This past Sunday was Children's Sunday at our church. Consequently, this week I've been thinking of Jesus' words concerning children and wishing I could have been preaching on the subject somewhere Sunday. So I'll preach to you! (I am aware that actual preaching is an event that grows out of the connection between the preachER and the preachED TO....so this is really an outline.)
People were bringing babies to Jesus so that he would bless them. When the disciples saw them,
they scolded them. Then Jesus called them to him and said, "Allow the children to come to me.
Don't forbid them, because God's kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that
whoever does not welcome God's kingdom like a child will never enter it. (CEB)
What is it about a child that Jesus points to?
**The classic image of a child is that of the powerless, without capacity to reward or repay.
The little one is utterly at the wishes or whims of its care giver. As I think over my list of friends, acquantances, former parishioners, I am reminded to question my own motives with even those whom I hold closest. Do I shower more attention on those who can benefit me? Rev. Larry James in Dallas once said in a workshop that we will be judged on how we treat people who cannot help us in any way.
**A child is vulnerable. We mature out of vulnerability to varying levels. We learn to be so cagey. Nobody can put anything over on us. In fact, that's close to the essence of "coolness." Much as I like to be considered cool, trying to live honestly with who I am challenges my coolness at times. I have to be willing to be criticized when I am embracing an important principle or am asserting something about being me that is honest. I have to risk...being vulnerable.
A child is vulnerable to what adults may or may not want to invest in them. It seems to always be difficult to get sufficient volunteers to teach the classes of small children in the church. They don't know to thank us, they recognize us for our contributions before others nor praise us. Mike Gilchrist told about his first experiences in church. As a preteen, he began walking up the street to a church where he knew noone. He sat alone in worship every Sunday and checked off items in the bulletin as they transpired. One Sunday a well-dressed older woman sat by him, looked into his pimply face and said "Hi." From then on, he got to feeling comfortable in her presence and, with her encouragement, he eventually joined that church....and became a terrific minister.
**A child is loyal. Even when it's not in his/her best interests. A parent can so often get away with abusing a child because the child is so loyal and will actually help in the cover-up of mistreatment.
"Being as a child" perhaps refers to the capacity to trust fully. When busyness, or lack of caring leads to alienating our child, or anyone's child, we deprive ourselves of the best, least self-interested friend we'll ever have.
When the church alienates the poor, the powerless, the broken, the handicapped, it loses so much and never knows what it missed. Apparently, receiving them is receiving Jesus.