. And the children were young and a bit restless and they talked and sang and made noise - normal stuff! And the parents tried to keep them quiet and walked in and out with them. They were concerned with keeping them quiet so as not to disturb worship - as parents have been for generations! And afterwards they apologized for the noise. But it was not distracting - it was as Jesus said it should be. Let them come and do not stop them. It was not noise - it was the sounds of children a most welcome sound in worship. A most welcome sound.
Jesus welcomed the children. Jesus rebuked his disciples who tried to shush the children or keep them from coming to Jesus. A grave mistake.
Children have what many of us grown ups often lose. They have trust and a curiosity about things - and they will ask questions we dare not. But maybe should! Children are willing to accept things that adults often do mental gymnastics in order to understand. Children do not see divisions or differences until we teach them.
Jeff Goldblum has a great quote from one of my favourite movies - The Big Chill. “I don’t know anyone who could go through the day without 2 or 3 juicy rationalizations.” Children can. Children do!
But as we grow older we begin to need to rationalize things. The children around Jesus did not need lengthy explanations or parables or rationalizations. Jesus said “let the little children come and do not stop them for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.”
How easy! And what a contrast to the disciples and other grown ups who were constantly wondering how to get into the kingdom of God. Asking over and over and over again what must I do? Maybe you’ve asked the same question?
The children did not need to! They trusted, they accepted, they loved and were loved.
Jesus says in our scripture that we must be more like children. I do not think he means squabbling like the disciples fighting over who should be first!
I think Jesus means open and curious and trusting.
Those are the things we need to re-discover in ourselves if we are to be like the children who came to Jesus without fear, without the need for detailed theological arguments. They just came. Open, curious, willing to listen to Jesus and to be welcomed into his heart and his arms.
So how do we receive the kingdom of God as a little child? For Jesus said if we cannot we will not enter it. For the disciples, for the followers, for those listening to Jesus they must have asked him and themselves alot of questions. Where was this kingdom? When was the kingdom of God going to happen? And in all the centuries since we keep asking - where and when and how will we enter the kingdom?
The focus became on the future - on something - up there - heaven perhaps? A future reward for the sufferings of this life or a reward for our lives well lived according to God’s commands? The focus became on Jesus’ return.
And we lost what the children had. What the children have. An openness, a curiosity - the ability to believe without seeing. Perhaps we lost some of our imagination. And perhaps worst of all maybe we lost a little of the trusting nature. The ability to walk up to Jesus. The ability to trust in God without reserve, without questioning and without conditions.
Trust in God. Trust that you are loved. Trust that you are wanted and needed. Trust that you can rely on God. You can approach Jesus - approach God all on your own. You can approach Jesus as the children did: confidently, curiously, open, ready to be lifted into his arms and blessed.
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